Tuesday, August 28, 2012

1904 teachers' edition of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

This staplebound copy of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 18th century poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" was published in October 1904.1 It's roughly the size of a modern paperback, about 46 pages and was published as an issue of "The School World" by D.H. Knowlton & Co. of Farmington, Maine.2

We can learn more about the beginnings of D.H. Knowlton and "The School World" from this excerpt from the 1885 book "A History of Farmington, Franklin County, Maine, from the Earliest Explorations to the Present Time, 1776-1885" by Francis Gould Butler:
"In 1871 Mr. D.H. Knowlton purchased a small printing establishment, consisting of a Gordon Franklin Job Press and several founts of type and other printing material. ... Here he began the publication and printing business that has since grown into a large establishment, now known under the firm name of Knowlton, McLeary, and Co. They now have four printing-presses, run by a Baxter steam engine, with other machinery and a large variety of type and other material. The excellent typographical appearance of this volume bears witness of the work from their presses. ... The publications of Knowlton, McLeary, and Co. are mostly of an educational character, consisting of school cards, topical questions, and the School World, a monthly publication intended mainly for supplementary reading in schools. It is very neatly printed, well illustrated, and is largely made up of original articles. It has a circulation in twenty-six States, and is very popular with teachers and pupils wherever used."
For me, what's most interesting about this slim volume are the other materials — notes to teachers, advertisements, etc. — that are included. Some examples:
  • There was another monthly magazine called "School World Readings," which consisted of 32 pages of history, geography and biographical information. A one-year subscription of ten
    issues mailed to the same address each month cost $2.
  • The news and notes for teachers in this issue include discussions about the increasing popularity of debate teams at Eastern colleges, plans to address the dearth of teachers, the growing demand for co-education at Eastern colleges, school flower beds, school hygiene3 and paper undergarments for women.4 There is also mention of the serious locust plague taking place in Egypt.
  • There is an advertisement (pictured at right) for D.H. Knowlton & Co.'s Star Booklets and sets of stars, which were intended for teachers who wanted to reward their pupils with gold (gilt), silver, red and blue stars for academic achievements. "The Star System is meeting with enthusiastic reception by teachers and pupils," states the advertisement.
  • The section titled "Our Book Table" had this to say about one newly published work: "The best book in the English-speaking world (it is not much to say in this case), on the subject of swamp-plant hunting is the delightfully written volume by Miss Grace Greylook Niles, called "Bog-Trotting for Orchids" (G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York). It is hard to list briefly the many excellent things about this work of a true nature-lover, which is lavishly illustrated from nature itself."
  • In the testimonials section, Maud M. Burkert of Reading, Pennsylvania, wrote about the decision to order 500 copies of various pieces of literature offered by D.H. Knowlton & Co.: "We feel that this is the best investment the School Board has ever made, and we congratulate you on the excellent work you are doing."
  • I enjoyed the glossary of definitions specifically related to Coleridge's poem, including the following:
    • Eftsoons — an old form for quickly.
    • Death-fires — phosphoric lights. Possibly St. Elmo's fires, the electrical balls of light that play about the masts and rigging of a ship; called by sailors "corposants."
    • Clomb — old form for climbed.
    • Charnel — containing the bodies of dead carcasses.5

1. 1904 should have been the year of the second World Series. But there was a boycott and no series.
2. Little Farmington has been the subject of an odd prophecy by a member of the Quakers. Farmington was also once the home of American composer Supply Belcher, who, in retrospect, had a silly name.
3. Regarding school hygiene, it was written: "Do not put fuel in stoves during school hours. Some one is losing time while doing it, and the whole room is disturbed. Put fuel in stove at recess and noon."
4. I'm not making that up. And I don't know what it's doing alongside the other news. Apparently paper undergarments, by Mrs. John J. Carter of London, were going to be the next big thing. Indeed, I also spotted this headline in the September 2, 1904, edition of the Logansport (Indiana) Journal: "PAPER LINGERIE IS LATEST: CHEAP AND NEEDN'T WASH IT."
5. As opposed to living carcasses.

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