Book written by Tatiana Botkin
Reminiscences of the Royal Family and Life before and after the Revolution by Tatiana Botkin

A Book Over One Hundred Years Old, Fragile and Falling Apart

UPDATE November 2023!!! I am happy to announce that I have donated this book to the State Library of Victoria who will undertake to restore it. I hope to be kept in the loop as regards to the restoration and, if I am, I will share the updates here. #statelibraryvictoria #libraryvic #SLVCollectionCare #SLVCollection #botkin #voronov #woronoff #romanov #russia

Once again I find myself with a conundrum, and once again it has to do with something I have inherited, a book so fragile it is already falling apart.

In 1921 Tatiana Melnik, neé Botkin, published a book about her memories of the Russian Imperial Family and members of the Court, before and after the Russian Revolution. The English translation of the title of the book is Reminiscences of the Royal Family and Life before and after the Revolution. Inside the book, as well as an image or two, there are copies of correspondence between members of the Imperial Family and Botkin – see below.

Page in book by Tatiana Botkin

Tatiana Botkin was the daughter of the Russian Imperial Family’s doctor, Yevgeny Botkin. When her father followed the Tsar and his family into exile, Tatiana and her brother, Gleb, followed him. However, when the Imperial Family were sent from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg, Tatiana and her brother were refused permission to stay with their father. Dr Botkin was eventually murdered alongside the Imperial Family. In the same year Tatiana married an officer of the Ukrainian Rifles, and they escaped Russia, eventually settling in France.

The copy of Botkin’s book, which I discovered in what is left of my grandmother’s possessions, is in such bad condition that it has literally fallen apart. I wonder how she came to own the book and whether she ever met Botkin after the Revolution.The pages are so fragile they crumble almost as soon as you touch them. There is no longer any binding. Someone, perhaps my mother, stored the book in a manila folder, where it will continue to live until I decide what to do with it.

And that is my conundrum – what do I do with a book which can barely be read because of the condition it is in? I doubt it is worth anything in a monetary sense, after all who would want a book which is this delicate? I do not think I could even give it away. Being in Russian, I cannot read it. I also cannot make out the signature on the title page. For a moment I thought it was my grandmother’s – O. Voronova – but the first letter of the surname is not (to my knowledge) the Russian “V”. I know that, when I eventually die, my sons will most likely throw it away. So, what do I do with it?

Title page of book by Tatiana Botkin

I am torn (much like the book) because on the one hand I want to keep it “just in case” and, on the other hand, I can see there is probably no sense in hanging on to it. Does it give me joy to hold it, as per the method of tidying and clearing recommended by Marie Kondo? No, not really. But it does give me a sense of history.

What would you do with this book? Have you ever inherited something so old and fragile that it really makes no sense to keep it, yet you hesitate to throw it out?

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Jim Renes

    I am always enamored of your family’s historical adventures. Obviously, the rare book that you describe would be of value to someone. The treasures of our ancestors remain so much of who we are today.

    A photograph of two young men in WWII uniforms was recently found behind the mirror of a family mountain cabin in Colorado. The famous quote reminds us, “Every picture tells a story…” I hope the book that you describe is able to find a place in your current family chronicles.

    1. Avatar photo

      Thank you for reading! What will you do with the photo you found?

  2. Jim Renes

    A cousin and I after careful research and family memories have determined that the two young men are also cousins of both our mothers. As was customary of that time, the two men had a photo taken prior to being assigned to positions overseas. One cousin was involved in South Pacific area battles, while the other cousin engaged in bombing raids over Germany. Yes, “Every picture tells a story.”

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      I hope you had fun researching the photo! I wonder why it was behind the mirror?

  3. Jim Renes

    Perhaps the real mystery / story waiting to be exposed…

  4. Tat

    A local museum can recommend a paper conservator. Not very expensive.

  5. George Hawkins

    Hi Alex, the signature looks to me like O Voronova

    1. Avatar photo

      Thank you George – it very well could be!

    2. Avatar photo

      Apologies George – I thought I had replied to this ages ago!!! Yes, I believe that is the signature.

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