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!