PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
Books were once more precious in our society than they are today.
The parlor of a late 19th Century home usually contained a bookcase of these precious objects, gathered and collected by the owner over a lifespan.
The advent of cheap paperbacks whose pages turned a crispy brown with slight age likely changed the composure of the parlor bookcase.
I purchased an antiquarian book recently that provides clues to the original owner and how they loved the book over its long lifespan.
The lengthy title is, “Annual Report of the Secretary of State to the Governor of the State of Ohio, for the year 1885,” published in Columbus, Ohio by the State Printers, The Westbote Company, 1885.
The book is a state document, published by a contract printer to the State of Ohio.
The first page states that the report was issued November 15, 1885 by the Secretary of State to the Honorable George Hoadly, Governor of Ohio.
The “report” continues for 1,130 pages to outline every fact and statistic that the Office of Secretary of State could muster for the Governor’s review.
I acquired the book for a couple of dollars; it’s somewhat shabby condition seemed to reduce the price.
I wanted the book because of the exhaustive chapter on the formation of libraries in Ohio.
Libraries before 1900 were typically incorporated as not-for-profit corporations by the State of Ohio, and the history of libraries can often be traced that way.
The spine of the book says, “Ohio Statistics,” and I have seen many such volumes over the years in library collections and boxes of book donations given to libraries.
The title was first published in 1858, and continued into the 20th century when the report was divided into different subject areas, and distributed separately.
These books were provided to governments around the state, and often “given away” at county fairs to citizens.
The copy I purchased was clearly owned by someone who had an alternative purpose of this heavy volume, namely a place to glue interesting news clippings from newspapers and magazines spanning 1885 to 1920.
The first hundred pages have clippings that were carefully cut, trimmed, and placed neatly on each right hand page.
They appear to be favorite stories of a previous owner, clipped to be saved and read again.
My favorite clipping is titled, “Fair Young Mugwump,” which seems to date from 1880s.
The clue is the word “Mugwump” which is the name applied to people not supporting the Presidential campaign of James G. Blaine in 1884.
The word then became used to describe anyone acting independently.
The fictional story tells the tale of a meeting in Maysville in the schoolhouse, where the minister and a lawyer held a lecture for the townspeople.
The story has incredible storylines, including, “The one minister of Maysville was greatly surprised if his Sunday morning congregation numbered over 50.”
“It was an uncommon thing for them to keep their eyes open longer than the opening exercises, trusting the choir to sing them awake in time to go home.”
The story goes on for pages, a delightful story to read as you rocked on the front porch.