Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Boys' Book of Submarines

A. Frederick Collins and Virgil D. Collins - The Boys' Book of Submarines (1917)

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A look at submarines for early 20th century boys, back when nobody thought twice about giving them instructions on building a model sub that involved sawing, extensive soldering and creating an electrical motor.  The bulk of the book, though, focuses on how actual subs operate from ballast to torpedoes to signalling methods to combat tactics.

Archie Frederick Collins (1869-1952) was an electrical engineer and prolific author on popular science topics, especially radio.  Titles include The Radio Amateur's Handbook (1922) and Experimental Television (1932).  He was jailed for mail fraud and wrote The Boys' Book of Submarines with his son Virgil Dewey shortly after release.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Children's Book of Thanksgiving Stories

Asa Don Dickinson (ed) - The Children's Book of Thanksgiving Stories (1915)

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Just what the title says - stories for kids.  I haven't read it but that turkey image below has him remaking on his own wishbone - in the actual story he's a ghost who takes the child to a valley where wishbones stick out of the ground "like little croquet hoops" and other turkey ghosts place him in judgement.  Perhaps the next book was How to Get Your Child to Sleep After Hearing Frightening Thanksgiving Stories.

Dickinson (1876-1960) was an American librarian who studied at Columbia and worked at various places until invited to Punjab University in Lahore.  There he organized and expanded its library, a task he documented in Punjab Library Primer (1916).  He wrote other anthologies on Christmas and patriotism as well as guides to reading, a work on Tarkington and a study of the Kaiser.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Time-Analysis of the Plots of Shakspere's Plays

P. A. Daniel - A Time-Analysis of the Plots of Shakspere's Plays (1879)

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Ever wonder how long the stories in each of Shakespeare's plays lasted?  Me neither but here's a breakdown with descriptions of how it was determined, though it should be noted that he's focusing on what is presented on stage and not the gaps between scenes (which is years in some instances).  The events in As You Like It, for instance, took 10 days starting with the Duke's quarrel and ending with his restoration.  Hamlet is 7 days from the first guard scene to the assorted deaths at the end though he admits there are some doubtful gaps in the story.  Some of the times seem short - he gives 8 days to The Winter's Tale, 10 to Coriolanus and 14 to Pericles.

Peter Augustin Daniel was a Shakespeare editor and scholar.  He seems to have been a friend of George Meredith. Oddly I can find no dates or more specific information other than a book calling him a "relatively unknown figure" (Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science: Volume 30, p397).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Natural History of Parrots

Prideaux John Selby - The Natural History of Parrots (1836)

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A catalog of parrot types for early 19th century naturalists.  It's still a bit technical (unless you know what culmen and tomia are) but as you'd expect from that period is well-written and full of nice little trivia.  The Alexandrine Ring-Parrakeet, for instance, was the only type known to the ancient Greeks - the name gives the reason.  The Festive Parrot is easily tamed and can imitate human speech while the Red and Blue Maccaw is neither.  The book starts with a brief biography of naturalist Thomas Bewick, apparently because it's a volume in a series and this just seemed a convenient spot to place it.

Since Prideaux John Selby (1788-1867) is best known for Illustrations of British Ornithology it's probably redundant to say he was a British artist and ornithologist.  He took painting lessons from Audubon who named the Selby's Flycatcher after him.  (Audubon wrote, "I wish I could see John to tell him to draw all he can, for his and my sake."  The Audubon Reader, p180)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Rust, Smut, Mildew & Mould

M.C. Cooke - Rust, Smut, Mildew & Mould: An Introduction to the Study of Microscopic Fungi (1872)

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Microscopic fungi enthusiasts, here you go!  Not as many illustrations as you might hope but the text is as readable as any 19th century naturalist with the book skewing more scientific than literary.

Mordecai Cubitt Cooke (1825-1914) was a British botanist with a long list of publications, chiefly on fungi but branching out to ferns, wild flowers, wasps, reptiles and other topics.  His 1860 book The Seven Sisters of Sleep: A Popular History of the Seven Prevailing Narcotics (Hathi Trust) was reprinted in 1997 with the new subtitle "The Celebrated Drug Classic".   A biography appeared in 1987 by Mary P. English.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Guide to Medieval Sources

Bodleian History Faculty Library - Guide to Medieval Sources (2015)

Main page (download link toward bottom)

If you need to do any research in primary medieval documents or need reference material to navigate them this free text might help.  It covers physical and digital resources ranging from compilations to dictionaries and though many are linked to Oxford portals (it is intended for their use after all) at least it would give you an idea what to look for.  Clavis patristica pseudepigraphorum medii aeui, here I come!  (Nah, not really - I don't have enough interest in the Church fathers to get into their pseudographia (unless any of it turns out to be as weird as the Augustan History) though I'm glad something like this exists - and that books published in the 1990s have a Latin title they didn't really need.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Greek hero cults and ideas of immortality

Lewis Richard Farnell - Greek Hero Cults and Ideas of Immortality (1921)

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A supplement to Farnell's three volume Cults of the Greek States about what its title says though focusing more on the religious aspect than the literary stories most of us know better.  Even though the author claims "a large part of this material turns out to be merely barren, mere names about which nothing positive, nothing that concerns religion or history, can be said" I think it's fascinating even if only from a sort of antiquarian view where mere names have their own appeal.  (Though I'm saying this without having read the whole book.)

Lewis Richard Farnell (1856-1934) was a classicist at Exeter College in Oxford.  He supported Tolkien's transition as a student into the English Honours School (Zaleski's The Fellowship p61).  In addition to many books on classical subjects, Farnell wrote a 1934 memoir An Oxonian Looks Back and a brief account of his youthful travels An Englishman's Adventures on German Rivers (1891), neither of which appears to be digitized.  Part of his work is examined in Jan N. Bremmer and Andrew Erskine's The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations (2010).  According to Kathy Martin's Farnell Teddy Bears (2010) this Farnell may have had a distant relation to the toy but I couldn't quite figure out the connection. (See page 39.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Odd Showers

George Duncan Gibb - Odd Showers: or, An Explanation of the Rain of Insects, Fishes, and Lizards; Soot, Sand, and Ashes; Red Rain and Snow; Meteoric Stones; and Other Bodies (1870)

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A small Fortean pamphlet from four years before he was born (er, not an out-of-time object - a work from a different author than Fort).  It reports various accounts of falling frogs, fish, soot, rocks and so forth (see the subtitle) from the skies, generally in a straightforward manner with dates and locations in true Fortean fashion.  Gibb ventures a few explanations such as volcanoes for the soot or the familiar waterspouts for fish but mostly doesn't explore those in detail.  And I've never seen any Fortean work that closes with a brief poem in a variant of ballad meter.

Sir Duncan Gibb (1821-1876) was a London physician at Westminster Hospital who wrote a few texts on medical subjects, mostly related to the throat.  None of his other work appears to be in the vein of Odd Showers - even one on "fossil lightning" is about a genuine object usually called fulgurite.  Gibb studied medicine at McGill University in Montreal (some of his papers are in that library), did additional work in Dublin and then arrived in Paris right after the events of June 1848.  In Paris he wrote a paper on gun shot wounds based on his work in those hospitals.  He returned to Montreal briefly to found a medical school that soon closed before finally settling in London in 1852.  In 1867 he became a baron, apparently having pursued the title despite dubious documentation and objections from friends that it was a vain distraction and carried no property.  He wrote a two-volume book to support his claim though it doesn't appear to have been taken very seriously.  (Most of the biographic material comes from the Montreal Medical Journal for June 1876.)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Manual of Practical Indexing

Archibald Leycester Clarke - Manual of Practical Indexing (1905)

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Unless you work in a library or bookstore the complexities of book organization are probably something like the proverbial iceberg that's only 10% visible.  Indexing is a step further as this turn-of-the-century book shows.  Very detailed descriptions of techniques and ideas range from use in libraries to price catalogs to periodicals, all done with a prose style that's far more complex and literary than what you would get in such a book today.  (In fact there's actually even a digression on style towards the middle.)  A 2nd edition appeared in 1933.

Clarke was a professional librarian (with Royal Society of Medicine) and this appears to have been his only book.  I can find no other information though he may be the same person as Archibald L. Clarke who submitted naturalist notes to Selborne magazine and others during this period.

(By the way, I checked and though there are a lot of variables it's generally true about icebergs and 10% visibility.)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Impressionism: A Centenary Exhibition

Anne Dayez, Michel Hoog, and Charles S. Moffett - Impressionism: A Centenary Exhibition (1974)

Metropolitan Museum of Art main page
(there's a download link to the right)

This is the catalog to a 1974 exhibition exploring the early years of the Impressionist movement.  After an overview it contains numerous short but detailed essays on individual works that together explore more substantial history and themes.

The Metropolitan Museum has made a few hundred of its out of print catalogs free to download.  On the left the "Book titles with full text online" brings up only these books.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Butterflies Worth Knowing

Clarence Moores Weed - Butterflies Worth Knowing (1917)

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Another natural history book with some nice illustrations.  Despite the low-key title, the book is actually a pretty thorough guide to various types of butterflies with extensive descriptions of their anatomy and habits.  The author was a prolific writer on such subjects, also covering birds, insects and trees.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive

UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive

While I'm working through a computer crash thought you might be interested in this collection of digitized audio cylinders, available through playlists or individual songs.  Can be downloaded.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Doubtful Plays of Shakspere

Henry Tyrrell - The Doubtful Plays of Shakspere (1800)

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The first post when starting this blog was a collection of Shakespeare apocrypha though it hasn't been the only such work.  Just a couple of years ago Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen released a volume of "collaborative plays" that's essentially the same thing.  In fact several of those plays appear in this 1800 book.  As always, one point of interest is the inclusion of certain works - in this case Titus Andronicus and Pericles, Prince of Tyre - that are now accepted as Shakespeare's as well as Two Noble Kinsmen which has teetered in and out (but currently seems to be in).

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Anecdotal Lincoln

Paul Selby - Anecdotal Lincoln: Speeches, Stories and Yarns of the "Immortal Abe" (1900)

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Lincolniana is never in short supply as seen by this collection of anecdotes and speeches.  It aims for accuracy and if it's overly respectful ("How Lincoln Earned His First Dollar") that just comes with the territory.  The book was reprinted a couple of years later as Lincoln's Life, Stories and Speeches. Perhaps not directly relevant to this book but I highly recommend Edward Steers Jr.'s Lincoln Legends for a corrective to much general misinformation.

Selby (1825-1913) was a newspaper editor (abolitionist) and later editor of the Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois as the title page points out.  According to Richard Lawrence Miller's Lincoln and His World, in 1853 Selby wrote an editorial accusing a Democratic politician of "misbehavior" so the politician assaulted him and thrashed him with a cane.  Lincoln represented the politician (whose sister knew Lincoln) and criticized Selby for asking $1,000 damages then increasing the claim to $10,000.  Lincoln and the politician lost the case but Selby was awarded only $300.  Selby showed he didn't hold a grudge when three years later he and Lincoln helped form the Illinois Republican party (as told in great detail by Reinhard H. Luthin).

Monday, November 2, 2015

Records and files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts

Records and files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts (late 17th century)

Open Library direct link (volume 2)
Open Library direct link (volume 3)
Open Library direct link (volume 4)
Open Library direct link (volume 5)
Open Library direct link (volume 6)
Open Library direct link (volume 7)

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The New York Times interviewed Stacy Schiff (10/25/15) and she mentioned this "irresistible anthology of infractions and abominations" which sounds like must reading.  (The NYT gave Schiff's new book on the Salem witch trials--the reason she was reading this--a lukewarm review.)  It's not quite the parade of crimes and domestic squabbles it's made to sound - most of the cases involve debts, land, livestock and drunkenness.  And a fair amount of "fornication" the sentence for which was whipping or a fine.  (The records don't indicate which was chosen.)

Some examples:

On page 337 of volume 2 a man entered court "in an uncivil manner", said they were "robbers and destroyers of the widows and fatherless", that their worship "was not the worship of God" and refused to be silent.  They placed him in the stocks.

On page 121 of volume 5 a man is fined for swearing and will pay in "merchantable fish".  On page 409 a man gave "retorting and saucy language" saying he could wear silver buttons.  (There must have been sumptuary laws.)

And on it goes, these are after all actual court records not newspaper accounts.  I only found five out of apparently nine volumes but it won't much matter for browsing.  If you want a more literary account of various newsworthy events try Félix Fénéon's Novels in Three Lines.