Drool on the Frog

Friday, February 13, 2009

Decay & Divine: Old Books

In response to Sandi's post on SoulperSuit, "What is the oldest book you own? Does it show signs of Decay?"

For our first anniversary we stayed at a bed and breakfast in historic Jefferson, Texas. Beginning in the mid-1800's Jefferson became a major riverport town providing passage for goods to the southwest. Today Jefferson looks like it's stopped in time and is the epitome of a quaint southern town.

After touring its historic locations one day we finally ended up in one of the many antique stores. In the back, we found a musty cove of old books. We both are suckers for books, especially old ones. We got lost digging through all the fascinating titles and didn't realize the owners were waiting to close the store.

Below are some scans from the books we bought that day. I especially love old illustrations and any handwriting the owners saw fit to add. It enhances the history of the book.

Our oldest find is "Tit for Tat: A Reply to Dred" (fourth edition) by A LADY OF NEW ORLEANS published by Garrett, Dick, and Fitzgerald in 1856 or 1857.

Click on any picture to get a larger version.
The cover has an embossed pattern. It's in better shape than some of the other books we bought. 5" x 7.5"

The publisher GARRETT, DICK AND FITZGERALD only existed for two years: 1856-1857.

The only publication date is for the original edition. The copy we bought is the fourth edition.

The story is in response to the fervor that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" had in England. The author, an American living in London, noted the piety of the British supporting the book. What this author observed was Britain's own ignored class, the chimney-sweeps. Her novel is the British counterpart to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" regarding the "chummies". You can find the scan of entire first edition book on Google Books.

Love the calligraphy on the inside cover.

"Down the Line with John Henry" by Hugh McHugh, 1901, G.W. Dillingham Co., with illustrations. 4" x 6.75"

...guy-ropes and go up in the air just because his Baby is by his side.

In the back of the book, a review by the Los Angeles Express:
"As in the former volume, the present collection of stories is concerned with adventures of a man about town. It abounds in the weirdest and newest slang, recherché expressions and tart Americanisms. There is much clever satire on the manners and habits of Americans. The 'down-to-date' man who is fond of slang will find in the volume a new supply for his vocabulary."

"The Ideal Orator: A Modern Book of Elocution Readings, Recitations, Dialogues, and Plays", by Richard Linthicum, 1904, W.R. Vansant, with photos, 7" x 9.5"

These photos are fantastically melodramatic. Imagine having this as a textbook.

When flipping through this book, we noticed that you would be reading page 31, turn the page and then be on page 38. This happens continuously throughout the book. It's not until we get to the page pictured above that we figure this is a salesman's edition of a larger work. This copy contains around 100-150 pages. The complete work contains over 450 pages.

Immediately following this ad are several ledger pages. According to the "AGREEMENT" in the ad, "We, the subscribers whose names are entered in the following pages, agree to accept the number of copies of the above named book set opposite our signatures, and pay the price indicated on delivery of the same by the agent."

I have no idea why Mr. J.M. Carter would have presented a salesman's copy of an incomplete book to a child. She probably loved the pictures.

Eunice, who lived in Bethany, LA, wrote her name on several of the blank pages of the book. One the ruled pages in the back, it looks like she recorded the members of her family.

The second edition Webster's Dictionary did not come from the Jefferson trip but MyGeek's brother. We don't know how he came about it. It does not qualify as the oldest book but it might win for the biggest. 9"x12" and a little over 5" thick.