Friday, February 27, 2015

Some cool stuff inside 1878's "Young Folks' History of Germany"

Unfortunately, this handsome 1878 edition of Young Folks' History of Germany by Charlotte M. Yonge is falling apart in its 14th decade of existence.

But, before its final farewell, I wanted to put a spotlight on some of the delights within this particular edition.

(If the book itself is something you're interested in, good copies can still be had for prices in the $25 to $35 range. Note that there are several different editions. This is the one published by Estes & Lauriat of Boston.)

Once we get past the gorgeous cover, the first thing of note is this cool inscription, made to Willie for Christmas 1880, on the first blank page.

Yonge's book traces mythological and actual Germanic history from Valhalla and the Nibelungen up through the Confederation of the Rhine and Wilhelm I. There are plenty of Ottos (no relation) along the way. In the first chapter, Yonge writes:
"The history of the German Empire rightly begins with Karl the Great, but to understand it properly it will be better to go further back, when the Romans were beginning to know something about the wild tribes who lived to the north of Italy, and to the coast of the Gaulish or Keltic lands. ...

"The country was full of marshes and forests, with ranges of hills in which large rivers rose and straggled, widening down to their swampy mouths. Bears and wolves, elks and buffaloes, ran wild, and were hunted by the men of the German tribes. These men lived in villages of rude [sic?] huts, surrounded by lands to which all had a right in common, and where they grew their corn and fed their cattle. Their wives were much more respected than those of other nations; they were usually strong, brave women, able to advise their husbands and to aid them in fight; and the authority of fathers and mothers over their families was great. ...

"The German tribes all believed in the great god Woden, his brother Frey1, and his son Thor, who reigned in a gorgeous palace, and with their children were called the Asa gods."
* * *

Here are some of the neat illustrations that are sprinkled throughout the first, more fanciful, half of the volume.

The Elves
They are described as shadowy creatures who lived throughout the woods and plains and watched over humans at night.2

These are, of course, the valkyrie, supernatural beings that choose who would live and who would die in battle.

Brynhildr (or Brünnhilde, or Brynhild) is one of the most notable shieldmaidens and valkyries in mythology.

Haroun al Raschid's Gifts
Yonge writes: "The great Khalif Haroun al Raschid ... sent gifts to the great king of the Franks — an elephant, a beautiful tent, a set of costly chessmen, and a water-clock, so arranged that at every hour a little brazen ball fell into a brass basin, and little figures of knights, from one to twelve, according to the hour, came out and paraded about in front." The elephant was named Abul-Abbas, and it remained with Charlemagne for perhaps seven to eight years before its death.

* * *

The final treat with regard to this volume represents a great addition to the Tucked Away Inside archives. There was a very small envelope, about 3¼ inches wide. The pencil writing on the front appears to state: "For Delerium - Dissolve one in 6 tea-spoonsful of water. One teaspoonful every ½ hour."

At least, I think that word is Delerium (a misspelling of delirium). Does anyone see any likely alternatives?

Inside the envelope was a tiny piece of paper that had been folded several times. I unfolded it and inside there was ... some white powder.

I threw it away.

Not everything should be kept around.

1. I'm not sure if Odin and Freyr are actually brothers. But, then again, they're not actually real. And it's really complicated.
2. Yonge adds: "A great many of our best old fairy tales were part of the ancient German mythology, and have come down to our own times as stories told by parents to their children."

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