The Bookend Lions

Unknown, Ella Moss (Great Grandmother),Leah, Jack, Ellis (Grandfather) and Charles Earl Preston (Great Grandfather) (ca.1907)

The Lion of Lucerne

The two Lion bookends pictured on this website are family heirlooms which belonged to my Great Grandfather, Reverend Charles Earl Preston (see photo on right,) and they currently reside in my bookshelf.  They have an interesting story.

Many years ago I had the bookends in my carry-on luggage as I walked into the Seattle airport.  The airport screeners halted my carry-on inside the x-ray machine, wound the conveyor belt back and forth, and called me over.  They showed me the bookends in the x-ray and one of them (the one which has superficial damage to the nose and lead paw) had obviously been hollowed out, filled with something and resealed.  In the middle of the interior sat a dark object we could not identify.  The screeners let me continue on to the plane – something I am certain today’s TSA would no longer abide – and I carried them home.  What strange object lies buried in the heart of the old lion who anchors the left end of my bookshelf?  Most likely it is some kind of metal pin inserted as part of a repair.  But I like the little mystery.  

The Lion bookends are copies of the Lion of Lucerne monument in Lucerne, Switzerland (see photo below)  According to Wikipedia, the weeping lion commemorates the sacrifice of the Swiss Guards who were massacred defending the Royal Family at the Tuileries Palace during the French Revolution in 1792.  The monument is dedicated Helvetiorum Fidei ac Virtuti: “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss.”  Mark Twain praised the sculpture of the mortally wounded lion as “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world,” and he describes its setting in A Tramp Abroad (1880.)  The Lion of Lucerne was designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and hewn in 1820-21 by Lukas Ahorn.

The Lion of Lucerne Monument