Reading lessons Monday, Feb 3 2014 

From a letter by Julie to Morris, winter of 1859

“The children have an hour’s reading every night, and I believe they will never forget these hours while they live. They are worth a great deal to them and they will thus be well started in what they ought to have read and prepared to keep up with literature of the day, beside which we read you know every morning in the Bible. We are now in first Samuel and tomorrow will read the fourteenth chapter, so you can follow us if you please, and wouldn’t that be pleasant? Will you. A chapter every morning is all we get through and the children are quite interested in the fights and squabbles of the old Israelites I assure you. What queer doings there were in those old days to be sure. If the chosen people went on at that rate I wonder what the heathen did.”

The girls (Fanny, Carlotta, Helen, Lucy) were all, except for Lucy who was then just a baby, in school as well.

Contemplations of a bibliophile Friday, May 18 2012 

Personal libraries tell the keen observer a great deal about someone.*  Esperanza’s library, of course, covering multiple generations and households is a bit harder to decipher than a single person’s collection.  One of the interesting things is the opportunity to examine the very early pieces of the library.  I was just down looking at Henry Norton’s set of Harper’s Personal Library, published 1834-1840.  This set of fairly cheaply bound, but not poorly bound…shall we say solid middle class?…volumes displays a daunting level of erudition.  Included are histories of Ireland, Italy, Palestine, India under the British Empire, Napoleon, Cromwell, Peter the Great, the Crusades, Great Women (2 vol.s) the Jews, Arabia and Islam (2 vols.) the Bible (3 vols.), general histories of Britain and/or the world and/or the classical world, etc.; scientific descriptions of Africa, the Polar regions, South America, global explorations, Isaac Newton, astronomy, general science, fine art and sculpture; Samuel Johnson’s writings (2 vols.); the list goes on.  All clearly read.

Harper’s probably published a great many of those series.  It is the sort of thing a person wanted to have on their shelves, even if the cynic suggests the books were not always read.  A generation, or two, ago, the same was true of the Encylopedia Britannica.  Is there anything comparable today? Or at least anything comparable that is aimed at the general populace?  Oxford’s series and Penguin’s come closest, but they are hardly something the GP tends to collect to display their learning and refinement.  Does our society want to display learning anymore?

*An interesting gap that e-publishing is creating.

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