Real Pen Work and Exercises for Flourishing

We recently acquired a lovely volume entitled Real Pen Work: Self Instructor in Penmanship, published in 1884 by Knowles & Maxim.

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This book includes step-by-step instructions on everything from how to sit properly at your writing desk to the proper degree to which to slant letters. It features samples of script, promissory notes, verses for autograph albums, and these elegant business letters.

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There are handwriting exercises as well as exercises for flourishing, the latter of which sounds suspiciously like something one would find on a clean eating and wellness blog.

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The bulk of the book consists of illustrations made entirely through offhand flourishing, such as this graceful swan and this squiggly family (complete with curlicue guardian angel).

There’s even a small section of ornamental lettering, including some lovely color alphabets.

If you’d like to take a look at this or any of our other books on handwriting and hand-lettering, get in touch!

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Scientific Methods: Appleton and The Young Chemist

We wanted to share some excellent scientific illustrations from a recently-cataloged, 1897 edition of John Howard Appleton’s The young chemist: a book of laboratory work for beginners. 

Appleton, born in Maine in 1844, was a chemistry professor at Brown University, as well as the Rhode Island State Sealer of Weights and Measures. (What a fantastic title, right?) He wrote twelve chemistry texts, including The young chemist, which was first published in 1878.

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The Year-Book of Education for 1879 describes The young chemist thusly:

The Young Chemist is a manual of instruction in chemistry on the experimental or object method, of which the characteristic advantages as regarded by the author are: the apparatus described and the supplies called for are of the simplest character; the experiments are described in clear and simple language, and in direct form; dangerous experiments are excluded; the chemical elements are discussed in a scientific order; formulas and reactions are introduced freely, so that the student learns the new nomenclature and the new notation without suspecting it.

This description fails to mention the detailed illustrations, which really have everything one could want in terms of chemistry-themed visuals:

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Test tubes! Open flames!

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A guy blowing bubbles in a beaker!

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Quartz (SiO2) crystals, which looks to be straight out of the Cueva de los Cristales!

If this blog post is causing you to have an insatiable urge to carry out simple science experiments, you should check out NPR’s article on experiments using leftover Halloween candy. Just make sure to keep Appleton’s hints in mind.

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Impeccable Science: Flannel Frippery and Blasting the Blooming Complexion

Today’s impeccable science is drawn from the 1851 Buchan’s Domestic Medicine: or The Family Physician, a book that is a fantastic mix of sound advice, terrifying recommendations, gruesome descriptions of 19th century afflictions, and fanciful language.

The book’s segment on sleep and clothing appears near the beginning of the book, as proper attention to both (alongside aliment, air, and exercise) is a crucial element of good health. Buchan begins by counseling readers that “too little sleep weakens the nerves, exhausts the spirits, and occasions diseases; and too much renders the mind dull, the body gross, and disposes it to apoplexies, lethargies, and such like.”

Who wants weak nerves and a gross body? Not me! Probably not you! Thus, take note: “For adults six or seven hours is certainly sufficient,” counsels Buchan, “and no one ought to exceed eight.” And if one does sleep more than eight hours? “The indolent custom of lolling abed for nine or ten hours not only makes the sleep less refreshing, but relaxes the nerves, and greatly weakens the constitution.”

Ok, so less sleep is better, as long as it’s not too little sleep. But when should we sleep?

Nature points out night as the proper season for sleep. Nothing more certainly destroys the constitution than night-watching. It is great pity that a practice so destructive to health should be so much in fashion. How quickly the want of rest in due season will blast the most blooming complexion, or ruin the best constitution, is evident from the ghastly countenances of those who, as the phrase is, turn day into night, and night into day.

Oof, who wants a ghastly countenance? Definitely not me! I should sleep at night! And I should arise early in the morning, at least according to Buchan, for “surely the fore-part of the day is fitter both for business and amusement. I hardly ever knew an early riser who did not enjoy a good state of health.”

These recommendations, mind you, sound solid to me, so I’m inclined to heed Buchan’s following suggestions on clothing. He derides the corset, disparages the too-tight shoe, and scorns young men who wear flannel.

Flannel indeed is now worn by almost every young fellow. This custom is extremely preposterous. It not only makes them weak and effeminate, but renders flannel less useful at a time of life when it becomes more necessary. No young person ought to wear flannel, unless… some… disease renders it necessary.

Well! Avoid flannel! And while you’re at it, remember these wise words: “Finery is only the affectation of dress, and very often covers a great deal of dirt.”

My Medicinal Valentine

In our great enthusiasm for all things Valentine’s Day, we’d like to offer you this sensible yet romantic 19th century medical meditation on the nature of love.

It’s drawn from an 1851 edition of Buchan’s Domestic Medicine: Or the Family Physician. (I’m pleased that this volume contains an entire section on “The Passions”.)

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Love is perhaps the strongest of all the passions: at least, when it becomes violent, it is less subject to the control either of the understanding or will than any of the rest. Fear, anger, and several other passions, are necessary for the preservation of the individual, but love is necessary for the continuation of the species itself. It was therefore proper that this passion should be deeply rooted in the human breast.

Though love be a strong passion, it is seldom so rapid in its progress as several of the others. Few persons fall desperately in love all at once. We would therefore advise every one, before he tampers with this passion, to consider well the probability of his being able to obtain the object of his love. When that is not likely, he should avoid every occasion of increasing it. He ought immediately to fly the company of the beloved object; to apply his mind attentively to business or study; to take every kind of amusement; and, above all, to endeavor, if possible, to find another object which may engage his affections, and which it may be in his power to obtain.

When love becomes a disease, it is not easily cured. Its consequences, in this case, are often so violent, that even the possession of the beloved object will not always remove them. It is therefore of the greatest importance early to guard against its influence; but when the passion has already taken too deep hold of the mind to admit of being eradicated, the beloved object ought if possible to be obtained; nor should this be deferred for every trifling cause. Those who have the disposal of young persons in marriage are too ready to trifle with the passion of love; such, for the most sordid considerations, frequently sacrifice the future health, peace or happiness of those committed to their care.

Art//Archives: An Avian Extravaganza

Today’s visual research open hours (Tuesdays, 10:00 – 1:00) offer you an avian extravaganza, an ornithological assemblage, a great number of illustrated birds!

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This lovely, bespectacled fellow hails from E. Donovan’s 1794 The Natural History of British Birds; Or, a Selection of the Most Rare, Beautiful, and Interesting Birds Which Inhabit This Country: The Descriptions from the Systema Naturae of Linnaeus; With General Observations, Either Original, or Collected From the Latest and Most Esteemed English Ornithologists; and Embellished with Figures, Drawn, Engraved, and Coloured from the Original Specimens. (Say that five times fast!)

Today’s visitors also can page through this book on “cage and chamber-birds”. It includes information on “their natural history, habits, food, diseases, management, and modes of capture”. (A researcher yesterday deemed this book “kind of awesome and kind of a bummer,” which I find to be entirely accurate.)

Studer’s Popular Ornithology, published in 1881, has beautiful, large-scale, color illustrations of birds, as well as a spectacular title page. (Does the “A” in the word “America” look vaguely masonic to anyone else?)

Stop by to spend some time with these books today, or contact us to make an appointment with these feathered friends.

Sows, onions, and mumping

The winter holidays are often a busy time. Perhaps you’ve been hunting around for the perfect Yule log or mail-ordering flannel pajamas. Perhaps you’ve been collecting sticks for a solstice bonfire or turning your kitchen into a seasonal cookie factory.

It’s easy to get so overwhelmed that you don’t have time to research traditional holiday customs of Great Britain. Luckily, we’ve done that work for you, scouring T. F. Thiselton’s British Popular Customs, Present and Past; Illustrating the Social and Domestic Manners of the People (London, 1876) for the best British customs and rituals for the upcoming days.

For the procrastinators among you: now (right now) is the time to start preparing for Sow Day, which is celebrated on December 17th.

At Sandwick, in the Orkneys [of Scotland], it is usual for every family to kill a sow, whence this day is called Sow Day. This custom probably has some reference to the heathen worship of the sun, to which, among the northern nations, the male of this animal was sacred.

If you’re planning a little further ahead, you have ample time to prepare for St. Thomas’ Day on December 21st by readying your rope of onions.

Girls… used to have a method of divination with a “St. Thomas’s Onion,” for the purpose of ascertaining their future partners. They peeled the onion, wrapped it up in a clean handkerchief, and then, placing it under their heads, said the following lines:

“Good St. Thomas, do me right / And see my true love come to-night, / That I may see him in the face, / And him in my kind arms embrace.”

(Remember to use a clean handkerchief. Apparently it doesn’t work with a dirty one.)

St. Thomas’ Day, being a few days before Christmas, is also a traditional time for all manner of actual and ritualistic alms-collecting, ranging from begging for corn with a bag to singing for neighbors in return for hot drinks. The custom of going from house to house has different names in different parts of Great Britain; Thiselton reports that in Herefordshire, the day is called “Mumping Day”, and the process of going door-to-door asking for contributions is termed “going a-mumping.”

We in Special Collections hope that you find the best Yule log, make the most delicious cookies, find your true love via onion, and verily enjoy going a-mumping.

 

Giving thanks for… historic magazines

In anticipation of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday (or, as Abraham Lincoln declared it in 1863, a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”), we pulled two November issues of American Cookery Magazine, one from 1914 and one from 1944.

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The 1914 edition has several sample menus for Thanksgiving dinners, including the familiar–“individual pumpkin pies”–and the historically mysterious–“Kornlet, Mexican style, in ramekins”. (For the record, I learned today that Kornlet was a canned green corn pulp that was widely available at the time.)

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If you decide to skip the “hot ham mousse” and instead opt for the “roasted chicken, sausage cakes”, you can follow this seasonally-appropriate recipe from the same issue:

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I’m not 100% sure which part is the sausage and which parts are the fritters, but I am sure that those chickens seem to be awkwardly swan-diving into the surface of their elegant tray.

Fast-forwarding 30 years to the 1944 issue, we have a recipe for these holiday favorites, porcupine puddings, suggested as an accompaniment to a Thanksgiving “porkchop with peanut stuffing”:

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The 1944 advertisements may prove helpful for the Thanksgiving cook, as well. For instance, they guide you toward a possible solution for your Pie Problems:

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And finally, apropos of nothing besides that it’s in the same magazine, look at this delicious recipe for pea soup with floating frankfurter slices:

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Don’t miss the caption: “Split pea soup warms the cockles of your heart.”