When At Second Glance Books closed out in Kamloops last year I took quite a few books home with me (reading material for the rest of my life). Mostly I went with Canadian authored trade paperbacks and some by authors from all over that I had never read. On my way out the door one night I grabbed a box that was destined for recycle. There were a couple of older classics on top but I didn’t dig down to see what was buried beneath until today. Most of them were fairly beaten older copies of familiar titles but two of them really jumped out. One is a handwritten notebook from The London County Council (name and school not filled in) and appears to a writer’s daybook containing observations of the world around him/her. Aside from incredibly beautiful penmanship (a lost art) this notebook contains some smaller pages with handwritten notes for a walking tour of London, theater and concert listings/dates, and a list of London pubs with addresses. Entries are all dated 1955 except a handwritten copy of notes and comments from “The Philosophy of Insanity” by “a late inmate of the Glasgow Royal Asylum for Lunatics at Gartnavel” (published by Fireside Press, London, 1947). Then I uncovered the second book:
It’s in pretty poor condition but considering that all dated entries are from 1805-1810, I suppose this is to be expected. Once again impeccable penmanship but this one is a collection of cooking recipes, folk medicine cures, and general information. Held in place by traditional red sealing wax are a number of smaller notes as well as newspaper clippings with marriage and death announcements and instructions for the captains of British merchant vessels should they experience a cholera outbreak at sea. There’s also a six page written sermon about keeping the Sabbath. I suppose as the author is named “Lord”, this is appropriate. Based on most of the content I am assuming that J. P. Lord is male, although I’m not 100% sure of this. All pages are heavily browned, most have finger smudges and some have been cut out. A lot of notes have also successfully freed themselves from the wax but I still love this book.
This is an example of why we still need brick and mortar bookshops. Archive hand-written personal material like this doesn’t show up too often in stores but it will certainly never be available as a download and that’s too bad. These are personal insights into the times in which they were written. Times before television and other distractions…times when one would sit with pen and inkwell by the fireplace, perhaps an oil lamp on the roll-top, and document a personal glimpse into the events of the day in a quality of script rarely seen and in a voice like no other. I wonder how J.P. Lord would have reacted had he known that something he’d written would, 208 years later, be read by someone in Kamloops, BC, and then exposed on this thing called the World-Wide-Web. That two centuries later someone would be reading his recipe for Chutney or his handwritten personal diet for invalids especially for Mrs. Brown of No. 11 Grosvenor Place (plaster cast extra at a cost of one Guinea). Books like this are to be treasured and valued because once they’re gone a little bit of history disappears. People don’t take the time any more to just jot down thoughts and impressions. Perhaps we should…and on paper because who knows what kind of technology will be used two centuries from now when someone stumbles onto a hand-written personal insight into what it was like in the good old days of 2013.
I’d like to personally thank those people who had held onto this book for the past 200 years but I don’t know who they are. I’d like to know where in the world this book has been and I’d like to know why certain pages have been carefully cut from the binding and what was on those pages…but there’s no-one to ask. This will probably forever be a mystery but if you’ve ever wanted to solve the mystery of curing the common cold…this is how they did it back in 1805:
Here’s the address Mairi….