How to set off fireworks
Babington, John. Pyrotechnia,or a discourse of artificial fireworks in which the true grounds of that art are plainly and perspicuously laid downe. London : printed by Thomas Harper, for Ralph Mab, 1635.
Folio 662.1 B114
Although there had been previous books on the subject of pyrotechnics, mathematician John Babington’s Pyrotechnia was the first English description of fireworks for use in both military and recreational situations. Babington’s employment as gunner in the military service of the Earl of Newport, Master of his Majesties Ordnance for King Charles I, nurtured his interest in explosive materials. Pyrotechnia is divided into three parts, the first of which is a manual with explicit instructions and illustrations for engineering and lighting various types of fireworks, including directions for staging a duel in fireworks between St. George and a fire-breathing dragon.
How to make the philosopher’s stone
Curieuse Untersuchung etlicher Mineralien, Thiere und Kräuter : insonderheit derer sich die Sophisten in Praeparirung des Lapidis bedienen / von einem Liebhaber der curieusen Wissenschafften. [S.l. : s.n.], 1703.
Smith QD25 .L54 1703
Title translation: Curious investigation of several minerals, animals and herbs, in particular that which the sophists use in preparation of lapidis, … as well as complete instructions to the real matter, and right preparation of the philosophical stone. This is a revised edition of an anonymously published treatise on the alchemical ingredients for the Philosopher’s Stone. The double-page engraved frontispiece depicts portraits of Basilius Valentinus and Paracelsus. Besides giving an introduction in the alchemical elements, the book is also rich on stories of “true” transformations, including the story of a stranger in an inn near Salzburg. After staying there for a few days, teaching the innkeeper’s wife to make several curiosities of candy and dried confit in the Italian manner, the stranger wasn’t able to afford his lodgings. He then threw a rag into a fire, sprinkled it with some red powder and it subsequently turned into gold.
How to run a charity … and set up a charity kitchen, circa 1800s
from the Amersham Soup Society collection, 1798-1883.
Ms. Coll. 740, box 1, folders 3 and 6
The Amersham Soup Society was an organization established in Amersham, England to provide food for the poor. The records of this organization are quite detailed and include a lovely list of the “Rules agreed upon by the Soup Society of Amersham,” which dictate how the society meetings are run as well as who delivers soup (two committee members in rotation) and how often soup is served (three times per week). There are also really nice diagrams of how to set up a charity kitchen!
How to convert weights and measures
Martin, C. F. (C. François). Le régulateur universel des poids et mesures. Avignon : Alphonse Berenguier, 1809.
RBC QC94 .M37 1809
Martin’s book played an important role in promulgating the new metric system adopted in France in 1799. Le régulateur universel des poids et mesures consists of a text volume with specially formatted tables, accompanied by a régulateur used for converting various local French and European weights to the metric system. The régulateur is a template with windows for reading off values from the fold out tables, reducing the mental calculations necessary for conversion. They were available in paper as well as in a metal form for a higher price. In this example here both a copper and a cardboard régulateur accompany the main volume.
How to ask someone to dance
Wirt, E. W. (Elizabeth Washington), 1784-1857. Flora’s Dictionary. Baltimore: Lucas Brothers, 1855.
Caroline F. Schimmel Fiction Collection of Women in the American Wilderness (cataloging in process)
Should you want to be extremely romantic and ask a lady for her hand in the next quadrille, send her a bouquet of ivy geranium. If your lady is also very romantic and owns Flora’s Dictionary, she may respond by sending you a red carnation which will let you know that yes … she will dance. But should she send you a pink carnation, you will know that you have been refused. You can tell someone almost anything with flowers, but only if you know the rules … and it is good if you both own the same book, because there are some discrepancies!
How to purchase a good horse (NOT a bad horse)
Mead, Theodore Hoe, 1837- Horsemanship for Women. New York : Harper & Brothers, 1887.
Fairman Rogers Collection, 798.4 M46
In Horsemanship for Women, there are all kinds of rules, but we particularly liked the instructions for how NOT to buy a bad horse (and we loved this illustration). When it comes to buying a good saddle horse (and not a bad horse), one should look at about a billion “parts and ‘points’ of the horse,” which Mead has kindly offered in alphabetical order, from Arm or True Arm to the Withers. Despite all these rules, Mead warns the reader, “to be a ‘good judge of a horse’ is indeed an accomplishment as rare as it is desirable ; but while it cannot be taught by word of mouth or pen, yet a few principles may be acquired which will be of great assistance in cultivating the eye.” Mead then includes a list of diseases and defects that runs for six pages.
How to dress as a hornet
Holt, Ardern. Fancy dresses described, or, What to wear at fancy balls. London : Debenham & Freebody, [1887?]
Attending a fancy ball was apparently very VERY serious business … this charming volume has a list of all the things you can dress as for a fancy ball and then gives you the rules for how to do it properly. Every page is delightful and tells you what is required if you want to dress as Hoarfrost, or a Cigarette (not the tobacco product; but instead, apparently a fabulous lady who wore high riding boots with spurs, and a barrel slung over one shoulder, tiny pistols strapped in the leather waist-belt), or an Arctic maiden or queen, or an apple gatherer! Or Ann, wife of Richard the III! Or… oh, you get the idea. We have selected the Hornet, which is simply … fabulous. To dress as a hornet, one needs “a short black or brown dress of velvet or satin; boots to match; tunic pointed back and front, with gold stripes; satin bodice of black or brown with gold gauze wings; cap of velvet with eyes and antennae of insect.” May I just say, Halloween is coming!
How to shoe a horse
Lungwitz, A. (Anton), 1845- A text-book of Horseshoeing for Horseshoers and Veterinarians. Philadelphia : J.B. Lippincott Company, 1898.
Fairman Rogers Collection, 619.19 L977.EA 1898
Shoeing a horse, like the next entry for turning a coach, is complicated business. This 168 page guide provides the horseshoer or vet with a lot of details and includes a ton of fascinating illustrations and diagrams. What we love about this volume is that it has been heavily annotated.
How to turn a coach
Rogers, Fairman, 1833-1900. A Manual of Coaching. Philadelphia : J.B. Lippincott Company, 1900.
Fairman Rogers Collection, 798.64 R63.2 1900
Fairman Rogers (1833-1900) was an American civil engineer, educator, and philanthropist, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1853, and remained at Penn as a professor of civil engineering from 1855 to 1871. He wrote the book that is still considered the definitive guide to coaching. Which apparently is quite a tricky sport–the manual is 579 pages and is chock full of photographs and diagrams. Turning a coach appears to have been quite a process requiring a great deal of skill.
How to dress well
Lady’s world (London, England : 1898) [London : The Lady’s World], 1898-1926. v. 13, 1900, p. 169
We all know that dressing well starts with foundation garments, and in 1900, a marvelous article about appropriate underwear is to be found in an issue of Lady’s World. The author that states that “Wonderwear would be a better name for many of the dainty, delightful garments I looked at and longed for [in Paris].” She goes on to describe nighties, drawers, and the latest fashions in French corsets. And she gives both young and old a rule on the stupidity of too tightly lacing one’s corset: “Tight stays stop digestion! Indigestion is the curse of the present day, and the root of all evils, such as bad complexion, bad temper, and premature old age.”
How to kiss a girl
Automobile Lillian, the girl bandit. [South Norwalk, Conn. : The Royal Novelty Co., not before 1913]
Caroline F. Schimmel Fiction Collection of Women in the American Wilderness, Schimmel Fiction 1
“A Hundred Ways of Kissing Girls; or, History of the Kiss” is an advertisement inside Automobile Lillian (which is delightful in its own right). The ad states that “this new book, ‘A Hundred Ways of Kissing Girl’ is entirely unique in every way.” It includes a list of sections in the book, a few of which include: Origin of the Kiss Under the Mistletoe; They Kiss Even in England; A Kissing Soup Party; Kissing Games; and Kissing Don’ts! All this for only 25 cents–AND it includes a phototype of “The Girl Who’s Never Been Kissed”–“alone worth ten times the price of all!”
How to set the table
Murphy, Claudia Quigley. The history of the art of tablesetting, ancient and modern. [New York : De Vinne Press], 1921.
TX871 .M97 1921
According to this volume, setting a proper table has been a part of our social customs for just about forever. You can learn a lot from this book: what type of fork and/or spoon to select, if you need a potato ring (a serving piece for whole potatoes), and how to lay a table for an after-theatre supper. We, however, have selected the Baby’s Silver Service, which is captioned: “The pride of the home. Hammered so as not to show mar.” Apparently, “the value of correct table service for children cannot be overestimated, for not only does the child enjoy having his own porringer, mug, and small pitcher containing his milk, as well as the small size flat silver, but having the proper ‘utensils’ and ‘tools’ aid in teaching him to be independent and neat at the table.”
How to be a Rabbi
Rabbi’s manual / edited and published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Cincinnati: [s.n.], 1946.
from the Michael Strassfeld papers, Ms. Coll. 1216 (cataloging in process)
The Rabbi’s Manual provides the Rabbi with pretty much all that is necessary to lead prayers and services for almost any kind of service: from birth, marriage, illness, and death. But it has more than that too … graduation from high school, a special birthday, a silver or golden wedding anniversary, and a consecration of a new home are all here.
This snarky tongue-in-cheek brochure is filled with tips on how to spot a communist, compiled by Leo Cherne, “finger-man for the open-shop Research Institute of America.” A spoof based upon an article by Alan Max written in 1947 for The Worker, most of these tips are questionable and do primarily serve to reveal the prejudices of the author. A communist will use “foreign words like ‘wages,’ ‘unions,’ ‘peace,’ ‘democracy,’ etc.” and “always pay[s] their union dues promptly [which] proves that they are getting Moscow gold.” Furthermore, “communists not only belong to unions, but popular organizations like fraternal society or sports clubs. But they never belong to reactionary organizations like the Ku Klux Klan or the Bund. This proves the Communists are subversive fanatics with one track minds.”
How to make Hawaiian and Dude Ranch doll costumes
Lasalle Company. Felt-Fun Doll Costumes. Chicago: Lasalle Company, [1955?]
Caroline F. Schimmel Fiction Collection of Women in the American Wilderness (cataloging in process)
This kit comes with instructions for how to make both the Hawaiian costume and the Dude Ranch costume, as well as all the felt marked with lines and letters for identification and all the thread necessary. What is not included is a needle. Instead, the Lasalle Company is sure “your Mother will have one in her sewing basket which she will gladly give you to use.”
How to be an anarchist
Powell, William, 1949- The Anarchist Cookbook. New York : Lyle Stuart, 1971.
Folio HX 844 P68 1971
Apparently, breaking the rules can require rules … so here we can learn about drugs; electronics, sabotage, and surveillance; natural, nonlethal, and lethal weapons; and explosives and booby traps. This book appears to have been used; but happily, only the section of growing mushrooms has been annotated. Apparently, this book wasn’t quite complete enough!
How to be Jewish
The Jewish catalog: a do-it-yourself kit compiled by Richard Siegel, Michael Strassfeld, Sharon Strassfeld. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1973
from the Michael Strassfeld papers, Ms. Coll. 1216
This volume is super fun and gives great detail in text, sketches, and photographs. Check this out in the reading room some time. Here, we focus on the Tefillin, which are worn on the arm and head every weekday morning during the morning service. This section of the book describes the parts of the Tefillin, how to put them on, the symbolism behind them, some laws and customs, and how to buy and care for your Tefillin.