Saturday, January 11, 2014

These kids found the best thing to do on a rainy Saturday in January


...which is what it is here in southcentral Pennsylvania.

This four-inch-wide illustration once belonged to a girl name named Elsie, per the cursive handwriting on the back.

Here are some previous posts with illustrations of people reading. Browse them, if you wish. But, after that, my best recommendation for you today is to get offline, grab a book, find a cozy spot and do some reading!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cool blue, but slightly unfriendly, S.A. Lavine bookplate


This blue bookplate is featured on the inside front covers of both volumes of The Moffat Tunnel of Colorado by Edgar Carlisle McMechen. The stately set was published in 1927 by The Wahlgreen Publishing Company of Denver.

I purchased it today at The New Street Book Shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It's a beautiful independent bookstore tucked into downtown Bethlehem and, sadly, it's going out of business in less than a month.

The quotation featured on S.A. Lavine's bookplate — "Neither a borrower or a lender be" — is from Shakespeare. Polonius says it to Laertes in Hamlet. The full quotation is:
"Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry."

Related post
Eight awesome things you'll never find inside e-books

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

1948 snapshot: Christie's in London, years after the Blitz


This old snapshot — it measures about 2½ inches by 3½ inches — has the following written on the back:

What is Left of Christie's Auction Rooms!
'48
after bombing of London

Indeed, according to a 2011 history piece by The Telegraph, "In 1941, Christie's headquarters suffered a direct hit during the Blitz and moved to Derby House, near Oxford Street, only returning to King Street in 1953."

British History Online adds a further bit of detail about the bombing and rebuilding at No. 8 King Street:
"Christie's premises were destroyed by incendiary bombs on the night of 16–17 April 1941. The firm moved to temporary quarters at No. 16a St. James's Street and later to Spencer House. When the King Street premises were rebuilt in 1952–3 the main façade of the old building, which had escaped destruction, was retained and reconstructed as part of the new work. No. 5 Bury Street was rebuilt in 1954–5 and Nos. 47–48 Duke Street in 1956–7."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Culture flashback: Russian peasant woman crushing corn


This undated old stereographic card features the following downbeat description of Russian life on the reverse side:

No. 825. RUSSIAN PEASANT WOMAN CRUSHING CORN BY HAND
Russia is still first and foremost as an agricultural country. She produces 1,000,000,000 bushels of grain a year, and grain products form more than one-half of her total exports to Europe. But it is in her most fertile districts that the worst famines occur. And the country, as one flies across it, leaves the general impression of indigence. In sharp and painful contrast with Western Europe and Germany, there are virtually no fat cattle, no cosy farm houses, no villas or castles of large land owners, nothing but ugly little villages of little, flat, shed-like houses, all huddled together around a white church with a green roof. There is nothing of the industry and economy of the French peasantry, nothing of the varied, rich agriculture of England. Wheat is threshed by lean horses tramping on the sheaves, and the women crush the kernels to flour by hand.
A8723

This photo was probably taken sometime between 1900 and 1910. One gets a rather dreary impression of Russia from the description on the card. But I think it was a bit exaggerated. For some other views of life in Russia, circa 1909, check out this post on Prokudin-Gorskii's color photographs.

Here's a closer look at one of the frames from this stereographic card.


Other stereographic cards

Showcasing Scandinavia: Directory of Nordic-themed posts


I've featured a good number of items from Scandinavia over the years. Here they are in one handy-dandy index, for your browsing pleasure.

Vintage postcards

Other ephemera

And finish with a folk tale...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Five nifty back covers of books

Over the years I've posted a couple hundred (if not more) front covers of books on Papergreat. But not many back covers. So here's a small collection of things I found when flipping my books over.

Norwegian Folklore Simplified
I was reading this slim 1959 volume by Zinken Hopp1 last night while Sarah played Mists of Pandaria and Joan worked on the outstanding new website Unschool Rules. This is the back cover that inspired this afternoon's topic. It's nothing special, visually, but I just giggled when saw the vintage advertisement for a book titled What you have eaten in Norway. The price, by the way, is in krona.


A Medicine for Melancholy
This is the trippy Bantam paperback version (originally published in 1960) of one of Ray Bradbury's collections of short stories. Yes, that appears to be a jester riding a lobster, though it's not clear whether that's a tiny jester or a humongous lobster. Tales in this volume include "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit," "Icarus Montgolfier Wright," "Dark they were, and Golden-eyed," "The Great Collision of Monday Last," and "The Day it Rained Forever."


The Union Speller
I posted the front cover of this 1872 textbook in March 2013. The book was published by Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor & Company, and this copy belonged to Miss Ella Hill at one time, according to an inscription. The back cover is an advertisement for other education products, including Spencerian Double Elastic Steel Pens.2 This book is holding up well for its age, unlike a book we shall come to shortly.


More Soviet Science Fiction
This is a First Collier Books Edition, which was published in 1962, in the midst of the Cold War. The book's introduction was written by Isaac Asimov. The five stories included are "The Heart of the Serpent" by Ivan Yefremov, "Siema" by Anatoly Dnieprov3, "The Trial of Tantalus" by Victor Saparin, "Stone from the Stars" by Valentina Zhuravleva, and "Six Matches" by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.


The Deserted Village
Finally, here's the back cover of a book that's not holding up well. In fact, this ornate but crumbling back cover is barely attached to its book at all. The book in question is the Porter and Coates edition of The Deserted Village, a long poem by Oliver Goldsmith. There is no publication date, but a little searching reveals that this edition, which features numerous illustrations by Hammatt Billings, was published sometime between 1880 and 1884. The text and illustrations are in nice shape, but the covers and binding have had it.


Footnotes
1. Zinken Hopp (1905-1987) was, according to Wikipedia, a Norwegian author, nonsense poet and playwright who was perhaps best known for translating Alice's Adventures in Wonderland into Norwegian. I highly recommend Norwegian Folklore Simplified, which might have been better titled Norwegian Folklife Simplified, as it discusses architecture, furniture, everyday life and religion, in addition to folklore. Here's a short excerpt from a section about trolls:
"The trolls have their own king, called 'Dovregubben', who lives inside the Dovre Mountain with his court. We meet them all in Ibsen's 'Peer Gynt'. All high mountains have their special troll, and there are those who can even turn themselves into ordinary human beings who walk beside you on the road and who might talk to you with your suspecting their identity."
2. Here is some of the text from an advertisement for Spencerian Double Elastic Steel Pens in the April 24, 1875, issue of The Daily Alta California:
"More than
6,000,000
Of One Number Alone of the
Justly Celebrated
SPENCERIAN
Double-Elastic
Steel Pens
Were sold in 1874 — being a gain of more than 1,000,000 over the year previous; this, with the marked increase in the sales of the other numbers, shows that the superior qualities of these Pens are being more and more appreciated, and that they are destined to take their place as the most popular Steel Pens in the market. They are made of the best steel, by the most skillful workmen in Europe, and are a nearer approximate to the real Swan Quill action than anything of the kind hitherto invented. The Spencerian Steel Pens are universally used in the Commercial Colleges throughout the U.S., more largely than any others by the United States Government, and quite generally in the Banks, Counting Houses and Schools of the country; and are for sale by the trade generally."
3. Anatoly Dnieprov (also spelled Dneprov) lived from 1919 to 1975. According to Wikipedia, "today he is almost a forgotten writer, but his predictions about artificial intelligence and self-replicating machines are uncanny."


Author Mohsin Hamid muses on technology, solitude and e-books

A recent piece in The New York Times poses the question "How Do E-Books Change the Reading Experience?"

In it, authors Mohsin Hamid and Anna Holmes give their respective takes on this topic.

You should take the time to read the whole article, but I wanted to share a short excerpt of what Hamid says, because it's especially thought-provoking:
"I crave technology, connectivity. But I crave solitude too. As we enter the cyborg era, as we begin the physical shift to human-machine hybrid, there will be those who embrace this epochal change, happily swapping cranial space for built-in processors. There will be others who reject the new ways entirely, perhaps even waging holy war against them, with little chance — in the face of drones that operate autonomously while unconcerned shareholding populations post selfies and status updates — of success. And there will be people like me, with our powered exoskeletons left often in the closet, able to leap over buildings when the mood strikes us, but also prone to wandering naked and feeling the sand of a beach between our puny toes.

"In a world of intrusive technology, we must engage in a kind of struggle if we wish to sustain moments of solitude. E-reading opens the door to distraction. It invites connectivity and clicking and purchasing. The closed network of a printed book, on the other hand, seems to offer greater serenity."

When I have extolled the virtues of printed books in the past, Hamid's reasoning wasn't something that immediately sprang to mind. But it's a terrific and logical point. And one to add to the arsenal as we defend the value and beauty of printed books in the years ahead.