Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Our New Summer Catalog-

The Book Elves hate mowing the lawn, and will try just about anything to make the job easier. As gas prices rose last summer they decided to experiment with what they termed “natural mowers” which turned out to mean livestock. Sheep were very good at clipping grass to a uniform height but were also very timid and kept taking cover on the front porch whenever the neighbors let their dogs out. Goats were less timid, but after they chased the dogs back to the neighbors’ yard, the goats proceeded to eat more than 300 tulips and daffodils that they found there. This year the Book Elves have returned to machinery for mowing, but before they duct-taped three old Sears Craftsman riding mowers together and took out an entire row of azaleas, they finished our new Summer catalog-

"Recent Acquisitions for Summer, 2007" features 131 old and new books on antiques, arts, and related topics, including ceramics, furniture, glass, silver, folk art, and much more! You can browse the catalog online.

Highlights include-

* The 1835 edition of one of the most outspoken cabinetmaking books of the 19th century

* The elegant 1883 catalog of the Joseph Mayer Museum of Medieval manuscripts, ivory carvings and other arts.

* A very scarce, privately-printed 1928 catalog of the Woodward Collection of early Maiolica.

* A nice 1907 trade catalog of ice harvesting tools and equipment.

* A very clean copy of Thompson's 1860 "Universal Decorator", filled with colored plates and articles about Victorian arts.

* A very interesting 1883 study of practical electric lighting.

* An unusual Czech catalog of Art Deco furniture.

* A good set of Waagen's 5-volume 1854 study of art collections in England.

-and much more!

See the catalog here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Down by the River...

I don't collect old photos per se, but whenever I run onto an interesting one I tend to buy it. So I guess I do collect them. Anyway, I found this image interesting. It's a silver print, ca 1890-1900, showing a family somewhere in the American southwest, "getting back to Nature", Victorian-style-

I loved this photo the second I saw it, with its formally dressed, starched-collar family perched (seemingly) comfortably atop a boulder in a rugged river canyon. Anyone who has ever hiked in the canyons of Utah or Arizona will appreciate the difficulties involved in traveling along a rock-strewn river bank in patent-leather shoes, not to mention dressing in dark, volumous clothes, as these good people were, with the harsh sun beating down on you.

We've come a long way in terms of dressing comfortably for such activities in the past seventy-five years or so. Of course, these days we do have to change before dining at the lodge...

The photo shows some interesting details- a high white collar, cross and long gold chain worn by the mother, stiff collar and bowtie on the father, and short gold choker with what appears to be a cross, along with an enormous hair ribbon, worn by the daughter-

The father's shiny black dress shoes and the dainty bow-topped shoes the daughter is wearing were simply not made for climbing across wet rocks-

The father's umbrella and multiple gold rings, and the daughter's gold bracelet are nice touches in this wonderful picture. Obviously Victorian-era hikers were made of sturdier stuff than we are today... but maybe not. A few years ago Amy and I were visiting Bryce Canyon and we went on an afternoon hike along one of the longer trails. We'd been hiking in the back country of southern Utah the week before, and so we automatically put on our big hiking boots, and carried our backpacks with snacks and plenty of water. You're unlikely to get into too much trouble in Bryce, but hey, why take chances? Toward the end of the hike, on the way up, out of the canyon, we passed a group of French women tourists on their way down. They were all immaculately dressed and coifed, and many were wearing fashionable black pumps. Chatting happily with each other and evidently having a grand time, they could just as easily have been walking down 5th Avenue in New York. As we trudged by them in our boots and backpacks, we felt terribly over-dressed. Maybe it's all just a state of mind...