Thursday, January 28, 2016

King Philip's War

George W. Ellis & John E. Morris - King Philip's War (1906)

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I'll hazard a guess that most of us now are familiar with this topic from Jill Lepore's 1998 The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity but this is an earlier, more narrative account if you're up for that.  The authors have been described as "antiquarians" by modern historians (Eric Schultz and Michael Tougias) and they do seem to have placed more emphasis on the specific geography than you'd be likely to find today.  (Or so it seems - I've only skimmed this.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Speculation or Scalping in Amusement Tickets

Speculation or Scalping in Amusement Tickets (1915)

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It's no surprise that this activity isn't new but it was frequent enough a century ago that there were numerous laws to repress it.  This pamphlet is really just a compendium of laws around the country.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Electrical Experiments

G.E. Bonney - Electrical Experiments (1897)

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The last post was harmless amusements for children - this one is yet another in the line of nobody would give this to kids nowadays.  (Though when I was young we had Thingmakers - completely exposed and very hot plates that solidified liquid plastics.  We're mostly unscarred from the experiences.)

The purpose for this book is because "a large number of idle hours hang wearily on the hands of youths during the long winter evenings in country villages, which could be spent in profitable amusement if they only knew how to use easily-made electrical apparatus."  (Youths in cities apparently had other forms of amusements.)  So induction coils, electrolysis, magnetic suspension, vacuum tubes and a Gassiot Star Hand Rotator (never heard of it but seems to create streaks of light).  I wonder how much of this was ever actually done - did the author really expect youths to make an arc light?  Or maybe it's easier than I know.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Jolly Book of Funcraft

Patten Beard - The Jolly Book of Funcraft (1918)

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The author had two other Jolly Books on playcraft and boxcraft.  This one is "fun" for Valentine's Day, August, Lincoln's Birthday, Christmas and so on, going so far as to include "Carrot Fun", "Hobo Fun" and "A Plasticine Party".  There are instructions on things to make, games to play, that sort of thing - this is a resilient and long-lived children's book genre.

Emma Patten Beard was born in Syracuse and lived in Norwalk CT, apparently with her father (a pastor and also an author).  She graduated from Bradford Academy in 1899.  Who's Who Among North American Authors for 1925 (p31) claims she was related to Margaret Fuller through her mother. This isn't mentioned in the Fuller biographies I checked but then again why would they?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Grotesque Architecture

William Wrighte - Grotesque Architecture (1790)

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A guide to what today would probably be called follies though these "plans" don't seem very helpful to me.  In any case here are some huts, grottos, hermitages and "rustic seats" that can be built with "flints, irregular stones, rude branches, and roots of trees".

I can't find anything about Wrighte - the name wasn't uncommon and though the book went into several editions there doesn't seem to have been much written about its author.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Motion Pictures as a Phase of Commercialized Amusement in Toledo, Ohio

J.J. Phelan - Motion Pictures as a Phase of Commercialized Amusement in Toledo, Ohio (1919)

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A fascinating snapshot of the local film exhibition business.  For instance, the author counts 66 motion pictures "houses" in 1914 (around the time of the first feature-length films) dropping to 42 operating ones at the end of 1918.  Furthermore he notes how many are in the middle of the block (82.7%) and the rest on street corners (17.3%).  Apparently there were no free-standing ones.  He then goes on to find their proximity to saloons, dance halls and rooming houses. (Phelan was a reverend.)  There's also detailed accounting for costs of equipment, musicians, employees, advertising and so on - even if this isn't entirely reliable it's interesting to see.

Section two covers "Mental Effects and Educational Significance".  There's breakdowns of viewing among children.  One survey came up with the improbable (well let's just say clearly biased) result that children preferred "educational" films above all others (with nearly 300 children listing that above the second place Westerns).  A later poll has a different result.  One young enthusiast noted (p52) that their preference was "I like pictures that show a fellar with three children on his hands, because another fellow can come along and take his wife away from him".  (The varying spellings are in the original.)  What film could that possibly have been?

There's some information on censorship activity in Ohio and then a letter from the book's author to the chairman of the board complaining about "the portrayal of vampire life" and nudity.  (I suspect for this author in 1919 "vampire" didn't mean the supernatural creature as much as unruly women.)  The reply is about as reasonable as you could expect a censor to be but Phelan still isn't happy.  At the close of this section is a list of educational films and where they can be rented.  Titles include "Public and Private Care of Infants", "Mayors Organize to Prevent Great Fire Losses", "Weeds, What They Are and How to Get Rid of Them", "Dangers of Unclean Milk" and "Ready for Anything from Air Raids to Riots".

Phelan then gets to what he considers the advantages and disadvantages of film.  Most of the advantages are basically inexpensive entertainment and the kind of uplift that people who believe themselves high minded have always promoted (though not many would phrase it exactly as "counteraction against the influence of the brothel, saloon, public dance hall and other questionable forms of amusement").  The disadvantages are mostly the same as brought earlier against the novel and later against TV then the Internet - less exercise, lost of "true art", mental degradation, "sickly sentimentalism", desire to imitate bad examples, and so forth.

Nearly a third of the book are various appendices including a bibliography, legal overviews, questionaires, lists of movies and business information.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Les animaux s'amusent

Benjamin Rabier - Les animaux s'amusent (1900)

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Another early book of children's cartoons, this time from France and included partly because the animals amuse themselves by basically taunting and even torturing other animals, sometimes in peculiar methods.  (One of the author's other books is Les petites misères de la vie des animaux.)  I've posted only the more innocuous images below and though the others aren't in Itchy and Scratchy territory (except maybe the one involving a severed goose head) they just seem odd.

Rabier (1864-1939) started as a bookkeeper before soon moving to illustration.  He's most famous for Gédéon the duck and for one other creation - Tintin Lutin.  Depending on which biography you consult Hergé either named his character after this one or came up with the name then remembered Rabier's.  There's no doubt that Hergé was greatly influenced or at least inspired by Rabier, especially the latter's illustrations for La Fontaine's fables.

A Little Book of Western Verse

Eugene Field - A Little Book of Western Verse (1895)

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Libraries are filled with books of poetry, especially from a time like this where newspapers printed the stuff.  When I saw this "Western verse" made me wonder if it was cowboy poetry or then if it meant European.  Neither - the author was from Missouri and Chicago when that was mostly Western.  I'm including it mainly for "The Bibliomaniac's Prayer" (below) which is probably of the most, if not only, interest to this blog's readers.

Eugene Field (1850-1895) was a newspaper columnist known for a humorous touch and for light verse.  His father was a lawyer who represented Dred Scott.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium

Maria Sibylla Merian - Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium (1705)

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Seems like I should have known about Merian earlier but it was left to the Brain Pickings newsletter to inform me.  The author was the focus of a Google doodle in 2013, was on the German 500 DM note, this book was reissued by Taschen in 2009 (though is out of print now) and Dover also released a selection.  I missed it all.

Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) was a German/Dutch entomologist and illustrator, a key figure in both fields.  She also did botanical work but this book is her best known.  There's an English-language biography - Kim Todd's Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis (2007).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Supplement to Blue Mountain College Catalogue

Supplement to Blue Mountain College Catalogue (1913)

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Here's where you can get a glimpse at a college in the 1911 school year.  Blue Mountain College is a liberal arts school in the northeastern corner of Mississippi - it was a women's college until 2005 and is supported by the Mississippi Baptist Convention.

What's interesting is the classes.  These include an awful lot of poetry going as far as Milton's minor poems and Anglo-Saxon (and including "Negro Dialect Studies"), the novel is mostly Victorian England, there's Latin, French, German and Spanish (though the modern languages are optional), there are about three years of hard sciences, and only basic math (no calculus).  The history is paltry compared to poetry but one segment is on "The Great Events Clustering around 1870".  The optional classes include a variety of music and, uh, dressmaking.  ("Every woman ought to know how to cut, fit and make a dress perfectly.")

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Key to Polite Literature

A Key to Polite Literature (1763)

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An early handbook to classical literature and mythology.  Not exactly sure what makes it "polite" for anybody with even passing familiarity with the subject but more likely that's a meaning shift.  A contemporary review says "equally useful and entertaining to those who have not opportunity and inclination to consult more particular accounts of the heathen mythology".  (Critical Review, April 1763)  It was originally issued at The Gentleman and Lady's Key to Polite-Literature.  The author(s) are unknown and at least one later bibliographer has improbably considered it children's literature.

The value of such older reference works both their different viewpoints and the sometimes unusual information they contain.  The very first entry here, for instance, is something I didn't know - "Abadir" was the name of the stone given to Saturn (Cronos) which he consumed instead of his son Jupiter (Zeus).  That story is familiar enough but the name of the stone?  Why did it even have a name?  Turns out this is more commonly called the Omphalos stone though I can't find any documentation for the name used here.  In any case, the book is well worth browsing if this sounds at all like anything of interest to you.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Harnessing the Earthworm

Thomas Jason Barrett  - Harnessing the Earthworm (1947)

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If you need a project for the new year what about earthworms?  Productive and possibly profitable!  The author covers earthworm biology, how to raise them, topsoil, farms, orchards, ways to mix compost.  He talks about domesticated earthworms so don't try this with feral ones.