Friday, January 12, 2007

Book (Title Unknown)

Along with the stupid curtains, my father gave me a book. I have no idea of the title or author, as the cover is missing, but appears to date from the 1880s. I suspect the book was purposely written for those who were going ‘to the colonies,’ and needed to know how to do and make anything and everything, in a country that had nothing. It is over 1500 pages long, with chapters on such topics as mechanical engineering, how to care for livestock, book-binding, knitting stockings, and even DIY surgery (worryingly, my father has bookmarked the section on how to make explosives).

It is a wonderfully mysterious book. I wonder who bought it, perhaps with great dreams of starting life anew somewhere distant. Did they read it on a ship bound for New Zealand?

Did shaking hands ever turn to the surgery section, in a time of dire emergency, and attempt the Flap Amputation of the Wrist?

Or perhaps this book had been urgently flung open to the paragraph grimly headed ‘Resuscitation From Apparent Death’? (The author recommends the following as having some success on the Apparently Dead: “pouring water from a height upon the pit of the stomach... the beating of a drum, a sudden scream, and especially music, when it is touchingly and skillfully performed”).

At first, it seems the 1880s was a lovely time to be a woman. Almost every feminine malady was cured by opium, bed-rest, and large glasses of brandy. Champagne is recommended for morning-sickness! Hurrah! Then I read that for inflammation of the labia (page 231), it was thought that if “the clitoris and nymphae [labia]... grow to an inconvenient size, should be partly excised.” Ouch! (How large is ‘an inconvenient size’? Knocking one’s knee-caps? When it is dragging on the ground? I wish the author had been more specific).

Interesting book. Still rather have had the bach, though.



Lisa said...

Sounds like a bloody interesting book! Shame it doesn't have it's cover still, you might find it's an incredible antique that's worth more than the bach at Paihia!

So, the curtains? ashes now or what?

As far as the sex/shopping analogies go, I'm more than happy to agree with you, you make some rather valid points. Unfortunately, if you're doing it alone, there's also the fact that if you have a ho-hum kinda time, there's noone to point the finger at, but yourself *sigh*

Oswald Bastable said...

Unfortunatly, those books are not at all rare.

They were very common in the late 19th century, amongst those heading off to 'the frontier'

They are still collectable and intersting though- I have a couple in my library. They are great for a laugh, especially the bits on treating masterbators!

Nowadays, they just become journalists!

Randominanity said...

Dear God I just made the mistake of reading that page.

I guess I'm not cut out for the frontier life.

Oswald on the other hand ....

Mrs Smith said...

I cannot set fire to the curtains now. Being written back into father's will, may hinge upon their revolting, bottle-green presence. Bastard.

The page is indeed grim. I pretty much got to the part about making a flap to cover the stump, and had to stop reading.