Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More fun than the Sterling Cooper Christmas party

(PLEASE click any page for a clearer view, and to read the wonderful text!)

More annals of book collecting. As I recall, I bought this because I liked the look of it, especially that nice lettering on the spine. Spines are so often faded out in books this old.

The Business Guide, or Safe Methods of Business. By J. L. Nichols. 1898. J. L. Nichols, publisher, apparently the 4th revision.

"Over a million copies sold." THAT is impressive. This book must have been in offices all over the place. I expected Useful. I expected Businesslike, Dull. Interest tables, templates for deeds, bookkeeping how-to.

I got that, but so much more, along with a wealth of wonderful, lovely and sometimes funny Victorian illustrations.

Every single one of its xiii+420 pages -- even preface, contents and index -- has a header with an edifying saying or quotation. Some familiar, many not. A couple needed both facing pages but most were complete on a single line.

Here's my thing about ancient reference books; I use them. This post started out as an homage to old reference books in general, showing several I keep handy. You'll get that post later. The Business Guide seemed to merit its own entry.

This book has everything. For big and small businesses, for retail and farm management, for buying, selling, measuring and shipping. Chapters and tables on "Laws Governing Public Schools," Responsibility for Runaway Horses," "Mints and Assay Offices," "The Cost of Smoking" (!)

... plus almanac-type fast facts on literacy, religion, prisoners, railroads, of use to the businessman. Much more. It's loaded with goodies. I kept wanting to scan more and more pages for this long entry! Gave in twice.

But wait! There's more! You also get the lowdown on various swindles, explained in detail so you can avoid getting taken! The fact that you now know how to run the scam yourself .... no, I'm sure that all readers would use this information Only For Good.

In scams as in other things, the classics never go out of style. Here's one and the author doesn't show you how the page gets cut - the reader needs to look carefully at this page and to figure it out :

But the author never misses an opportunity to talk about values. Thrift, honesty, hard work, the keys to success.

And last but not least, this page is worthy of becoming a mini-poster:


Mike Peterson said...

Good stuff and agreed about reference books. One of my prized possessions is "Modern Advertising," which I bought for the amusement value of a 100-year-old book calling itself "modern." Turns out it was a cornerstone of the industry and it's fascinating reading.

One of my most prized non-possessions was a housekeeping guide for women about to follow their civil service, military or missionary husbands to India (but mostly civil service, given the middleclass lifestyle depicted). It was chock full of advice on cooking, housekeeping, how to hire and what to pay the various servants needed, even how to pack for the summer excursion into the hills. The china does not go on the camels, because their swaying gait will cause breakage.

Alas, I lent the book to someone on the board of a historical museum with me and it disappeared into the mists. Yes, I knew better.

ronnie said...

This is absolutely wonderful!

Before my Father-in-Law died he gave me his copy of "Lee's Priceless Recipes", a reprint of an 1895 collection of recipes for everything from insect poison to marine glue to linen bleach to lemon sherbet to a tonic to perk up your aging horse before showing him to a potential buyer.

But Ruth, I must disagree - NOTHING is more fun than the Sterling Cooper Christmas party.