….and bend, and stretch!

This wonderful and rather large-format (10.5 x 8.5 inches)handbook on gymnastics called to me from a bottom shelf.  Instructions in Gymnastics (1851) was written by J. E. d’Alfonce, who was (according to the title-page) late professor in the Military School in St. Petersburgh, and in Paris; he was also apparently an instructor in gymnastics at the University of Virginia from 1851 until the beginning of the Civil War, and again in 1865-1866.  I love how he basically says that phys-ed ain’t what it used to be (some 600 years ago!).  From the Preface:

“Since the invention of gunpowder, physical education has been imprudently neglected; having adopted the idea that a child with a gun can kill a Hercules, it has not been thought requisite to teach him anything else than to load his weapon as quickly as possible.  This is a great error.  The science of gymnastics teaches us how to save our own and others’ lives in great emergencies, to endure many privations, and to overcome many difficulties in our occupations and travels, during which so many obstacles arise between us and our objects.  In crossing rivers, in escaping from fire, in exposure to hunger, thirst, heat, cold, and many other casualties, the difficulties would be, and often are, insurmountable to those who are not prepared beforehand by careful study and practice.”

According to Worldcat, only six (6) libraries in the U.S. own this book, which was originally (as you can see by the stamp on the title-page) part of the library maintained by the Franklin Lyceum, one of the groups which merged to form the Providence Public Library (see my post of Nov. 3, 2008, http://pplspeccoll.blogspot.com/2008/11/franklin-lyceum.html). 

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