I have always loved books, not only as something to read, but also for themselves. As an old printer myself, I love the feel and smell of printed paper. And I just love old books. If I had the money I would no doubt be a collector of antiquarian books, but I have never been in that position so can only afford new books! Seems ironic really, but there you are
However, I do keep my eyes opened for anything that comes my way and on a trip to Brighton many years ago I came away with two gems, “The New Lady’s Magazine” (1788) and “Elements of Geography” (1800)
Published in 1788, “The Lady’s Magazine” is quite an eye-opener, but also not too dissimilar from its more modern counterparts. As its title suggests, it is aimed very much at the more sophisticated ladies of the time, more Cosmopolitan than Women’s Weekly. It contains a selection of short stories, observations about recent events, poems and letters. But probably the most interesting item is a summary of the number of slaves held. As the trade was under some discussion and its future in doubt, the publishers took the opportunity to enlighten their readers on the size and scope of the trade.
The original binding is almost all gone, with just a trace of the leather still hanging on along the spine. There is no sign of the original cover, which I guess would have also been hard-backed leather. And over the years the magazine itself has begun to fall apart along the spine and has almost broken up into its constituent parts. The paper is high quality laid, a far cry from the glossy magazines we are used to today.
“Elements of Geography” was published in 1800 and its contents reflect a world very different from our own. I haven’t read any of the first part of the book, which concentrates on the make up and history of the Earth itself. Then we get to the sections on the continents and it is here that some of the biggest differences between the modern world and that of 1800 becomes obvious.
America is very much in its infancy politically, with much of the western areas empty. The same is also true of Africa where much of the inland areas were still unexplored by Europeans. Information about Europe is particular interesting as many of the nations and their borders have undergone change
Unfortunately the spine of the book broke almost as soon as I got it home and it is now in two parts. But other than that it is in fairly good condition for it’s age. I love dipping into this book and taking a look at the world one of my favourite authors, Jane Austen, lived in.
Whilst neither of these books has any monetary value, they are very special to me. Between them they give a real insight into the thoughts and understanding of society during a very interesting and tumultuous time.