Library Blog

More Historical Miscellany

Monday, July 31, 2017

Most Thursdays for the last couple of years I've had the pleasure of hunting down a historical nugget for the Library's social media accounts - #ThrowbackThursday or #TBT. With an in-house collection of 300,000 volumes accumulated over 263 years, it doesn't take too much hunting to find some history in the stacks. I profiled a few notable items from the 18th and 19th centuries here. On we move into the late Victorian era and 20th century. Click on any image for a larger version.

1891: Seventy years after his death, a fine American edition of the Romantic poet's celebration of his own profession, including his famous dictate that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."

1895: New York City, where you can play the piano-forte, visit a furrier, and get your carpets cleansed. This early "Yellow Pages" was published just a stroll from the Library's home at the time, on University Place.

1904 and 1907: Where would L. Frank Baum be without John R. Neill's stunning, and slightly surreal, illustrations? I spent hours as a child rereading all of Baum's original Oz books and poring over the pictures. Warning: No matter what you do to it, your hair will never look like Ozma's.

1904 and 1917: Scientific fitness - you know it's cutting-edge because it's Japanese. What most strikes me about these volumes is the development of photography in the years between women and men - a thing that clearly impresses the author or book designer as well, with this eerie time-lapsey special effect.

1913: You might think Ireland had more important things to worry about in 1913 than witchcraft - but what this book lacks in aptness, it makes up for in creepiness: the center pages are bound upside-down, giving a visual aid for those heretics and eye-biters.

1915: I'm sure more than An American wondered whether Germany could win (World War I, that is) - especially two years before Yankee Doodle pitched in. Note the unpleasantly prescient subhead "Faith that the super-race will dominate the world." More here about what the Library bought and read during the Great War.

1923: This doesn't seem actually to be a self-aware account of Bertie Wooster among the Drones, but the resemblance is plain. Let those Twenties roar.

1939: Quick poll: How many of our member writers have deeply felt this juxtaposition of phrases? Prewar drollery.

1941: Coney Island: where the pillar of salt is what you put on your Nathan's hot dog. With a fetching map.

1965: If you're not only a crazy cat person, but a crazy cat person with lots of time on your hands, this is the book for you. Against all odds, it appears to be in earnest.

1966: A recent Time magazine cover ("Is Truth Dead?," March 23, 2017) reminded us, naturally, of the classic "Is God Dead" cover from April 1966. A close look at the Library's bound copy of the 1966 issue revealed one of the best bits of marginalia ever. Remember to click on any image for a larger version.

Spotted a history hit in the stacks? Emails to sholliday@nysoclib.org are welcome. We hope to see you on a future Throwback Thursday.