Fairy tales

I have first seen these books in the house of one of my mother’s friends, sometimes in the mid eighties. Her kids were already college students, but she kept these special books that they used to have as children. They were published in collaboration with a Prague printing house in 1974 and they are short version of Cinderella, Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. What made them very special for a kid in socialist Romania was the fact that they were pop-up books. I imagine these were published in quite a small number, because I have never seen anything like them till that visit to my mother’s friend. They were something quite different from the usual idea of socialist design, that wouldn’t use so much  elements that are not really necessary for the understanding of the text.

A short time after this visit, I got pneumonia and stayed in bed for a while. There were miserable and boring days for me and my mother asked me what gift would I like for her to get me to cheer me up. I asked for books like those I have see at her friend’s house. My mother searched every bookstore in the city, but no one ever heard of such books. So, eventually, she asked her friend to borrow us the books and she kindly gifted them to me.

Even if, for my grown up eyes, I had much more interesting books, with illustrations that are closer to my present taste, even if these classic fairy tales were not my favorites (I  preferred much more stories of contemporary children that I could relate to and that had a less bleak atmosphere), still I have always kept these books with care, like the curious specimens that they are.


Linking up with Vintage Bliss Tuesdays  and Vintage Charm parties.

Art Nouveau book illustrations

I don’t collect antique books. Such a collection would take up too much space and anyway it is difficult to find  books that are so old and still interesting for me to read. I have a few Hungarian encyclopedias from the nineteenth century that are family heirloom and 3 books that I picked up in Vienna many years ago. We were there in an artist residency and our roommate and friend found a big pile of old books near our building’s dumpster. They were really clean. We went to search through them. They were all in German, of course, so not interesting for me. Our friend picked up a lot of them, and I have also chose three: a French dictionary from 1912, an atlas of Italy with beautiful maps from 1898 and this book, that I choose for the illustrations. It is from 1890. I searched the woman author online, and she wrote literature for teenage girls. Quite normative and kitschy, I imagine, judging from the images, but who knows… This seems to be about some young women traveling. If the illustration plates are quite banal, the graphics that accompany each chapter title are beautiful and imaginative art nouveau drawings. I scanned in some of them, but almost each chapter has a different illustration. IMG_0001 IMG_0002 IMG_0003 IMG_0004 IMG_0015 IMG_0008 IMG_0009 IMG_0006 IMG_0007 IMG_0010 IMG_0011 IMG_0012 IMG_0013 IMG_0014 IMG_0016 IMG_0017 IMG_0018 IMG_0019 IMG_0020 IMG_0021 IMG_0022

Linking up with Vintage Bliss Tuesdays.

Antique notebooks


These books are one of my favorite finds ever! I have found them yesterday at the same vendor where I picked up the Russian button tin, and I’m sure they come from the same family. I don’t know the English name for this practice of writing some small poems, some words of advice or favorite quotations and of drawing something or collaging something to make the page prettier for a friend. We would make these souvenir notebooks for each other in primary and secondary school (only the girls would). I still have mine, with drawings and messages for the future from my friends, family members and class mates.

These are that sorts of books. They are not complete, there are marks on many pages that show missing cards or photos, but I’m glad with what had stayed. They are very clean, without a smell of something old, and in such a good shape for their age.

The brown one has entries from 1887, with beautiful hand writing in Russian and kitschy prints. There is also a hand drawing of a boat on a lake.

The green velvet one has the first entries in 1911. There are also prints in it, pages colored in soft pink and green, one entry in French from a grandmother in Warsaw and one gouache painting. The last entry, from 1966 is in Romanian and it is written by a men who, on the occasion of their second wedding anniversary, wishes his wife to share in the future the same love for each other. Probably the book belonged to someone in his family and he gave it as a gift to his wife.

I’m not sure how this Russian books (and the button tin) ended up in my city. Maybe their original owner fled the October Revolution and ended up in Romania? Maybe someone moved from Russia to Romania after 1945 and brought also some family heirlooms?

I would really like to read the entries, especially a long one that seems like a letter, but I have to find someone who speaks Russian.




























Linking up with Idle Needle’s challenge Make, Thrift and Tell.

Also, linking up with Vintage Bliss Tuesdays.

Books about photography

I usually buy these books about the technical aspects of photography when I see them at the flea market or at used books stands. They were written in socialist times (the ones I have are from the fifties till early eighties) and they were intended for amateurs. They are quite useful. Actually I have learned how to use a SLR camera and to process my films reading one of these books, in the early  nineties when I was a bored art student learning photography by myself. I still use that book when I check for proportions and time in processing my films. They do have though many times, besides charmingly dated naive jokes, a patronizing tone. And of course the reader, the photography enthusiast who is addressed in these books, is always male  both in the text of the books and in the illustrations also (even if it is only a naked little boy on the beach, photographing the sea).

These one, from 1956, is a second edition of a translation from Russian. The examples in it (with a strange, dramatic contrast in the print) are also by Soviet photographers. DSCN9750 DSCN9759 DSCN9760 DSCN9761 DSCN9762 DSCN9764 DSCN9766 DSCN9767

The rest of the books I have are from Romanian authors.

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DSCN9769 DSCN9751 DSCN9752

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Linking up with Vintage Bliss Tuesday.


This is my grandmother’s apartment, the place were I grew up. It froze sometimes in the mid-eighties, when my grandmother and I changed towns and we moved to live with my mother, here in Timisoara. After a few years, my grandmother sold her apartment in the town in Transilvania where we used to live and moved all her things in this apartment in Timisoara. She never lived here, it was only a museum of her past life, with all her things neatly arranged in the same way as in their former places. It is still like that today, with dust gathering under the doilies. We visit it sometimes with my friends, sometimes we pull out some things that we like and bring them to our “alive” home. My mother, the keeper of this place, visits it also sometimes, afraid and fascinated by the ghosts in it. She keeps this place as a symbol of family and continuity, family congealed in the property of stuff, continuity of the things whose stories we still remember, while we are still alive. I don’t know if she thinks about what will happen to these things after my death. I don’t think about it either, although maybe at some point, indefinite in time, I might give this place a new life.

Furniture bought by my grandmother in the fifties as a surprise for my grandfather (she secretly gathered the money that she managed to save from the daily spending with her thrifty housewife ways).  Family photos in which she looks much older than my grandfather, after all the sleepless nights with her two kids and all the spotless rooms and all the three course meals. (She was the perfect wife, my grandfather  used to say, giving up her job as an accountant, giving up her dreams to study at the University and putting into practice the perfect family life my grandfather envisioned. ) A stove from the sixties, still fully functioning. All the books my grandparents had in their bookshelves, one of them was in my grandfather’s bag in the day of his sudden death. Two prints from the twenties representing two little girls (the blonde one looked like my grandmother, the brunette one like her sister). My childhood clothes in the cupboards. A sticker with a baby wearing a gas mask that I glued to the fridge sometimes after Chernobyl.

I took pinhole photos in the apartment one summer. I spent long hours alone in this timeless space, waiting for the images to slowly impress the film, wearing a mask to protect myself from the dust.












Learning to sew

I plan to use this book to try to learn to sew. Maybe a simple skirt, first? This 1980 book was aimed at young girls, helping them to built up for themselves a youthful, practical, elegant and flattering wardrobe :), this is what it is written on the cover. One of my two best friends, who is very talented at sewing, says it is a complicated book, much too difficult for an absolute beginner like myself. Among other things it teaches you how to draw patterns from scratch, etc. I like this thing, it is consistent with a way of learning from the socialist times, when you would be encouraged to understand the entire process, all the aspects of the thing you study. (For example the amateur photo cameras in the socialist block, even the very simple ones, supposed that the user would know some basic things about the shutter speeds and exposure time, etc, in contrast to the “Western” point and shoots). Drawing your own patterns seems kind of similar to me (although using printed patterns to sew is in no way similar to taking photos with a point and shoot). So, I’ll try to read this book and see if I can learn something and sew something. Maybe not that floor length lavender dresses, though :).











Children sewing book

I didn’t have this charming book as a kid, but I would have definitely love it. It is about a girl that, while picking up her little sister from the kindergarten, realizes that the kindergarten dolls have torn and dirty clothes. She and her school mates talk to the kindergarten teacher and offer to help. They ask their mothers for scraps of fabric and for yarn and they sew and knit clothes for the dolls. At the end of the book there are a few pages of patterns and instructions about simple sewing and knitting.  Even if only girls sew and knit in this book and there are no brothers involved in helping out the kids and the teacher at the kindergarten, still it was such a nice story about responsibility and care. And the tutorial pages at the end make it also very real, the kid reading the book could also start doing things herself. The book was published in 1980 and it was a collaboration between Romanian and German printing houses.











Linking up with Vintage Bliss Tuesdays party and Thriftasaurus.