Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Teeny-tiny definitions from
"A Dictionary of American Antiques"

This paperback edition of A Dictionary of American Antiques was published by Awards Books in 1968, and it has some of the smallest type I've ever seen in a book.

I mean, it's tiny.
Extremely small.

But that just means that many, many fascinating definitions could be packed into the book's 400 pages.

Here are some of the definitions that caught my eye within the tiny type of Carl W. Drepperd's labor of love.1

  • Albarello: A drug jar.
  • Archer & Warner lamps: Chandeliers, girondoles, and other fixtures made by this firm at New York and Philadelphia from c. 1840s. An "Archer lamp" was a lard-oil lamp made by this firm.
  • Basket salt: Finest table salt, derived from salinas or salt springs, and obtained by evaporation of the water in baskets.
  • Boaz tea set: Lusterware tea utensils featuring Boaz, the biblical character.
  • Ceredo Pikes Peak: A mold-blown historic flask memorializing Pikes Peak, made at Ceredo Glass Works near Huntington, Va.
  • Church hassock: Hymnbook and hatbox with padded lid, used in church pews and kept there by the renter of the pew. So general was use that by 1840 they were factory made.
  • Eftirtemsin bread: Bread made from the coarse wheaten or other flour that remained in the temse or sieve after the sifting. Welsh and Yorkshire settlers in American colonies used this term. ["Temse," as you can tell from the context, is another word for sieve. I checked three times and I can tell you that the word "eftirtemsin" did not appear on the internet before this post was created. So we can thank Mr. Drepperd, posthumously, for that.]
  • Gallybagger: A scarecrow.
  • Hundtr√§: The hund-tra, or dog-tree; Swedish name given the American dogwood growing profusely in the forests of what is now Pennsylvania.
  • Hungary water: Ardent spirits flavored with rosemary, thyme, and sage. A form of gin. Known from 17th century and sometimes mentioned in punch and cordial recipes.
  • Man trap: Huge spring traps set to catch poachers. Made for and used by the privileged landowners of Europe from 15th century. A single poacher could not escape from one but could be released by a fellow poacher.
  • Nicknacktory: A private museum devoted to housing a varied collection of curiosities.
  • Republican calendar: A Directoire calendar which eliminated all pagan and Christian terminology from names of days and months. Abandoned in 1805. [For more, see French Republican Calendar.]
  • Rere supper: The third supper of the evening. The first evening meal was called supper, the second banquet, and the third "rere." The midnight feast from which partakers, often called Roaring Boys, left to make a noise on the streets.
  • Singing dolls: Dolls 22 and 30 inches tall, with organs in the torso, playing a choice of some 14 tunes from paper rolls. Pressing the body operated the bellows and organ mechanism. The doll sang (hummed) the tunes. Made by Massachusettes Organ Co. in 1880s. Working examples are quite scarce, but most non-working models can be repaired.
  • Whispering stick: A shaped gag of thin wood and laces, placed on whispering or talkative children in school.
  • Zuurkool: Pickled cabbage, chou-crou, kraut, or sauerkraut.

Footnote
1. The dictionary was first published in 1952. In the foreword, Drepperd writes:
"This work began in 1942 with a single drawer file of less than 500 data cards, on each of which was written a word, term or phrase with what seemed to be its original and its current meaning. On the day the file was closed, October 1, 1951, there were over 21,000 cards in a multi-drawer file, together with a group called "master cards" referring to data which eventually must find its way into one India-paper volume, perhaps of 2,000 pages. Unfortunately, over 8,000 cards had to be dropped, their context eliminated from this work. The space limitations of his book, established because of the present-day economics of printing, bookmaking, and bookselling, made this action mandatory."
Oh yes, Dreppered is a hero in my, ahem, book.

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