Little Bitty Books

Today I went to the local U to their special collections (the joys of working for a historic site!). In one of the boxes I requested were books – three larger ones and then a series of small ones. I mean small – less than two inches wide and at best three inches tall. Most of them were almanacs, from the 1810s and 1820s, just a single signature, most likely stab bound to the marbled paper cover. The lovely one had a red leather cover, with a overlapping tongue that fit into a loop on the cover. The cover was lined with some fabric and had a little pocket inside the flap for a pencil. All of these had calendars, with blank pages opposite each month for your own appointments.The person (or people) who owned these books used those pages, and also wrote notes and addresses in the flypapers.

They were wonderful little glimpses into early 19th century material culture in the UK, into the way people used books and other printed material. It is so very much the way we still carry little notebooks around with us, catchalls of information – or, more 21st century, our pdas and cellphones.

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