Monday 26 January 2009

Speak Up!


The ongoing snail's-pace digitsation of Cassells Household Guide provides occasional gems of information. Perhaps you've seen 'speaking-tubes' in Victorian-set film or TV drama ... basically just a pipe with cones on the end, through which one could talk to the servants in the basement, without the nuisance of going onto the landing and shouting - a primitive intercom, if you will. However, how did you differentiate between sound coming down different tubes? Here's how:-

Speaking-tubes, again, are very useful, and easily contrived ordinary iron gas-pipe answering the purpose nearly as well as gutta-percha, and at a much less price, and the flexible ends and whistles can be purchased sufficiently handsome for the most elegant apartment, and sufficiently cheap to be within the reach of the most ordinary purse.
When several pipes terminate in the same place, the whistles are fitted with indicators - little ivory rods which are blown out when the whistle is used, thereby showing where the attention is required.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Journalism

Dictionary of Nineteenth Century JournalismDICTIONARY OF NINETEENTH-CENTURY JOURNALISM

One of the perks of running a successful web-site (albeit one where success isn't measured in much hard cash) is the occasional freebie. Typically, this is the odd book, or the opportunity to give an occasional lecture (I've done the full range, from bored public schoolboys - never again - to a week at an Australian summer school). Once, I even got theatre tickets (kudos to the Old Vic's marketing company!). This week, however, it's the turn of the book - a rather hefty book, at that - a Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism.

Like any reference work, the academic library is the intended market. I can't really provide a 'review', because I'm not a scholar. However, the coverage appears to be what you'd expect. I had a look through the journalists whose work I've digitised - James Greenwood, George Sala, Edmund Yates et al. - and they're all present and correct. There are some nice little pieces on aspects of the periodical and journalism - eg. Crime Reporting - and coverage of not only writers but artists, in terms of caricaturists and illustrators. Probably the best reference use for this book is the brief introduction it provides to numerous minor publications (eg. selected at random, The Writer and Reader, Aug.-Oct. 1888), which may save much rooting about in other sources. The only complaint, perhaps, is that the entries can be too brief. For instance, the article on 'Price and Cover Price' can't be more than 150 words: I came to it hoping for something a bit more. Nonetheless, a useful little book (well, actually rather large) which I'm very happy to have received.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Obscure Victorian Hobbies .1


Thanks to Cassells Household Guide again, we have Household Decorative Art - To Imitate Busts and Statuettes in Marble by Means of Wax. Not without its risks, mind you ... "In finishing a certain bust with paraffin candles we let the melted material remain over a gas stove after it was melted, and it caught fire some one threw water on it, which caused an explosion, nearly filling the kitchen and singeing the eyebrows and hair of the operator. "

Monday 5 January 2009

Weighty Matters


Don't know your pottle from your rood? Here's Cassells' Household Guide to explain all ...

The Unprotected


"MANY widows and single ladies, and all young people, on first possessing money of their own, are in want of advice when they have commonplace business matters to transact. It is not always easy for them to find a friend, who will listen patiently to their difficulties, and express no surprise at their ignorance ..."

For anyone who needs it, I offer 'Guide to the Unprotected in Matters Relating to Property and Income, by A Banker's Daughter' ... a manual to beat the credit crunch, from 1874 ... wish I understood half of it myself!

Friday 2 January 2009

Victorian Links

Queen's Nurse

Happy New Year!

Two interesting sites - 'District Nursing 150' is about the history of the profession (see the timeline here), drawing on the archives of the Queen's Nursing Institute, with more promised later in the year. I like this sort of history site - focused and specific, and bringing out archival material that would otherwise just be gathering dust.

Another site, which I confess I have not got to grips with, is 'A Vision of Britain through Time', created by the University of Portsmouth Department of Geography. It's a 'historical geographical information system' ... it sounds rather grand, has lots of search-y bits, and it's consequently a bit hard to judge the content, not least because a 'Sources' section, promised in the FAQs, proved elusive to this humble reader. If anyone has used it and found it interesting, let me know.