I was given a first-edition copy of Florence Nightingale’s book, Notes on Nursing, about a year-and-a-half ago. The book was in a glass case and slightly tattered from the looks of it. I was told I could do whatever I wanted with it – keep it, sell it, whatever.
I love old things. In fact, I have a copy of Elliott P. Joslin’s “Diabetic (sic) Manual for Doctor and Patient” that belonged to my great-great aunt and an old First Aid Handbook. But this one seemed different. I immediately felt it belonged in a place where nurses could enjoy it. I felt compelled to give it to my alma mater, University of Connecticut School of Nursing, because I know they have a collection of nursing artifacts and it would be well taken care of and displayed for nurses of generations to come.
This past Christmas I had the opportunity to hand off the cherished book to Thomas Long from the UCONN School of Nursing. He was actually excited that it wasn’t in perfect condition because that indicated that many hands had touched it and turned (and hopefully read) the pages. He asked how I came to own the book and where it had come from. Unfortunately I didn’t even know the story, so I couldn’t share it with him. I only knew that my friend’s mother had owned it.
Soon after I asked the friend who had given me the book and she told me the whole story:
My friend’s father’s sister was a Navy nurse during the 1940s. Soon after she was appointed the guardian of a boy who lost his parents. Later (I believe it was 1959) he purchased the Nightingale book for her (there is a letter with the book that shows the date and price of the purchase). This aunt lived with my friend’s parents the last several years of her life and when she died this book was found among her belongings. My friend’s mother kept it for the rest of her life.
If you are ever in Storrs, Connecticut, be sure to visit the School of Nursing at the University of Connecticut. There you will see the first-edition Notes on Nursing displayed as part of the Josephine Dolan Collection in the Widmer Wing of the Nursing Building. I look forward to seeing it there myself one day.