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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Lit:

Doorway to Narnia
This doorknob is on the door of the rectory at St. Mark’s Church in Belfast where C S Lewis’s grandfather was reverend. Situated at about head height for a young child the doorknob is decorated with the image of a lion’s face, and would have been seen every time the young Lewis visited his grandfather. As such, people have cited the doorknob as inspiration for the character of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia.
Though the link perhaps seems tenuous it is worth considering that, though he was brought up in a church-going family, between the ages of 15 and 31 Lewis was an atheist. He converted back to theism many years before writing The Chronicles, which are filled with Christian ideas relatable to children, and it is an interesting thought that, whilst looking for a suitable figure to represent Christ, he chose a symbol so similar to that depicted here, as symbol that, for him at least, may have resonated with memories of his reverend grandfather and his religious upbringing.
[Sources: Image]

Doorway to Narnia

This doorknob is on the door of the rectory at St. Mark’s Church in Belfast where C S Lewis’s grandfather was reverend. Situated at about head height for a young child the doorknob is decorated with the image of a lion’s face, and would have been seen every time the young Lewis visited his grandfather. As such, people have cited the doorknob as inspiration for the character of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia.

Though the link perhaps seems tenuous it is worth considering that, though he was brought up in a church-going family, between the ages of 15 and 31 Lewis was an atheist. He converted back to theism many years before writing The Chronicles, which are filled with Christian ideas relatable to children, and it is an interesting thought that, whilst looking for a suitable figure to represent Christ, he chose a symbol so similar to that depicted here, as symbol that, for him at least, may have resonated with memories of his reverend grandfather and his religious upbringing.

[Sources: Image]

The Accidents of Youth

consisting of short histories, calculated to improve the moral conduct of children, and warn them of the many dangers to which they are exposed.

The Accidents of Youth is an 1819 book published with the intention of alerting youths to the dangers that surround them. According the the author’s preface, addressed to the book’s youthful intended audience:

the inexperience and thoughtlessness natural [in children] exposes [them] to many dangers [thus] this book contains several instructive little histories, in which you will behold the misfortunes that arise from disobedience … you see you might often lame of kill yourself, if your good mamma or pappa did not guard most of your actions.

The author goes on to implore children not to forget that they can “play very well without climbing up to the window, on the furniture, or other improper places”, and asks, “Why should you play with the knife or the fire? and why put things into your mouth, with the risk of poisoning yourselves?”

Image One, as it says, demonstrates “The sad effects of climbing trees”, whilst Image Two illustrates a tale about a boy who played with a stray cat until the latter scratched the former “in the left eye, and burst it”. Image Three depicts a scene from the lamentable tale of a boy who threw stones at birds until the day one “struck [his mother] on the temple, which caused her imminent death”. Finally, the boy in Image Four is poor Anthony who fell and “hurt himself so frequently, that he thought nothing of it”, that is, until one day, he climbed upon the furniture and “fell backwards so forcibly, that he fractured his head, and died within a few hours”. 

There are many more examples in the book, which you can read in its entirety at The Public Domain Review.

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
One year after graduating and moving back home to my parents’ house I have finally unpacked all my belongings, and in doing so I have uncovered this forgotten gem of a book, which I think is a little oddment in itself and I’d recommend to anyone with an interest in literature, history, mythology, folklore or anything of that sort!
It was first published in the late 19th century, aimed at people without a university education who wanted to understand literary allusions and the origins of phrases, however, it also included an array of other more curious features that have been amended and added to over the past century.
There’s a whole section dedicated to the first lines in classical literature, for example, as well as explanations about all manner of fictional characters, historical figures and events; pages dedicated Zodiac signs and how to read palms, as well as an extensive list of the ‘Cries of Animals’. If you want to know the name of ‘Achilles’ wife,’ there’s an entry for that! Need a list of historical witches or court jesters? There are entries for those! Curious about ‘The Fat Boy of Peckham’? Fear not, there’s an entry for that too!  Anyway, any dictionary that includes definitions of ‘Acid Bath Murders,’ ‘Quidditch,’ and ‘A Tub of Naked Children’ is doing it right as far as I’m concerned! 
Concerning the first edition of the book, it has been said that “Some entries seem so trivial as to be hardly worth including”, and I think that’s still true of the later edition I have, but that’s exactly what makes it marvelous! 

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

One year after graduating and moving back home to my parents’ house I have finally unpacked all my belongings, and in doing so I have uncovered this forgotten gem of a book, which I think is a little oddment in itself and I’d recommend to anyone with an interest in literature, history, mythology, folklore or anything of that sort!

It was first published in the late 19th century, aimed at people without a university education who wanted to understand literary allusions and the origins of phrases, however, it also included an array of other more curious features that have been amended and added to over the past century.

There’s a whole section dedicated to the first lines in classical literature, for example, as well as explanations about all manner of fictional characters, historical figures and events; pages dedicated Zodiac signs and how to read palms, as well as an extensive list of the ‘Cries of Animals’. If you want to know the name of ‘Achilles’ wife,’ there’s an entry for that! Need a list of historical witches or court jesters? There are entries for those! Curious about ‘The Fat Boy of Peckham’? Fear not, there’s an entry for that too!  Anyway, any dictionary that includes definitions of ‘Acid Bath Murders,’ ‘Quidditch,’ and ‘A Tub of Naked Children’ is doing it right as far as I’m concerned! 

Concerning the first edition of the book, it has been said thatSome entries seem so trivial as to be hardly worth including”, and I think that’s still true of the later edition I have, but that’s exactly what makes it marvelous! 

Bronte Juvenilia

After the death of their mother in 1821, the four surviving Bronte siblings, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne, created what their father called, “a little society among themselves.” The elder two wrote stories and plays about fictitious lands called Glass Town and Angria, which now constitute what is known as the Bronte Juvenilia, and the younger two played along. 

Around twenty of these manuscripts took the form of miniature books, each around just two inches tall, inscribed in intricate handwriting and carefully sewn together by Charlotte. Example one, above, contains around 4000 words on 19 pages and includes scenes which anticipate Charlotte’s later work, including the famous scenes from Jane Eyre in which Bertha attempts to murder Rochester by setting fire to the house. 

[Sources: Harvard Magazine | The Guardian | See Also]

Fore-Edge Painting

Fore-edge paintingis the technique of painting the edges of the leaves of a book. From 1650 onward
binders practiced a new decorative method of fore-edge painting: floral scrolls or scenes were painted upon the fanned-out fore-edge of the leaves and concealed by a normal gilt edge when the book was closed; 
they became visible only when it was opened. This decorative device was continued 
in the 18th century, but by the late 19th century had begun to wane in popularity. 

Thomas H. Horne, in his 1814 “Introduction to the Study of Bibliography,” gives credit to the Edwards of Halifax bindery for creating a “method of gilding … and decorating the edges of the leaves with exquisite paintings.” The Edwards firm was founded by William Edwards (1723-1808) and Horne says that he has seen “landscapes thus executed with a degree of beauty and fidelity that are truly astonishing, and when held up to the light in an oblique direction, the scenery appears as delicate as in the finest productions of the pencil.”

There were also the more elaborate double fore edge paintings, in which the fore edge hides not one but two paintings, one appearing when the leaves are fanned to the left, the other when they are fanned to the right. The split fore-edge painting reveals both scenes at once when the volume is laid open at the middle, as in the central image above.

Stately homes and ruins – whether classical or medieval – were popular subjects [then] Later in the 19th century, fore-edge artists turned to more natural, everyday scenes, such as views of docks or harbor fronts, busy with activity and enlivened by the presence of workers. Less common were scenes like the winter scene, bare branches being much more tedious to paint than green, leafy clouds of trees. The imaginative design[s], rich detail, and expert execution indicate artist[s] of the highest skill. [Source]

(Source: dictionary.reference.com)

Tolkien’s The Father Christmas Letters

The Father Christmas Letters is a collection of letters written and illustrated by J. R. R. Tolkien between 1920 and 1942 for his children, from “Father Christmas”. The stories are told in the format of a series of letters, told either from the point of view of Father Christmas or his elvish secretary.

They document the misadventures of Father Christmas and his helpers, including the North Polar Bear and his two sidekick cubs, Paksu and Valkotukka. The stories include descriptions of the massive fireworks that create the northern lights and how Polar Bear manages to get into trouble on more than one occasion.

The 1939 letter has Father Christmas making reference to the Second World War, while some of the later letters featured Father Christmas’ battles against Goblins which were subsequently interpreted as being a reflection of Tolkien’s views on the German Menace.

Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 9th

(Source: Wikipedia)

A Gentleman’s Library

One of the biggest private ‘gentleman’s libraries’ has been revealed, containing first editions from some of Britain’s most celebrated authors. The 4,000 book collection is the result of the life-long passion of lawyer, businessman and historian William Forwood, who died last year aged 84.

The sale, titled ‘A Gentleman’s Library’, is being held at the Cotswold auction house where Mr Forwood, who claimed to have read every page, bought some of his volumes. Interest is expected from all over the world in the collection which includes Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot and William Thackeray.

Auctioneer Dominic Winter said: ‘It is rare for a single library this size and of this importance to come up for sale. 'It is an old fashioned library that encompasses all that a well brought-up young man should know about.

(Source: Daily Mail)


Image: The original manuscript, “Dedicated with admiration and respect to the retired members of the Metropolitan Police Force in spite of whose energy and efficiency I have lived to write this book” 

The Autobiography of James Carnac, or Jack the Ripper
Written in the 1920s and rediscovered in 2008, “The Autobiography of James Carnac” or ‘“The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper” by James Carnac’, is a first-person account of what may be the most legendary cold case in history. Its author, whose identity remains a mystery, presents himself as the eponymous serial killer who butchered at least five women in London’s Whitechapel district during the autumn of 1888.
Typed on yellowed pages with a handmade cover, the manuscript that inspired the book comes from an unlikely source: Sydney George Hulme Beaman, the British author and illustrator who created the “Toytown” radio series for children. Beaman wrote in a preface that a one-legged acquaintance named James Carnac, whom he describes as having a “streak of cynical and macabre humor,” bequeathed the document to him in the 1920s and asked that it be published after his death. Beaman also claimed to have omitted certain “particularly revolting” passages from the original text and expressed his personal opinion that Carnac was indeed Jack the Ripper.
Ripper expert Paul Berg said the supposed memoirs probably won’t bring us any closer to solving the infamous Jack the Ripper case, which went cold more than a century ago. And yet certain aspects of the book, including the author’s intimate familiarity with Whitechapel’s 1888 geography, suggest there might be more to the story, he said. “The manuscript is a fiction, but the question is whether or not there is a factual core—that is to say, a genuine confession at its heart,” Berg said. Hicken commented that “whoever wrote the manuscript had knowledge that does not appear to be derived from newspapers or other publications at the time it was written.” [MORE]

Image: The original manuscript, “Dedicated with admiration and respect to the retired members of the Metropolitan Police Force in spite of whose energy and efficiency I have lived to write this book” 

The Autobiography of James Carnac, or Jack the Ripper

Written in the 1920s and rediscovered in 2008, “The Autobiography of James Carnac” or ‘“The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper” by James Carnac’, is a first-person account of what may be the most legendary cold case in history. Its author, whose identity remains a mystery, presents himself as the eponymous serial killer who butchered at least five women in London’s Whitechapel district during the autumn of 1888.

Typed on yellowed pages with a handmade cover, the manuscript that inspired the book comes from an unlikely source: Sydney George Hulme Beaman, the British author and illustrator who created the “Toytown” radio series for children. Beaman wrote in a preface that a one-legged acquaintance named James Carnac, whom he describes as having a “streak of cynical and macabre humor,” bequeathed the document to him in the 1920s and asked that it be published after his death. Beaman also claimed to have omitted certain “particularly revolting” passages from the original text and expressed his personal opinion that Carnac was indeed Jack the Ripper.

Ripper expert Paul Berg said the supposed memoirs probably won’t bring us any closer to solving the infamous Jack the Ripper case, which went cold more than a century ago. And yet certain aspects of the book, including the author’s intimate familiarity with Whitechapel’s 1888 geography, suggest there might be more to the story, he said. “The manuscript is a fiction, but the question is whether or not there is a factual core—that is to say, a genuine confession at its heart,” Berg said. Hicken commented that “whoever wrote the manuscript had knowledge that does not appear to be derived from newspapers or other publications at the time it was written.” [MORE]

Pocket Library of Lilliputian Folio Books. 1801.

The Pocket Library of Lilliputian Folio Books consists of eleven tiny volumes, each less that two inches high and about an inch wide. All of them fit snugly, in two layers, into a neat box designed to resemble a larger book.

There was something of a craze for miniature books in the early 19th century but The Pocket Library of Lilliputian Folio Books, published by R. Snagg are unusual for several reasons. First, the tiny dimensions of the books set them apart from the other miniature books. They are the smallest of any of the [miniature] books, except for those in a [another collection from c.1819] Doll’s Casket. Second, the set is unique in that it is stored in a box made to appear like a larger book. It was far more usual for the box to take the form of a small book-case. Third, Snagg apparently pirated and abridged existing texts for his books, rather than commissioning new ones. Thus, classics like Gulliver’s Travels or Perrault’s fairy tales appear. So determined was Snagg to cram the whole of existing texts into his miniature volumes that he adopted a system of abbreviation which is detailed on the opening pages of each volume. In his prefatory address he boasted that his abbreviation system meant that his books ‘may have more reading than such diminutive books would be thought to contain.’

[MORE - each miniature book has all of its pages scanned]

Aldiborontiphoskyphorniostikos
Aldiborontiphoskyphorniostikos was a book that contained a game in which players had to read the snippet for each letter of the alphabet as fast as they could without making a mistake. Alternatively, several players could read the snippets in a staggered manner. The snippets for each letter contain tongue-twisting mock-Latin names whose content is cumulatively appended at the end of each new letter snippet.
The following is the snippet for the letter O:

ODDS NIPPERKINS! cried Mother Bunch on her broomstick, here’s a to-do! as Nicholas Hotch-potch said, Never were such times, as Muley Hassan, Mufti of Moldavia, put on his Barnacles, to see little Tweedle gobble them up, when Kia Khan Kreuse transmogrofied them into Pippins, because Snip’s wife cried, Illikipilliky! lass a-day! ‘tis too bad to titter at a body, when Hamet el Mammet, the bottlenosed Barber of Balasora, laughed ha! ha! ha! on beholding the elephant spout mud over the ‘Prentice, who pricked his trunk with a needle, as Dicky Snip, the tailor, read the proclamation of Chrononhotonthologos, offering a thousand sequins for taking Bombardinian, Bashaw of three tails, who killed Aldiborontiphoskyphorniostikos.

Aldiborontiphoskyphorniostikos

Aldiborontiphoskyphorniostikos was a book that contained a game in which players had to read the snippet for each letter of the alphabet as fast as they could without making a mistake. Alternatively, several players could read the snippets in a staggered manner. The snippets for each letter contain tongue-twisting mock-Latin names whose content is cumulatively appended at the end of each new letter snippet.

The following is the snippet for the letter O:

ODDS NIPPERKINS! cried Mother Bunch on her broomstick, here’s a to-do! as Nicholas Hotch-potch said, Never were such times, as Muley Hassan, Mufti of Moldavia, put on his Barnacles, to see little Tweedle gobble them up, when Kia Khan Kreuse transmogrofied them into Pippins, because Snip’s wife cried, Illikipilliky! lass a-day! ‘tis too bad to titter at a body, when Hamet el Mammet, the bottlenosed Barber of Balasora, laughed ha! ha! ha! on beholding the elephant spout mud over the ‘Prentice, who pricked his trunk with a needle, as Dicky Snip, the tailor, read the proclamation of Chrononhotonthologos, offering a thousand sequins for taking Bombardinian, Bashaw of three tails, who killed Aldiborontiphoskyphorniostikos.

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