When they came to Houston for the first time a few weeks ago, a Columbia couple didn’t expect to go home with a prized addition to their collection of books by a famous 20th century Canadian writer.
But when Drs. Karl and Georgia Nolph accompanied their granddaughter, Shelby Ringdahl – the reining Miss Texas County, who is also from Columbia – their love for books led them to set foot in the Friends of the Library book store on Grand Avenue while exploring the downtown area. When they had picked out a few items to purchase and were preparing to leave, something on a shelf caught their eye: a clean, hardback copy of “The Governor’s Lady” written by Thomas Head Raddall in 1960.
The price: a quarter.
The value: maybe $25 retail to the right buyer, but a whole lot more to the Nolphs in non-monetary terms.
“His books are very hard to find these days,” Karl said.
Born in England in 1903, Raddall and his family moved to Nova Scotia in 1913, where he would eventually become a prolific, award-winning author. He was most famous for his historically accurate fictional stories (some of which made best-seller lists in the United States and were popular among book club members in the 1930s), but also wrote many non-fiction books that became well-known in Canada and abroad.
Raddall was a highly influential individual in Nova Scotia’s history and greatly contributed to its heritage through work he did with various groups and organizations. There’s even a provincial park named after him on the south shore of the island province.
The Nolphs became familiar with Raddall through spending many summers in Nova Scotia.
“He was apparently quite a character,” Georgia said. “Everyone in the community knew that when he was out for a walk no one was to speak to him because he was thinking. And when he would write, and both his inside door and screen door were closed, no one was to knock. If the screen door was closed but not the inside door, that meant you could come up to the door and knock.”
The book the Nolphs found in Houston was a historical fiction piece about an early governor of New Hampshire, who went to Nova Scotia and became a provincial governor before returning to his home country of England.
“Raddall did a lot of research before writing a story, and he makes history interesting,” Georgia said.
As the years have passed, Raddall’s books have become increasingly rare, and his family is known to have bought up many of the known remaining copies in Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada. Karl recalls how when he and his wife first began visiting Nova Scotia, they would sometimes find used Raddall books for less than a buck.
“Then as the years went by, every time we would see one it would be priced at 25 to 50 dollars,” he said.
But enough of Raddall’s work was once in circulation that a copy still pops up here and there.
Even in a used books store in the Ozarks.
“We can’t even find them in Canada any more and here we found one in Houston, Missouri,” Karl said.