Wednesday, July 04, 2007

History gets heavier

What better day to pay homage to the histories of both the U.S. and this blog, than July 4th?

In August 2006, a brief discussion in r.a.c.s. about the increasing textbook weight that kids haul inspired me to raid my slightly weird collection of old schoolbooks and weigh the books to see if they really were getting heavier. I mean, why let a relatively boring topic fade away when it was such a great opportunity for a book collector to be pedantic?
As I said in that usenet post, US history may not the be the best choice for proving the point. A high percentage of a 400-year-old settlement/200-year-old nation's history will really not have existed in the books of 100 years ago.
We're a young country. Long may we live to learn from our mistakes and make it a better and better place.
Anyway, I picked US history for my book weigh-in for the dumbest reason of all: I had the books. I have an eclectic bunch of old textbooks, but only on this topic could I assemble a relatively well-spaced-out timeline of books all geared to a single school level. There are a couple of substantial time gaps, but it provided one of the staples of internet discussion -- anecdotal evidence! And it stacked up:
1872 - 1 lb, 1 oz. .......7.5 x 5 inches
1941 - 2 lbs, 7 oz. ... 8.25 x 6.25 inches
1960 - 3 lbs, 3 oz. .... 9.5 x 8.5 inches
1991 - 5 lbs, 11 oz. ... 10.25 x 8.25 inches
1998 - 6 lbs, 6 oz. .... 11 x 8.75 inches.
Why I was also moved to take a picture of them at the same time, I couldn't tell you but there it is. I dimly recall thinking somebody might scoff that I had made up my figures. I mean, what normal person would clog up their home with this stuff and have it on hand? But this at least proved that the books existed. Then I thought, as I had a few times before: "I should start a website or a blog or something, where I could both post pictures and rant."

And a couple weeks later, I took a deep breath and plunged into the weblog world.

Happy Fourth, everybody. It's 9PM, the pyrotechnics have begun, and Downyflake, The Fireworks-Challenged Cat, has just jumped up to inform me that a Comforting Session will be expected.

1 comment:

Sherwood Harrington said...

Marvelous stuff, Ruth! I'm going to share it with some of my colleagues in the History Department, just as soon as I can shake loose the time and pack a lunch for the trek -- they're all the way across campus. At least I won't have to carry a backpack full of books, like some of our students do.