Saturday, June 24, 2017

A History of England

M. A. Rundall - A History of England, in Which the Most Remarkable Events are Illustrated by Numerous Symbolical Engravings (1829) direct link
Open Library main page

The start of the title promises yet another school-aimed history but the remainder sounds a bit intriguing.  In fact what the author has done is give each period or ruler a page of symbols (supposedly easier to remember) and then several pages of explanation.  (The original edition was published in 1822 as Symbolic Illustrations of the History of England.)

It's an odd approach and often too oblique, at times even comic with toothpick-shaped figures and clip-art icons.  That image of a Druidical wicker man seems more like a jaunty Halloween icon.  (And also an unintended notice about the date of the book - more recent research shows there was almost certainly no real life wicker man sacrifices.)  Or one from Henry VIII showing persecutions, but then most of the ones for him seem a bit strained.  Symbol pages for the Wars of the Roses are repeated battles and I think it would be harder to remember what the symbols represent than the actual names of the battles.

I can find almost no information about Mary Ann Rundall.  She was from Bath and also wrote an Easy Grammar of Sacred History (1813).

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Burgess Nonsense Book

Gelett Burgess - The Burgess Nonsense Book (1901) direct link
Open Library main page

Another from author/editor/humorist/poet Gelett Burgess, this time collecting much of his nonsense work (including "Purple Cow").  I don't think it's meant for children, at least not entirely, but in any case has aged well enough.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Fourth Dimension and the Bible

William Anthony Granville - The Fourth Dimension and the Bible (1922) direct link
Open Library main page

Not my discovery - the Odd Books site posted about it recently.  But when I started this blog I'd hoped to have many more kook books than in fact I've found, though this might only partially fit that description.  Granville (1863-1943) was a well-known mathematician with some substantial publications to his credit.  (And as the title page notes, also responsible for a "transparent combined ruler and protractor" - something all academic CVs should mention!)  Just skimming this book--because honestly it doesn't look quite that interesting--Granville seems to be trying to put Christianity on a firm basis using pure mathematics.  Probably not very successfully since this book isn't referenced much afterwards.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Raymond Scott: Artifacts from the Archives

Raymond Scott: Artifacts from the Archives (2017)


Another book under copyright but can be legally downloaded.  It's a compilation of material related to Scott's electronic music.  (You know Scott's work even if the name is unfamiliar though mainly from his jazz-pop pieces rather than electronics.)

Friday, June 16, 2017


James Joyce - Ulysses (1922) direct link
Open Library main page

Today is Bloomsday so what else could I post?  This is the Egoist Press edition which appeared in October 1922 after Shakespeare & Co's edition that February.  It was printed from the same plates and includes several pages of errata that constitute almost a found poem.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cultus Arborum

Hargrave Jennings (?) - Cultus Arborum: A Descriptive Account of Phallic Tree Worship (1890) direct link
Open Library main page

Phallic tree worship?  Sure, why not - except this book is mainly a compendium of tree worship and little else.  Even a contemporary notice in the Theosophical Review griped as much ("we fear however that literary incubi will find too much about Tree Worship and too little about Phallicism to delay them long over the present exposition") before it then veers off on its own tangent.

The book was privately published with no author indication but some modern sources claim it was the work of occultist Hargrave Jennings (1817-1890).  This doesn't seem to be a particularly firm attribution but I'll leave it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Philosophy of Beards

T. S. Gowing - The Philosophy of Beards (1854) direct link
Open Library main page

If you ever needed a defense of beards complete with a brief history of them - well here you go.  This traces the wearing of beards from Greece and Assyria up to the then-modern day, apparently missing few opportunities to promote beards.

Despite other sources the date of 1854 seems correct - at least there was a review in the 1854 Living Age.

Gowing is something of a mystery.  He's mentioned several times in connection with the Society of the Arts so was probably a member and he once presented a paper on Suffolk place names so possibly from there.

Friday, June 2, 2017

History of Christian Names

Charlotte Mary Yonge - History of Christian Names (1863) direct link (1884 revised edition)
Open Library main page

Skimming titles I thought this was religious but here "Christian name" just means first name or given name.  In fact many of these come from decidedly other religious traditions - Jewish, Greek, Norse, Germanic.  It doesn't take the form of a dictionary but groups them into what are considered roots and then described in a more or less narrative fashion.  So "Frey" gets a short history of its origins in Sanskrit and passage into various other languages.  Then into deities, various kings and rulers, some saints and before long we have an assortment of Frederick, Federico, Fritz, Frederica and so on.

It's safe to flag much of this as today not entirely reliable, not only being the product of 19th century philology but from an dedicated, though very well-read, enthusiast.  Parts of it are also clearly speculative.  Still on the whole it's pretty entertaining to read even if quite dense at times.

And if nothing else the glossary at the start will provide lots of names for your fantasy novel - Monegonde, Helmtac, Seoin, Valborg.

It won't come as a surprise that Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901) was a novelist, quite popular and prolific but now mostly forgotten.  Little seems to have been reprinted and to get an idea of her story one 1943 biography (the most recent apparently) was subtitled "The History of an Uneventful Life".   Her first biography in 1903 was written by her friend Christabel Rose Coleridge, grand-daughter of Samuel.