Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Shelfie Wednesday: Shaped Like a Book

Well, we managed to make it through the holidays around here, and now that there's January snow on the ground, it seems like it's time to get back to the regular routines. So I'll try to start the year off right with a post showing off another couple new acquisitions.

1906 box of Yellowstone
Stereopticon Cards
First off is a nice little set of 30 stereopticon slides that I recently found dating from 1906 and showing scenes from a trip to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Such cards, of course, were designed to be used in a hand-held viewer, with lenses to let the two images combine as one in one's visual cortex, in order to generate a three-dimensional view. When I was a kid, my dad pointed out that you could get the same effect, with care, by crossing your eyes, and I am pleased to report that I can still do it: though it's a good bit harder to do with reading glasses on!

I should probably try to scan one, and let you try it out for yourselves, but like most old stereo cards, these are curved, and I am not sure I could get a precise enough scan or picture up on the web.

But of course, part of the appeal of the set for me was that the case for this little collection was designed to look like a book, even to the publisher's name at the base of the spine and the mock bands of the binding visible on the spine (the descriptive label, unfortunately, has perished).

Manuscript page peeling from the "cover"
of a tin box: a document box? It reads
HISTORIA along the spine. About 16" tall.
Amazingly, this set was one of two book-shaped objects I came across recently. The other is a very large (about 16" tall), tin hinged case in the shape of a book, with a piece of a medieval Italian manuscript glued on to complete the effect. There is no date on this item, but I suspect it was probably made in the first half of the twentieth century.

I am always interested in the recycling of books and manuscripts for non-textual purposes, even (as here) for their purely decorative effect. And so I was also interested, recently, to run across the following passage on the topic of recycled manuscripts, from the Rev. W C Boulter, in his short essay "Court-Rolls of Some East Riding Manors 1563-1573," published in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, volume 10.

As Boulter writes, "I have been told that the late Mr Gillyat Sumner . . . used to obtain many [such manuscript documents] from dealers in glue and size; others he secured from various local solicitors. . . . What becomes of old deeds? Some are converted into size, and are seen at least no more. some are cut up by bookbinders. But a vast number of them are again heard of, although they are not recognized on their re-appearance."

"Unfortunately," says Boulter, continuing in a new paragraph, "we have no returns from the toy-makers, showing the date when toy-drums were invented, and the number of them made from that time to this. Think of all the toy-shops, big and little, in England alone: add to them all the stalls at markets and fairs. Bewildered antiquary! perplexed about a missing link in the descent of a manor, or an omitted generation in the pedigree of a 'Visitation' family: perhaps the evidence you desiderate has gone at some time to form the resounding rounds of that mimic military music."

I've been fortunate to run across a whole spectrum of recycled manuscripts in my day, but I have yet to find one used as the head of a toy drum. But I'll be looking, now.