Mount Wellington from Lindisfarne, Hobart

Mount Wellington from Lindisfarne, Hobart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I have too many books and am getting on in years, I thought it would be a good idea to buy  a Kindle reader.  Downsizing to an apartment or a retirement home would be easier if I could carry up to 1400 books with me in my purse or one hand.

Shortly after my purchase, our church’s  annual Spaghetti  Dinner & Used Book Sale came up,  an event not to be missed, with the best sauce in the world cooked by two scoutmasters. I wolfed down the pasta, Caesar salad and cake, then, full of sales resistance, I approached the book tables.  I was here just to browse.

Moments later I fell for a fantastic  six-pound tome, still in its original royal blue and white dust jacket with a picture of a steamship on it. It was 11 1/2″ high, 8″ wide and 1″ thick.

Harry Price’s The Royal Tour 1901 is an account of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall’s nine-month world tour from the perspective of a crew member. The book is handscripted on heavy parchment paper with  170 exquisite, delicate, colorful  drawings of ships, people, animals, birds, landscapes, seascapes, ceremonial arches erected specially for the royal couple, charts, logs and imaginative title pages.

Small wonder I was ensnared, its contents were so relevant to me. The author is shown wearing a tropical ordinary seaman’s dress uniform, as my father wore in World War I. The HMS Ophir sailed from Portsmouth, UK, where my mother was born. Price’s Wikipedia biography says he was born in a caul, which is fabled to make a person drowning-proof, and so was my sister.

But more than that, I’m planning to publish an ebook on my husband’s and my road trip all around America in a Prius and I need to look at other travel books to see how they’re done.

Price must have known his book risked being a boring, repetitive, ultra-patriotic  paean to the British regime. He saved it by including his own illustrated story of going off ship and climbing up and back down Tasmania’s 4170-ft Mount Wellington in one day. It was an impossible feat but he had made a bet with his buddies.

When he reached the summit, he hoisted the flag he had bought before he set out. To plant it, he used  a stick he had found along the way and carried with great difficulty. He needed to produce proof of his exploit for the other members of the crew to see.  Unfortunately, it was a French flag because all the stores were out of Union Jacks, due to the Royal Tour.

Now that’s a story worth buying, even if you are already loaded with books and have no guarantee of always owning a coffee table.