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mmm...old books....

I'm still getting myself up to speed, steampunk-wise.  And we were talking personas today...my persona, if any, will be somewhat minimalist...but that's a different post.  Anyway, so I went to the study in search of books containing Victorian-era data.

And here is, I think, part of why steampunk appeals to me.  The Victorian era is just barely, end-of-the-fingertips, within physical reach.  I can actually pick up a book that was published during that time period.  How cool is that.  I have family photos from that time; my grandmother was born in 1897, and we have photos of her parents (and I'd swear somewhere is a photo of Grandma in bloomers, during her wild youth).

It's not like historical accuracy is the primary goal of SP.  So why should it matter?  Well, personally, I do tend to get canon-bound, and feel inadequate if I don't make some good-faith effort toward accuracy.  But I think the main thing is that faint bit of familiarity.  Authors can create a rich world (Victorian or otherwise) by taking an actual, but slightly unfamiliar, society and modding it for their story.  It's instant depth, with an exotic feel and just enough familiarity to draw one in. 

Anyway, what started as a curiousity about the Crimean war became a search for all the books on the shelf and published in the latter half of the1800s.

Jacob Abbot. History of William the Conqueror. 1900.
J. L. Nichols, A. M. The Business Guide; or, Safe Methods of Business. 1889.
Suplee's Trench on Words. 1894.
Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis's Cook Book.  1909.

I also have a 1993 reproduction of Randolph B. Marcy's 1859 text The Prairie Traveler.
And then there's the period fiction.

William the Conqueror is a cute little Young Person's Library book.  Reading it prompts me to again question the state of modern education.  Not that I should talk; I have forgotten so very much over the years....

On the Study of Words by Richard Chenevix Trench, D.D., with an Exhaustive Analysis, Additional Words for Illustration, and Questions for Examination by Thomas D. Suplee...the full title does give you a good feel for what's to come.  But it reads like a grimoire, which seems ironic since the author is an archibishop.
An excerpt from the introductory lecture:
"I am sure, at least, that for many a young man his first discovery of the fact that words are living powers, are the vesture, yea, even the body, which thoughts weave for themselves, has been like the dropping of scales from his eyes, like the acquiring of another sense, or the introduction into a new world; he is never able to cease wondering at the moral marvels that surround him on every side, and ever reveal themselves more and more to his gaze."
That's the author commenting on the "boundless stores of...truth" to be found in "words contemplated singly".

...And have you ever held a book that seemed to hum?  Before I'd even opened the book, or seen clearly what was on the spine, my fingers were tingling, like something had been embedded in that book and was reaching out.  Part of the SP outfit may be to carry that book with me.  And to actually settle in somewhere and start reading; I don't do enough of that these days.

The Business Guide is something eldest brother had on a stack of books to sell to HPB.  Clearly, he's insane to let go of such a treat.  It starts out with discussions on the importance of honesty and good manners, and moves on to penmanship lessons, then there's a section on legal documents, then sections on how to measure a day's work in the corn-field, how to compute weekly wages (based on 10-hour days), and how to make your own ink.  

Household Discoveries has an entire chapter on "Washing Day", and instructions for using "benzine" to control pests (sure it's a carcinogen, but we've solved the bedbug problem).  There are even home-chemist instructions on how to detect the types of preservatives in commercially canned foods...you just need a kitchen that's well-stocked with chloroform and hydrochloric acid.

I now have another excuse for picking up obscure, neglected, old books.  As if I needed another excuse.

(Home ownership is a PitA some days.  But it does please me to be able to say "I went to the study".)
Friending welcome, but lurking is fine too.

Constructive criticism is also welcome - whatever it is, trust me, I've heard worse.



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