Monday, November 15, 2010

Guest author Maria Zannini: What's in Your Library?

What's the oldest book you've ever read?

The other day I plopped down on my big cushy chair intent on doing some leisurely reading but the book in my hands wasn't doing it for me, so I scanned my library shelves, and found this book: Century Book Of Facts, copyright 1900.

The poor old book is showing its age, the binding is loose and the pages foxed. The text is so small, I had to resort to reading glasses several times.

I bought it at an antique auction, part of a box of contents. There were several pieces of English china, engraved brass doorknobs, a turned oak lamp base, and this book. All for the princely sum of five bucks.

The lamp base is hiding in the attic, the china regifted, and the doorknobs have been lost to history, but I kept the book. I thought it was neat.

Someone must have been reading it at least until 1932 because I found a church newsletter, called an 'organ' back then. It was used as a bookmarker under the section of Greek mythology.

The publisher, The King-Richard Company, had compiled all the facts any well-read gentleman or lady would need in 1900, all within 726 pages.

I quote: "This volume is designed to meet the popular demand for a book of reliable and authentic information touching our every day pursuits and requirements."

Take that Google!

We have information on government and currency. Not just for the US, but for other countries as well. After all a sophisticated socialite of 1900 should have some understanding of the world at large.

There is the Lord's Prayer in four different languages—none of them English. And they even cover different world myths about the origin of women. But I wonder…how come they excluded the origin of men?

The book touches on state and federal laws about the rights of women, divorce, and laws for innkeepers. Yes, innkeepers. There is a section on languages and religions, famous people, famous wars, and science facts, like the recently discovered (1895) X rays.

My favorite part is a section on hygiene which contains a Posological Table that lists the dosages for commonly prescribed medicines, old family favorites like arsenic, chloral hydrate, and extracts of ergot and digitalis. If you don't know what these drugs are, Google a couple and wait for your mouth to drop.

How did these people survive the early 20th century?

While much of the information is either inaccurate, useless or downright dangerous, it is fascinating. It's a window to the past at a world far more naïve and ordered than the one we live in today. I open this book every now and again to remind myself that the world was a lot bigger and wondrous to a generation long dead.

Do we have any old book collectors out there? What's the oldest book you've ever picked up?


Maria Zannini's latest release is a science fiction romance called True Believers.

Mix one cynical immortal and one true believer and throw them into the biggest alien-hunt the world has never known. Rachel Cruz is a Nephilim masquerading as an archeologist and she's stuck with an alien who believes she can lead him to his ancestral gods. Black Ops wants to find these gods too. They want them dead.

Contest time! Every time you leave a comment, tweet or mention "Maria Zannini" anywhere with a link to my blog, your name goes in the hat for a chance to win a Texas sized prize. Go here for more information.

STOP THE PRESSES! Round Two in Writing With The Stars has begun! Maria has made it to the second round of the Kensington Contest. If you would be so kind, vote for her novel, Mistress Of The Stone. (Maria is the one with the very cute dog.) Every vote, tweet and nudge is hugely appreciated. Thanks, everyone!


Liane Spicer said...

Welcome back to Novel Spaces, Maria! I saw Maya Reynold's post about Writing With the Stars and voted for you a couple days ago. Best of luck!

I have an ancient copy of The Rosary by Florence Barclay. It was on my parents' bookshelves forever, and a few years ago I picked it up expecting to find the kind of religious content I had no interest in - but instead discovered one of the loveliest love stories I've ever read. The crumbling tome is now on MY bookshelf!

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Liane! Thanks for hosting me. And thank you so much for your vote!!

I think books mean even more when they belonged to someone we love. You're not just preserving the history of the book, but the history of your ancestors.

Now you've made me curious and I'll have to Google Florence Barclay. You've intrigued me.

Joanna St. James said...

I want to say the complete works of Shakespeare or one of the books about Arthurian legends they were both tome-like so I assume they had to be old and I was a kidlet then too.

Maria Zannini said...

Joanna: I can imagine someone reading those books to a kidlet. :)

I have to admit, it gives me a thrill to browse someone else's library. I think you can tell a lot about a person by what he reads.

Charles Gramlich said...

I have several books from the early 1900s and have read quite a lot written around the turn of the century. A fair amount of lost race stories, for example

Maria Zannini said...

Charles: That is so cool. Now it begs the question--do you go out and hunt for these books or did you inherit them?

Marianne Arkins said...

I love reading old books. My mom gave me her original 1952 Betty Crocker Cookbook (which extols the virtues of the brand new miracle: Bisquick!) and it includes a chapter at the end of how to be a good wife and housekeeper, including taking a few minutes before your husband gets home to freshen up so he will only see you at your best.

SO much fun. I have book envy ... you might not want me to visit because I'd nab it and run. And, I did know about those lovely home remedies -- researched them when I discovered that Foxglove (one of my fave perennials) is AKA digitalis. :-)

Have an awesome day!

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne: Greg and I saw that book at an antique store! I had to restrain my fists of death when he offered to buy it for me. LOL!

I was shocked when I found that posological table. But then I wonder--a hundred years from now what will people say about the things we used today.

It was a very neat look into the past and how people thought back then.

Mike Keyton said...

Other than a few C19th books, my oldest book is 'Bishop Burnett's History of his own time' written in 1725. My mother vanished from sight in a second hand bookshop and returned some time later in quiet triumph with this book. It's volume 3, I've never read it, and it's the most precious book I have.

Maria Zannini said...

Mike: Wow! I would love to see that book. I hope you'll take a picture of it and put it on your blog someday.

I can't believe you've never read it. Do you know if your mother ever read it?

Linda Leszczuk said...

I don't have any great old books but I liked the old medical remedies you sited from that one. Did you know heroin, opium, and cocaine were all common over the counter meds? Bayer once made aspirin and heroin tablets. And morphine syrup was recomended for teething babies. Scary, huh?

Maria Zannini said...

I had heard about morphine for teething babies but not about Bayer.

One wonders whether the ailment or the cure killed people back then. Thanks for the added info!

Farrah Rochon said...

Welcome Maria!

Hmm...I don't have really old books. :( I'm a newbie to book collecting, I guess.

Loved your post!

Maria Zannini said...

Hiya Farrah! Glad you could visit me.

So far I've only collected old nonfiction. It's such a great window into the past.