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On the Edge of History


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With the Açores islands an increasingly popular destination for people drawn by its relatively unspoilt landscape, wonderful walking and rich Portuguese culture, this book, first published in 2006, provides a rare glimpse of life during the 19th Century and the history and influence of the Dabney family.

Joseph C Abdo is an American who has been living in Portugal since 1984. After a long career in planning in California, he took a mid-life break and became an apprentice in a Portuguese ceramic tile painting factory.

His break extended indefinitely, he developed a great interest in the culture of Portugal and put his researches to use writing articles about tile façades on Lisbon buildings and soon became a regular contributor to several magazines in Portugal.

During a vacation to the Açores, he came across a reference to the Dabney family of Boston in a tourist brochure on the island of Faial. They had arrived on Faial during the 19th Century and had quickly become involved in the political, literary, intellectual and religious changes taking place on both continents.

He looked for more information about this family that was so important in Faial and who had provided three generations of American Consuls to the Açores. On discovering that the last book about them dated from the early 20th century, Abdo decided that an updated telling of their story was needed and his research and contact with the descendents of the Dabney family led him along the trail of an American family that had almost entirely escaped the investigations of American historians.

Glimpse of life

On the Edge of History is a biography of this American family that was involved in many of the historical events that took place in the Atlantic during the 19th Century. It provides a glimpse of life from the point of view of some well-known historical figures as well as some ‘anonymous’ insiders (reprints of correspondence are scattered throughout the book).

It creates a picture of individuals and events and the social framework of the Açores from a different perspective to previously published history of that period.

Joseph Abdo is currently working on a biography of Samuel Longfellow, youngest brother of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and a tutor for the Dabney family children.

He will be the guest of the Griffin Bookshop in the spring of 2008 for a book signing and reading event. Dates will be published in The Resident nearer the time.