Things You Find In Books

3D front cover of In the Footsteps of the Brontës by Mrs Ellis H. ChadwickNot facts, information, ideas, inspiration, but things. Was it the great J.B. Morton, alias Beachcomber, who had a typically surreal item about a fried egg found in a returned library book?In the books we borrow for scanning, we find lots of library slips (used for noting classmarks etc.), presumably left as bookmarks and never removed. So far, we have not come across a purpose-made bookmark as offered by, for example, academic conferences, museums, galleries and the National Trust, and by many publishers including Cambridge University Press. Clearly, readers in the University Library are above such fripperies.

Other things left in books include an empty envelope (neatly opened with a proper paper knife) addressed to Mr Edward Johnston, scribe, Cleves, Ditchling, Sussex, England, from the Cranach Presse Weimar: the postmark (over a stamp depicting Hindenburg) appears to be 15 December 1930. From the same book is a ‘memorandum’ from E.P. Prince, typographic artist, of 25 Heathville Road, Crouch Hill, to Mr Edward Johnston, on 7 March 1914. Unfortunately this is just a strip of paper with no other information. Edward Johnston (1872–1944) was a calligrapher and graphic designer who was influenced by Morris, and in turn influenced Stanley Morison and Eric Gill. (The Small World Department will be pleased to learn that he was the great-grandson of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, the abolitionist.) I imagine that two bookmarks over such a long period suggest that the book actually belonged to Johnston and was bequeathed to or later acquired by the University Library (and not looked at much after that, alas).

We have come across strips of paper from Italy (‘Dal… Milano’) and Germany (I think from a catalogue list of theological books in black-letter). Messrs Smith and Elder (famously the publisher of the Bell siblings, alias the Brontë sisters) supplied one book to booksellers ‘on terms which will not admit of their allowing a discount from the advertised price’. Try doing that today…

There is a small page of pencil notes: variant phrases in New Testament Greek, with the comments around them in Latin (!). But the most touching such slip I have come across was a sliver containing handwritten names: ‘…zie, R.P. Lieut…/…inlay, D.M. Cap…/… E. Capt., Cam…/ Died 11 April 1918’. All these internal contents are placed back in the books when they are returned to the lender: I am now cursing myself for not having noted at the time which books they were found in, as well as what they said.

We have borrowed some works from the Yorkshire Archaeological Society (more on this venture soon!) which are the Society’s own archive copies, some kept in pristine condition in the original wrappings as dispatched by the printer. Some of the oldest were secured by string and sealing wax: we felt quite bad at breaking into them. Others had been re-wrapped in 1968–9 – and the inner layers of paper were pages of the Guardian. Even those of us who remembered that far back were amused/aghast at some of the adverts for jobs:

‘Promotional Lady Representative: We require a Lady of good education, personality and initiative to sell our household products to the retail trade… age range 25-40…’

‘Computer programmers’ for Shell in Manchester: they would be using an IBM 360/30 Tape/Disk machine which had a direct link with a Univac 1108 computer at Shell Centre, London (wow!).

Cadbury’s needed a senior research chemist ‘who will concentrate on fats, oils and emulsifiers and their use in an expanding range of food products’ – yummy…

Even more surprising is that the right-on Guardian had an article on the same page entitled ‘Computers: help for men lacking time…’, which goes on to point out that ‘top men’ in ‘top management’ cannot afford to go off for three days on a computer-appreciation course. Bless!

But the most fascinating item from Yorkshire, wrapping a book published in 1922, was a tear-off order form from a tailoring firm, J. & F.I. Ltd of Leeds (branches in Sheffield, London, Glasgow and Newcastle). The form enabled the (male) customer to order a bespoke outfit or part thereof – coat, vest, trousers, breeches and pantaloons, and ‘knickers of all kinds’. (‘Orders received up to first post Tuesday dispatched same week.’)

The measurements required, and the options available, are elaborate. Breeches, for example: ‘F.F. or W.F. [?]; Lined or unlined; Seams, plain or raised; Pockets; Plain or strapped. Thigh, say if wanted Tight, Medium, or Baggy.’ Also, ‘Breeches measurements must be taken over Drawers, not over Trousers, and should be stated whether for Walking, Riding, or Cycling.’ Finally, ‘State if customer has any peculiarities, such as stooping, high or round shoulders, corpulent, short or long neck, etc.’ One wonders what come-back the customer had if, after all this form-filling (there are 55 boxes in total), the breeches didn’t fit?

The most interesting item from a purely bibliographical point of view was a quite recent find, in the first volume of Alexander Stephens’ Memoirs of John Horne Tooke (1813). A previous owner had pasted in various cuttings from newspapers about the great radical’s career, including a letter ending ‘I am, Sir Knight, with utmost contempt for your title, Your humble servant…’); a sale list of the books from Tooke’s library and the prices paid (including ‘Burke on the French Revolution’ at £8.12.0 and Johnson’s Dictionary at £200); and a copy of the famous print ‘The Double Discovery’, which depicts a devil unable to find a scruple of difference in his scales between Wilkes and Horne (the latter depicted in a clergyman’s gown), who are attempting to fence with each other, quill-pens used as weapons. We used this as the cover image for the books.


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