Between the Pages: The Callaway Library

The Works of the Very Learned and Reverend Father in God

In this day and age of digital communications, iPads, Kindles, Nooks and all sorts of e-books are rapidly replacing traditional paper books, which are slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past. Some people cling to hard copies and cannot imagine reading without flipping the pages of a real book, while others embrace the fact that thousands of titles are at their fingertips with a simple swipe. No matter which camp you favor, no one questions the beauty of an old library filled with vintage books. The great author and humorist Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, once said: “In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” One such room is the library at the Callaway home.

Among the collection are first editions of Gone With the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird and numerous signed copies including House Divided by Ben Ames Williams. There are oversized folios featuring the decorative arts and architecture and books that were gifts from friends. Amazingly, publication dates span from 1609 all the way up to 1997, the year before Alice Hand Callaway passed away. Similarly, subjects vary greatly and include religion, history, nature, science and gardening to name a few. Classic literature is well represented and among fiction titles some of the most popular authors include O. Henry, David Grayson and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Since Fuller’s father, Abner Reeves Callaway, was a Baptist preacher at Long Cane you might imagine that the library would include a number of religious and biblical books and it does. Many of these books date to the first half of the 19th century and probably came from Abner’s library. Among them is a set of Thomas Dick’s The Complete Works published in 1848 and inscribed “A. R. Callaway.” Also included is an 1868 Salesman Parallel Bible which was used by Ida Callaway’s family, the Casons. It features the usual notes on family births and deaths along with an assortment of inserted memorabilia. Among these are clippings, several old photographs, notes of condolence after the passing of Mrs. Cason in 1921 and perhaps, most interestingly, an essay history test Fuller Jr. took when he was 13 on which he received a most commendable grade of 99. It is well-written and in cursive!

As you might expect, the library includes a number of compendiums, cyclopedias and book sets such as Dudley’s 1896 Library of the World’s Best Literature, Ancient and Modern; The National Cyclopedia of American Biography; An Anthology of World Poetry and a full collection of Harvard Classics. There is also a 1932 set of Encyclopedia Britannica, the now obsolete “Wikipedia” of that day. Equally practical is a 1914 copy of Kellogg’s The Home Book of Modern Medicine, perhaps acquired as a reference for Fuller Sr’s continuing health issues.

Academic text books are sprinkled throughout the shelves and span a wide range of dates and subjects. Among the earliest is an 1852 copy of Blair’s Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, University Edition, so heavily used its binding was stitched back together. There is also Cornell’s High School Geography (1856), Philosophy Designed for Academies and High Schools (1858) and A Textbook of Geology (1863), all books that may have been used by Abner and Sarah to teach their children, including young Fuller.

In the area of fiction is a heavily worn 1878 edition of Arabian Nights translated by Edward Forster which includes the stories of “Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp” and “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor.” In the front, Pope Callaway’s name is marked out and his brother’s name Fuller is written in its place and labeled No. 6, presumably one of his very first books. Nearby is a first edition of Kenneth Robert’s 1947 Lydia Bailey, a historic novel about the Haitian revolution. Interestingly, tucked inside is an Eastern Airline ticket to Chicago aboard the Constellation with a fare of $35.85. Equally shocking is a note on the ticket to arrive fifteen minutes prior to departure. A 1918 copy of Told by the Northmen notes that it was: “with love from Helen and Joe xmas 1919,” perhaps a gift to Fuller Jr. Prompting even greater curiosity is a 1939 copy of Nazarene by Schlem Asch with a pressed corsage and brilliant pink ribbon inside, a keepsake from some joyous family occasion, yet unknown.

Biographies abound with books on such historical figures as Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and his fifth cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There is also a book about Lord Kitchener, who Fuller Sr. met while visiting Egypt in 1911. A book about Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior under Woodrow Wilson and friend of Fuller and Ida’s, is inscribed with a note indicating it was a personal gift from his wife Anne in 1922. Possibly the most interesting historical biography is Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery: An Autobiography. The copy we have was used by Alice Hand as a young student at Mount Vernon Seminary in Washington DC in 1926. It has heavy margin notes and lots of underlining, suggesting Alice read it quite carefully. Inscribed “December 1, 1926, Miss Churchyard” indicates it was assigned class reading. Tucked inside is a handwritten calendar for January-February, 1927 where she is checking off the days, perhaps a little homesick from being away from home at the young age of fourteen. It even includes “presents bought for mother and Helen O” and “skiping, skipping” just to make sure she spells that word correctly.

A number of books on iconic business magnates and philanthropists include biographies of J. Pierpont Morgan, Commodore Vanderbilt and James B. Duke; life stories that may have subtly reinforced Fuller Jr’s benevolence. Among these is Wit and Wisdom of Warren Akin Candler with the inscription “To my admired friends, Hon. and Mrs. Fuller E. Callaway with compliments of the compiler Elam F. Dempsey April 29, 1922.” While Reverend Candler, a Methodist minister, does not fit into the capitalist mold, his strong connection to brother Asa Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola Company, greatly impacted philanthropy in Georgia. Not surprisingly, poetry is mixed in throughout the library from greats such as Robert Burns, Edgar Allen Poe and Alfred Tennyson. A 1904 copy of Milton’s Minor Poems originally owned by Fuller Sr. was transferred to his eldest son, Cason. A note written in the front of the book indicates it was used for English Literature by Cadet Callaway (Cason) at the Bingham School (room 31). There is also a copy of The Collected Poems of Rupert Brooke given to Alice and Fuller Jr. in August of 1930 as a wedding gift from the Moore family.

Together these books reveal bits and pieces of the Callaway story. They are more than decorative accessories. In the words of American novelist Lev Grossman, “When you stand inside somebody’s library, you get a powerful sense of who they are, and not just who they are now but who they’ve been . . . . it’s a wonderful thing to have in a house…”