Saturday, July 5, 2014

Encounter in the dark:
Frontispiece from 1915's "Pals First"

This is the gloom-shrouded frontispiece from the 1915 novel Pals First, which was written by Francis Perry Elliott and published by Grosset & Dunlap. Despite the dark illustration, the novel is described as "A romance of love and comradery." It has 29 chapters, with titles such as:
  • The Crooked Road
  • By the Flare of a Match
  • A Telephone Call
  • "You Are Not the Dick I Knew"
  • What the Safe Held
  • What the Portrait Showed Me
  • The Way of a Man with a Maid
  • Danny's Moon-Madness
  • The Turning of the Worm
  • Danny Puts His Foot in It
  • The Victor's Gate
The illustration refers to a moment in Chapter II (By the Flare of the Match). There are many uses of the exclamation "Lawsie!" as the surprise encounter takes place in the dark.

Author Elliott (1861-1924) wrote a number of books, including The Haunted Pajamas. Here's a fun 1917 advertisement (found online) from The Bookman Advertiser for another of Elliott's books.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Bookmark: "Freedom is not Free"

Well, that's appropriate!

While sorting through some books today, I came across a red, white and blue "Freedom is not Free" bookmark tucked away inside a copy of 1965's The Land and People of Hungary by Emil Lengyel.

The bookmark, of much more recent vintage, doubles as an advertisement for the Disabled American Veterans. Some of the text on the back states: "Thank you for your generous support. These bookmarks are a gift to you and there is no obligation to pay for them. When you use them, remember that your gift helps disabled veterans."

The purpose of DAV is "to provide support, encouragement and a better life for the noble men and women who became disabled while upholding world peace and the freedom of the United States of America."

Speaking of freedom, Hungary was not free when this book was written. From 1947 to 1989, it was under the grip of Communism as a satellite state of the Soviet Union. Tens of thousands of Hungarians who opposed the Soviets during that dark era were killed or died in labor camps.

To its credit, the book does not gloss over the oppression and murder of Hungarians from 1947 through the book's publication date in 1965, and it provides good detail of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

In fact, the author, Lengyel, was born in Budapest, Hungary, and was raised and educated in the country. According to his 1985 obituary in The New York Times, Lengyel "was imprisoned by the Russians in 1916 in Siberia, and before he escaped years later, he had learned French, German and English, the language he later chose for his literary career."

The dust jacket of The Land and People of Hungary adds that: "During World war II Mr. Lengyel wrote the first English language biography of Hitler, which earned him the distinction of being put on a Nazi blacklist." [Actually, it appears that Lengyel's book about Hitler was published in 1932, the year before Hitler's rise to chancellor of Germany. According to a short description of the book on, the conclusion of Lengyel's 1932 volume states: "For a more definitive estimate of Adolf Hitler mankind will have to wait until his work is done. His program can hold out no hope to Germany. It is a concoction to please every palate, but it contains no new fare. Its sane recommendations have been tried and its insane proposals can never be put into execution."]

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Nifty postcard featuring the traditional costumes of Ukraine

Here's an interesting postcard I received in the mail this week through Postcrossing. (I've now both sent and received more than 225 postcards.) Pictured on the postcard are traditional costumes of the Ukrainian people.

The note on the back of the postcard states:
"Greetings and best wishes from the capital of Ukraine! I'm 24, tv-reporter and my name is Yevgeniya. So, we are colleagues! But now, as you know, it is war against russians in the east of Ukraine, so the most of my materials are about it. Good luck for you and your family!"
It's more than a little humbling to be called Yevgeniya's "colleague." I spend my days worrying about World Cup soccer and youth baseball tournaments. She's covering her country's battle for its survival and future. I should be the one wishing her and her family good luck. Or, perhaps I should say either Удачи or Бажаю успіху!

Finally, my daughter was impressed with this postcard and when I asked her which one of these traditional outfits she could see me wearing. This is the one she chose...

Related posts

Monday, June 30, 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.
  • Hundträ: 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.

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.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Order "The World's Last Mysteries" for just $11.97

The copy of 1978's The World's Last Mysteries1 that I picked up last week at the 56th annual Book Nook Bonanza at the York City Ice Arena included an order card for the book tucked away inside.

Mysteries and speculative science were big in the 1970s. Remember "In Search Of...", with Leonard Nimoy as the narrator?2

The order card for The World's Last Mysteries includes these pitches:
  • "Facts that contradict accepted beliefs, theories that defy credibility, stories that can change preconceived notions about the record of him life." [Not a sentence]
  • "And a beautiful book that explores the world's most baffling and durable mysteries." [Also not a sentence]
  • "Use the card yourself to order a copy for a friend, relative, neighbor." [Who orders books for their neighbors??]

The cost of the hardcover book was $11.97, which is fairly pricey for the late 1970s. According to The Inflation Calculator, that's the equivalent of a $42.18 price tag today.3 Woof!

It's actually an above-average book, in terms of the depth and quality of writing. (It has a 4.5-star rating from eight reviewers on Amazon.) The topics include obvious ones such as Atlantis, El Dorado, Stonehenge and Easter Island. There are also interesting chapters about the Indus Valley Civilization (and its city-planning), Tiahuanaco4, Machu Picchu, the ziggurat Etemenanki (which may have inspired the Tower of Babel) and much more.

The most questionable (but still enjoyable) chapter discusses the Tunguska event and puts forth the theory that a tiny black hole caused the catastrophe:
"Or was it a collision with the most chilling rogue body in the universe — an object so dense that it twists the very laws of time and space? Did, in fact, a black hole hit Siberia?"
This is the second Readers Digest Association book that I've taken a liking to. One of my go-to browsing books is 1988's Facts & Fallacies. Its 400+ pages are filled with short articles on such offbeat and lesser-known topics as — and I'm going to let you Google all of these yourself — the Sarawak Chamber, the sailing stones of Death Valley, Jean-Jacques Lequeu's proposed cow stable, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, Orgone energy accumulators, Hay-on-Wye, the Jari Project, Alexander Wortley, Langley and Homer Collyer, Sir Thomas Phillipps, the Hitler Diaries, Tom Keating, Sir Edmund Trelawny Backhouse, the Voynich Manuscript, and Maria Talarico.

(Seriously! You know you want to go Google some of them.)

1. The book was originally published in France as Les Derniers Mystères du Monde.
2. Here's a late 1970s episode of "In Search Of..." discussing "The Coming Ice Age." Whoops.
3. At the Book Nook Bonanza, I paid $20 total for eight full boxes of books! Score!
4. Tiahuanaco is the Spanish spelling of what we now call Tiwanaku.