When Shelly McElroy, the Curator and General Manager of the Pioneer Acres Museum, north of Irricana, was cataloguing the museum's extensive library, she was very well aware that there were many books, manuals, and other historical artifacts that were old, since, after all, it is a museum. But when she discovered that the library had within its collection a first edition of the Chronicles of Avonlea by none other than Lucy Maud Montgomery, her heart skipped a beat or two.
"This one, was really interesting because I had just been reading an L. M. Montgomery book, just this week, as I've actually been a lifelong fan of hers, and have read many, many of her books," McElroy said.
Although the museum does have other books by the famous Anne of Green Gables author, she pondered more and more if perhaps somewhere in the stacks of other items in the museum, she would be able to find a first-edition copy.
"I was thinking that very early in her career, her [Montgomery's] publisher was called L. C. Page, an American publishing house and because we do have some pretty old books around here, I wanted to see if there's an L. C. Page published Montgomery books here," she said. "And sure enough, there were and that's when my heart started to beat just a little bit faster because that means potentially that we could have had a first edition copy of those books."
The book that the museum is in possession of, was published in 1912 and as a first edition, it would have been one of the first copies off the presses. McElroy also noted that one of the other interesting historical tidbits is that L.M. Montgomery's books are they've never gone out of print. While the book's title may not be as widely known as Anne of Green Gables, it is an important part of Canadian literary history. McElroy said that certain characters that are in Anne of Green Gables make an appearance in the Chronicles of Avonlea.
"There are characters that would be familiar to you that make an appearance, so, Montgomery is kind of populating the world around Anne with these other families. It's a series of little vignettes."
And while beloved red-haired, freckled, orphan does make an appearance in the novel, she plays a much small role than the titular book which is the namesake of her character. Regardless, McElroy said that because of Lucy Maud Montgomery's national and international fame and because she's so significant to Canada, the book is nonetheless a treasure to be cherished. She underlined that the book is not in pristine condition, which may impact the monetary value of the book, nonetheless, the museum has been in contact with appraisers.
"The other thing is our book isn't signed. Signed copies of L. M. Montgomery before 1919 are really, really valuable. So, we're just going to have to wait and see what we hear back from the people we've reached out to."
When asked how the book may have come into the museum's possession, McElroy noted that the museum receives many donations and she estimates that this particular book was probably donated in the 1990s or early 2000s. There are plans to display the book in the museum in a display case, for all to enjoy, though McElroy said she is a firm believer of the ethos that books are meant to be read, this one might be slightly too frail for the public to handle, but that doesn't stop anyone from buying a brand spanking new L. M. Montgomery book or borrowing one from the local library.
Perhaps one of the most beautifully written texts from the Chronicles of Avonlea, one showcasing L. M. Montgomery's writing prowess is this one:
“She had a way of embroidering life with stars.”
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