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Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The First WWW – 1890-style

Tim Berners-Lee was inspired to invent the World Wide Web after seeing a copy of Enquire Within Upon Everything – 1890. In fact, he named the early versions of the web ‘Enquire’ after it.

Published by Old House Books, who produce facsimile copies of long out of print maps and books that they believe deserve a second innings (British cricket term). Their reprints of Victorian and Edwardian maps and guidebooks are of interest to genealogists and local historians, and writers of historical fiction. Other titles have been chosen to explore the character of life in years gone by and are helpful to anyone who wishes to know a bit more about the lives of their ancestors, whether they were respectable gentlewomen or cunning poachers.

This 1890 version was the eighty-second edition of this popular handbook, which was revised annually. By 1890 an astonishing 1,91,000 copies had already been sold. The facsimile hardback edition was published in 2003, reprinted 2005, 2007 and 2009.

There are 2775 entries ranging from ‘Choice of Articles of Food’ to a ‘Reader Reckoning or Marketing Table’ in old English pence. As the original editor began, ‘If there be any among my Readers who, having turned over the pages of this book have hastily pronounced them to be confused and ill-arranged, let them at once refer to the Index at page 389, and for ever hold their peace.’

At the top of each page is a pithy saying, such as ‘Bottles of brandy are followed by bottles of physic’, ‘Be temperate in all things’, ‘Morning is welcome to the industrious’.

Some of the old sayings still apply today, such as, ‘474. Hints for Home Comfort: Eat slowly and you will not over-eat.’ Many others reflect the mind-set of the period, of course, such as medicines should be diluted by one third when being administered to the fair sex, as compared to the male of the species.
I purchased this to add to my collection of books on the Victorian period in preparation for a crime series I've begun set in the late 1800s.
There’s a wealth of interest and information on beverages, bird keeping, bee-keeping, the rearing and management of children, choice of clothing for certain occasions, hints upon etiquette, indoor games, legal information and advice, the treatment for poisoning, recipes (receipts), and so on.

‘1329. Violent shocks will sometimes stun a person, and he will remain unconscious. Untie strings, collars, etc; loosen anything that is tight, and interferes with breathing; raise the head; see if there is bleeding from any part; apply smelling-salts to the nose, and hot bottles to the feet.’

‘1689. Eyelashes. To increase the length and strength of the eyelashes, simply clip the ends with a pair of scissors about once a month. In eastern countries mothers perform the operation on their children, both male and female, when they are mere infants, watching the opportunity whilst they sleep. The practice never fails to produce the desired effect.’ Sounds a little unsafe to me, but then it may have been the norm!

‘2246. To render shoes waterproof. Warm a little bees’ wax and mutton suet until it is liquid, and rub some of it slightly over the edges of the sole, where the stitches are.’

‘2630. Wine should be taken after the first course; and it will be found more convenient to let the waiter serve it, than to hand the decanters round, or to allow the guests to fill for themselves.’

If you have an interest in the Victorian or Edwardian age, or plan to write a story or novel set in these periods, this compendium is a must-have book.


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