I can picture my dad with a whisky in one hand and this tiny book in his other large hand giving us an oration of Robert Service’s infamous poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee. Wickedly humours, dad could recite most of tale by heart. It’s the story of the cremation of a prospector who freezes to death near Lake Laberge, Yukon, Canada, as told by the man who cremates him.
This very rare miniature book contains two poems: The Law of the Yukon and my dad’s favourite, The Cremation of Sam McGee. Once listed on ebay for $450 US, the book measure only 2″ by 1.5″ and was published in Toronto by William Briggs in 1913. Here is a link to the seriously fun short poem that is a Canadian classic.
Dad’s big hands coupled with the accompanying libations finally took a minor toll on the little volume. When I inherited it, several pages had come loose. This is how it ended up in the hands of a master bookbinder at Alberto Cozzi, Antico Laboratorio Artigianale at 35 Via del Parione near the banks of the Arno River, (across the street from an amazing coffee shop), in Florence, Italy.
If this well-known, fourth-generation bookbinder and restorer couldn’t fix my treasure, no one could. Stumbling through with my English and bad Italian and their Italian and bad English, we came to an agreement that they would try to fix the book, the project made challenging by its size. It would be ready in three days, just before we were to leave Florence for Venice. Bene. Molte grazie.
Success. They used Japanese rice paper for the new front piece and the book is as a good as new. With more Italian and bad English they asked if the book was meant to be funny. They read it! Perfect.
This 1976 stamp, just about the same size as the book, was tucked inside by my dad or mum.
“And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of furnace roar; And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: ‘Please close that door. It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm — Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”
Cheers dad. Thanks for the book.