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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Literature:

Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan
Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan isan 1898 novel by Morgan Robertson whose plot, which concerns a large ship colliding with an iceberg, bears an uncanny resemblance to the real-life sinking of the ship Titanic, which happened fourteen years later.
The most obvious comparison is the ships’ names, Titan and Titanic, whilst the margin between their dimensions (Titan is described as being 800ft long, whilst Titanic was 882ft) is strikingly narrow. Eerily, both ships carried only the minimum number of life boats, or “as few as the law allowed”, as it says in the novel. On both ships this number was not enough to save even half the number of passengers and crew onboard - which was, for both, (approx) 3000.
Whilst the press labelled Titanic “virtually unsinkable”, fourteen years earlier Robertson described Titan as “practically unsinkable”. Then, both ships, travelling at similar speeds (Titan: 25knots vs. Titanic: 22 1/2knots) struck icebergs on an April night, both 400 nautical miles off the coast of Newfoundland. Both ships sank.
In fact, it seems the only thing the tragic real-life story of the Titanic is missing, which the novel has, is an alcoholic protagonist who jumps onto the iceberg to fight with a polar bear in order to save the life of the daughter of his ex-lover…
[Sources: Wikipedia | The novel online | Thanks to Vintage-Royalty]

Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan

Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan isan 1898 novel by Morgan Robertson whose plot, which concerns a large ship colliding with an iceberg, bears an uncanny resemblance to the real-life sinking of the ship Titanic, which happened fourteen years later.

The most obvious comparison is the ships’ names, Titan and Titanic, whilst the margin between their dimensions (Titan is described as being 800ft long, whilst Titanic was 882ft) is strikingly narrow. Eerily, both ships carried only the minimum number of life boats, or “as few as the law allowed”, as it says in the novel. On both ships this number was not enough to save even half the number of passengers and crew onboard - which was, for both, (approx) 3000.

Whilst the press labelled Titanic “virtually unsinkable”, fourteen years earlier Robertson described Titan as “practically unsinkable”. Then, both ships, travelling at similar speeds (Titan: 25knots vs. Titanic: 22 1/2knots) struck icebergs on an April night, both 400 nautical miles off the coast of Newfoundland. Both ships sank.

In fact, it seems the only thing the tragic real-life story of the Titanic is missing, which the novel has, is an alcoholic protagonist who jumps onto the iceberg to fight with a polar bear in order to save the life of the daughter of his ex-lover…

[Sources: Wikipedia | The novel online | Thanks to Vintage-Royalty]

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)

The Real Miss Havisham
Several originals have been put forward as the inspiration for Miss Havisham, although Dickensian studies have yet to settle on one precise individual as being the exact source. It’s also possible that Dickens may have based his spinster on a combination of real-life counterparts.
A woman called Eliza Emily Donnithorne (1827-1886) is one of the most prominent. She was an Australian whose life does bear an intriguing resemblance to that of Miss Havisham’s. Eliza was jilted at the altar in 1846 by a shipping clerk called George Cuthbertson. She never left her vast estate since that day and became the focal point for much local inquisitiveness. Some scholars regard the resemblances between Eliza and Miss Havisham’s lives as merely coincidental, yet others have suggested scenarios in which Dickens could have been familiar with her story. Perhaps the most credible of these is that he read about her in the press, as he never actually visited Australia himself.
Literary historians have also put forward another prototype for Miss Havisham, this time a British woman named Elizabeth Parker, who resided at Chetwynd House in Newport, Shropshire. It has been advanced that whilst staying at a nearby hotel in Newport, Dickens was inspired by Elizabeth’s reclusive disposition in his portrayal of Miss Havisham.
A man who used to live in Cleadon - a village in the North East of England - is another model for Miss Havisham. As with Donnithorne and Parker, he was also forsaken on his wedding day, and subsequently ordered all the clocks in his house to be stopped, although only for the duration of the year after he was stood-up. Some scholars assert that Cleadon House, a building Dickens stayed in whilst visiting the town, is a prototype for Satis House. However Dickens’ biographer John Forster affirms that Miss Havisham’s estate was modelled on Restoration House, a building in Rochester, Kent.
A minor novelist and contemporary of Dickens called James Payn (1830-1898) informed the author of a woman he was acquainted with whose style of living beared several similarities to Miss Havisham. Payn maintained that in Dickens portrayal of her in Great Expectations, the author didn’t exaggerate her character at all.

In an article from Household Words called ‘When We Stopped Growing’, Dickens relates an account of a woman he remembered from his London childhood who used to wander around Berners Street dressed completely in white. It is notable that this particular individual also bears some telling similarities to the titular figure from Wilkie Collins’ influential detective story The Woman in White (1860). It seems that the woman Dickens witnessed had been cast off on her wedding day, although the author isn’t especially sympathetic in his account of her, describing the woman as “a conceited old creature, cold and formal in manner”, and speculating that her intended was probably well rid.

[Image: John McLenan, 1861]

The Real Miss Havisham

Several originals have been put forward as the inspiration for Miss Havisham, although Dickensian studies have yet to settle on one precise individual as being the exact source. It’s also possible that Dickens may have based his spinster on a combination of real-life counterparts.

A woman called Eliza Emily Donnithorne (1827-1886) is one of the most prominent. She was an Australian whose life does bear an intriguing resemblance to that of Miss Havisham’s. Eliza was jilted at the altar in 1846 by a shipping clerk called George Cuthbertson. She never left her vast estate since that day and became the focal point for much local inquisitiveness. Some scholars regard the resemblances between Eliza and Miss Havisham’s lives as merely coincidental, yet others have suggested scenarios in which Dickens could have been familiar with her story. Perhaps the most credible of these is that he read about her in the press, as he never actually visited Australia himself.

Literary historians have also put forward another prototype for Miss Havisham, this time a British woman named Elizabeth Parker, who resided at Chetwynd House in Newport, Shropshire. It has been advanced that whilst staying at a nearby hotel in Newport, Dickens was inspired by Elizabeth’s reclusive disposition in his portrayal of Miss Havisham.

A man who used to live in Cleadon - a village in the North East of England - is another model for Miss Havisham. As with Donnithorne and Parker, he was also forsaken on his wedding day, and subsequently ordered all the clocks in his house to be stopped, although only for the duration of the year after he was stood-up. Some scholars assert that Cleadon House, a building Dickens stayed in whilst visiting the town, is a prototype for Satis House. However Dickens’ biographer John Forster affirms that Miss Havisham’s estate was modelled on Restoration House, a building in Rochester, Kent.

A minor novelist and contemporary of Dickens called James Payn (1830-1898) informed the author of a woman he was acquainted with whose style of living beared several similarities to Miss Havisham. Payn maintained that in Dickens portrayal of her in Great Expectations, the author didn’t exaggerate her character at all.

In an article from Household Words called ‘When We Stopped Growing’, Dickens relates an account of a woman he remembered from his London childhood who used to wander around Berners Street dressed completely in white. It is notable that this particular individual also bears some telling similarities to the titular figure from Wilkie Collins’ influential detective story The Woman in White (1860). It seems that the woman Dickens witnessed had been cast off on her wedding day, although the author isn’t especially sympathetic in his account of her, describing the woman as “a conceited old creature, cold and formal in manner”, and speculating that her intended was probably well rid.

[Image: John McLenan, 1861]

The Mad Hatter
An actor dressed as The Mad Hatter. 1800s.

The Mad Hatter

An actor dressed as The Mad Hatter. 1800s.

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]

A painting of the Brontë sisters by their brother Branwell Brontë in which he has been erased … sort of.
As a young man, Branwell was trained as a portrait painter in Haworth, and worked as a portrait painter in Bradford in 1838 and 1839. His most famous portrait is of his three sisters: he seems to have painted himself out, though a legend holds that after an argument his father rubbed the image out with turpentine.

A painting of the Brontë sisters by their brother Branwell Brontë in which he has been erased … sort of.

As a young man, Branwell was trained as a portrait painter in Haworth, and worked as a portrait painter in Bradford in 1838 and 1839. His most famous portrait is of his three sisters: he seems to have painted himself out, though a legend holds that after an argument his father rubbed the image out with turpentine.

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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