Isn’t it true that when you visit someone’s home for the first time, you are always drawn to their bookcases? Books on a shelf make any room feel like a threshold into worlds unknown, and many books on many shelves make most of us feel like we have to stay. There is simply nothing like a personal library for warmth, mystery, and charm.
Our last entry in this blog dealt with vintage travelogues, always fun. But, on a slightly more serious note, I thought we might take a look at some of the professional texts of the day. A large percentage of books published in America in the 1800’s were religious in nature—hymnbooks and Biblical texts, to be sure. These can range from enormous, ornate family Bibles to the tiny palm-size inspirational tale. The first two on our list are compact and built for daily use:
The Psalms of David, in Metre: with Annotations explaining the sense and animating the devotion
Full calf leather with marbled page edges. Spine recased and binding firm. A lovely and passionate rendering of the Psalms in rhyming verses. Here’s a peak at the 23rd:
The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want.
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green: he leadeth me
Hymns for the Use of the Methodist Episcopal Church
Published 1869 -- in embossed black leather.
Almost pocket-size, except for its thickness. 1148 hymns & doxologies, divided into categories, such as The Institutions of the Gospel, and the Means of Grace. The leather is edgeworn and lightly scuffed. Only one page has some soiling to the text. The spine has been archivally repaired, so the binding is tight.
Classroom textbooks are always interesting and highly collectible, especially for modern educators and professionals in the field. Modern homeschooling families too have regenerated the interest in the McGuffeys.
McGuffey’s New High School Reader: For Advanced Classes
Published 1857 -- in embossed blue cloth with embossed black leather spine, and marbled page edges. From the “Eclectic Educational Series”, this is a nice anthology of selections from the world’s great writers, including Shakepeare, Dickens, Dumas and Longfellow. Scuffed at the edges, but the binding is tight. This is a great addition to anyone’s collection of McGuffey Readers.
Universal History in Perspective: Divided into Three Parts, Ancient, Middle & Modern
Published 1856 – by Emma Willard, American Women’s Rights activist, and founder of Troy Female Seminary (New York), the first institution of higher learning for women in the U. S. (1821). Willard traveled widely, promoting women’s education, and wrote several books on history and geography which served as textbooks for the school. This is one of them. The school, renamed the Emma Willard School, still thrives as an all-female boarding school. As she said, “Women too are primary existences… not the satellites of men.”
There is a 1947 newspaper article glued inside which quotes from the conclusion of this book her talk on anarchy and despotism, her fears for the future of democracy. The journalist found her words poignant to the day.
Medical Histories are endlessly entertaining and make great gifts for anyone in the health professions. These two especially are visually arresting and would look great on anyone’s shelf.
Vitalogy – Encyclopedia of Health and Home
(Volume 2 only) Published 1900
Half leather with gilt trim and marbled endpapers. Illustrated, with a vintage color anatomical fold-out. (Again, the spine has been repaired and is firm.)
A fascinating look at turn of the century prevention and treatment of diseases, plus 200 pages on medicinal plants and natural remedies. It details the “Swedish Movement Cure for Consumption”, which looks like it may be related to the recently founded science of chiropractics. And lots of fun remedies, such as pumpkin seeds – for tapeworm -- and 19 medicinal uses for kerosene oil (including an old Russian remedy for appendicitis). Of course, bodywork and natural healing were all the rage in that era, as is evidenced by the many interesting medical books of the time, including our next featured book.
Epidemic and Contagious Diseases: Their History, Symptoms, & Treatment
Published 1873, by Dr. L. P. Brockett, a prominent and prolific writer of his day (he wrote not only on medicine, but extensively on a wide array of social & military histories). “Illustrated with the best Colored Plates of the various Contagious & Epidemic Eruptive Diseases ever executed in this Country, and other fine Engravings.” This title is scarce, a real find for us. Green cloth with black decoration and a gilt illustration of Pandora’s Box at the front, in good condition. Light edgewear and scuffing to the boards, with text and plates entirely clean. Includes a chapter on pharmaceutical “recipes”, anodynes, ointments, etcetera.
These are just a smattering of the old and unusual books we carry, and our selection is broadening all the time. Each book feels like a special “rescue” awaiting a loving home. We do hope you’ll come in and browse.