A 'Swenglish' journey through family photos, notes and postcards
from the early 20th century.


Sepia Saturday 187: The Old Book/“Postillan”

I’ve not had much time on the computer the past couple of weeks and actually almost missed this Sepia Saturday. But when I saw that it was about Family Bibles (or similar) I decided just had to put in a post, even if a little late; because I had intended to do one on this theme soon anyway!


Actually one of the things that kept me away from the computer last week was that my brother and I were going through books in the house that belonged to our parents (and before them, to my paternal grandparents). Among them were some that we managed to sell to a second-hand bookshop, but also some that in spite of their age are considered to have no monetary value.


As we’re getting closer to actually selling the house soon, we now have to make final decisions about many objects that we’ve been hesitating about. I remember finding this book two years ago and deciding to settle for just taking photos of the notes on the inside of the covers…

2013-07-23 Samuels Postilla, M Luther's Book of Sermons1

But that was before I’d found the postcard collection and other notes and photos that gave me more interesting keys to the family history.

So at long last, I ended up taking the heavy old book home with me after all.


It’s not a Bible but a selection of sermons by Martin Luther, printed in 1861. In Swedish known as Luther’s Postilla.



It was given to (or possibly bought by) my great-grandfather Samuel and his first wife Anna Sophia in connection with their marriage in 1866. Samuel was 31 years old at the time and his wife 28.


S. Emanuelsson & Anna Sophia Emanuelsson
Herre Led Oss i Din Sanning, för Ditt Namns Skuld.

Belongs to
S. Emanuelsson & Anna Sophia Emanuelsson
Lord, Lead Us in Thy Truth
for Thy Name’s Sake


1866 den 27de Januari Blefvo vi förenade till äkta makar härpå Jorden. O trofaste Jesus, behåll oss alltid i din kärlek, att vi till sist för evigt får fira Bröllop med dig i Himmelen.

In 1866 on 27th January we were united as husband and wife here on Earth. Oh faithful Jesus, keep us always in Thy love, that in the end we may celebrate the eternal Wedding with Thee in Heaven .

As far as I’ve been able to discover, there is no note made in the Postilla of the death of Anna Sophia in 1894, or of Samuel’s second marriage to my great-grandmother Selma in 1898. But all the birthdays of his children are listed on the inside of the back cover, including the two youngest born to him by Selma:


No death dates are entered, even for the children who died young. Hanna Elisabeth, born in 1874, died in 1882 at age 8. And Anna Sophia’s youngest daughter, born in 1884 and named after herself, died on Christmas Eve 1893 at age 9(½). The mother herself died four months later, aged 57.

Samuel’s second oldest daughter Olivia also died (in 1899, at age 31) before my grandmother was born .

Samuel got remarried in December 1898 (at age 63) to Selma (37), a widow with an 8 year old daughter (Hildur). My grandmother Sally was born just over a year later (February 1901), and her brother Nils in August 1902. They were a whole generation (37-38 years) younger than their oldest half-sister Emma!

Samuel died in 1907 (when my grandmother was 7 years old). Selma did not get married again but stayed on the farm with her children and Samuel’s oldest son Carl (who never married). Carl died in 1928. In 1930, the farm was sold and all three of Selma’s children (Hildur, Sally and Nils) got married. The rest of her life until her death in 1943, Selma lived mainly with my grandparents – who built the original house, which my brother and I are now in the process of emptying of its last contents before we sell it. (After my grandmother’s death the house remained in our family as summer cottage for a number of years; and then my parents built an extension and moved in there permanently and lived there the rest of their lives.)

So that’s how the Postilla ended up with me. It has been kept in the same house since 1930 when that house was built.


I’m not sure how much anyone ever read it after Samuel died (I think I can safely say that I will never be reading more than maybe a few sentences here and there from it). But evidently, at some point in time, it was considered useful for other purposes as well:

2013-07-23 Samuels Postilla, M Luther's Book of Sermons

I wonder if there is a way to determine when (and by whom) in the past it was used for pressing flowers in? Samuel or Anna Sophia back in the late 1800s? Selma in the early 1900s? My grandmother or my father in the 1940s?


  1. Aw, that's a good book to keep. The pressed flowers are lovely. I wonder if they came from a wedding bouquet.

  2. I don't think they are from a wedding bouqet. Samuel married his first wife in January, his second wife in December (which means no flowers or leaves to be picked outdoors). My grandmother's bouqet I can see in her wedding photo and it was not these flowers or leaves.

  3. It's always hard making decisions about what to keep and what to discard. The pressed flowers are wonderful - it shouldn't be too difficult to identify the species.

  4. A few years ago I had a similar collection of very old books that had come from my grandmother's family but were much older, around 1820s. The books were falling apart and were subjects of no interest, like histories and digests. Yet they had once been important to some distant ancestor. I donated them to our local library book sale so that some stranger could decide their fate. Perhaps their real practical purpose was as a flower press!

  5. Sad that the house is being sold after such a long family association. Make sure you take lots of photos inside and out.
    What a great book to have. It pays to open the covers no matter how old and tattered they look.

  6. How cool is that, that you were actually working with your family's old treasures and books and discover that is our theme this week! Awesome post and photos!

  7. Yes, that decision is the hardest, an sometimes we leap the wrong way and have plenty of time to regret. The flowers (one looks like a poppy) obviously meant something to someone, although I hope they were pressed elsewhere and then placed in the book afterwards. Pressing flowers in books is not recommended

  8. Unfortunately, some questions never get answered.

  9. Books of Sermons were quite popular in this country as well. They were used when the family couldn't get to church for a service so there would be bible readings and then a sermon reading. Sometimes they were used more frequently in which case they would be left on the table in the open and I remember one story (fiction but almost certainly based on fact) where visitors could tell the 'depth' of the households religion according to who the sermons were by.

  10. An interesting family documentary that will accumulate more 'history' as the years go by if
    family members keep it up, albeit if not, at least saved, until someone in the family
    is creative enough to add to it.

    1. Thanks for visiting. It's just the book that has been kept though, and not the tradition of entering the names of further descendants. As for me, I have no children... But I guess this blog is my way of "passing history on" to whoever happens to find it :)