Odds and quads

February 18, 2010

This dried lizard, stuck to the pages of a letter, was posted by the 12-year-old William Rathbone VIII (1880-1941) to his elder sister "Tot" (Elena).

Writing from his boarding school in Broadstairs, he describes how he has been working hard in the carpenter's shop to make his mother a present of "a little white house".

But he makes no mention of the lizard, which suggests that it may have been sent by accident after making its own way into the envelope.

When his mother wrote to him shortly afterwards, she said: "I was much frightened by the little lizard in your letter and did not like to touch it, but Tot thought it sweet."

The letter is included in the Rathbone Papers, which bring together personal and business documents relating to several generations of a leading Non-conformist family of merchants, philanthropists, politicians and social reformers from Liverpool.

They were presented to the University of Liverpool in 1954 and remain in its Special Collections and Archives.

Send suggestions for this series on the sector's treasures, oddities and curiosities to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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