Book of the month

23 May 2024

The Bridge of Caravans: 626 Miles of Adventure, Cypriote, Turkish, Syrian and Palestinian, by Frances Jenkins Olcott

The Bridge of Caravans: 626 Miles of Adventure, Cypriote, Turkish, Syrian and Palestinian, by Frances Jenkins Olcott, W.A. Wilde Company Publishers, 1940.

“Cyprus, the isle of classic beauty and flowers”

Frances Jenkins Olcott (1872 – 29 March 1963) was a French/American pioneering librarian and prolific author who made significant contributions to children's literature and library services. After graduating from the New York State Library School in 1896, she worked at the Brooklyn Public Library until 1898, when she moved to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. There, she became the first librarian to develop the children's department and also organized the Training School for Children’s Librarians.

Olcott authored numerous children's books that have entertained and educated young readers. Her works are known for their engaging storytelling and educational value, often drawing from a wide range of cultural and historical themes.

She was an innovator in many fields and in more ways than one. Her influence extended beyond her roles in libraries and outreach programs to her published works. Some of her notable contributions include: “The Children's Reading: A comprehensive guide for librarians and educators on fostering a love of reading in children” and "Good Stories for Great Holidays”.

She visited Cyprus in 1938 and in 1940, she published a travel book titled “The Bridge of Caravans: 626 Miles of Adventure Cypriote, Turkish, Syrian and Palestinian” in Boston. This travel and adventure narrative takes readers on a journey through various regions, showcasing their unique cultures, landscapes, and historical contexts. The book emerged from Olcott's attempt to follow the path of the apostle Paul during his first apostolic tours. In her exploration, Olcott ventured through Cyprus, describing it as “The island of 'Horned Cyprus,' bristling with headlands, lies in the green-blue Mediterranean south of St. Paul’s Cilicia […].” She traveled to the island from Famagusta and Salamina, “We cannot linger now to discuss Famagusta's fascinating past, but must go at once to the site of ancient Salamis, and begin our pilgrimage following St. Paul,” urging readers to join her pilgrimage through Larnaca, Limassol, Paphos and the capital Nicosia, while expressing her desire for readers to explore the historic sites along the route to Paphos: “Dear Readers, how I wish there were time for you to stop and explore, as I have, the historic sites along the route to Paphos.”

She doesn't conceal her admiration for the natural beauty of the island: “Ah! dear Readers, this is all too short to describe the scenery between Famagusta and Paphos; its varied aspect; at times desolate and dreary; at others of overwhelming grandeur […],” yet she views its significant archaeological sites primarily as locations where paganism, subdued by Christianity, once thrived, rather than as testaments to a remarkable pre-Christian civilization: “More than three acres of the ancient forum are before us, desolated, deserted, weed and grass buried, strewn with melancholy stone fragments. Crumbled memories of dead paganism.”

Overall, “The Bridge of Caravans” takes readers on a colorful adventure through Cyprus. With its lively stories and vivid descriptions, the book brings the island's beautiful landscapes, vibrant communities, and rich history to life. Reading it feels like you're exploring Cyprus with Olcott herself, discovering the island's magic at every turn.

You can find this book, and many more, in the Research Centre of the CVAR.

The 'Book Of The Month' series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus).

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