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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Brontës in the Attic- I mean, Tower

A hoard of books are finally being taken down out of the library tower at Cambridge University. The books were put there in a belief that they were not of academic interest because they were 'too populist' or as this article puts it, 'low brow.' The rumor had been that it was a collection of pornography. Well, no. No, they're just some first editions of the Bronte novels after all!

And a few other things besides: first editions by Sir Walter Scott, Dickens, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "Cookery books including one called Cheap, Nice and Nourishing Cookery, which recommends boiling carrots for two hours, and a Handbook of Domestic Cookery, with a recipe for calf's head and calf's foot soup," Home guides on health and beauty including Dr Foote's Home Cyclopedia of Popular Medical, Social and Sexual Science which recommended married people should not sleep together as the practice led to "uncongeniality", and a collection of penny dreadfuls!

Which works by the Brontes are included in the collection is not disclosed in this article but it implies that works by all three sisters are in the collection. Also, some of the works have not been read and are in pristine condition:

Professor Secord said: "The bulk of it still hasn't been touched. The typical book in there that you order up hasn't really been looked at before.When you go in to use the collection, you put in your slip and have the librarian bring up the paper knife so you can cut open the pages."


Dr. Mabuse said...

"Cheap, Nice and Nourishing Cookery, which recommends boiling carrots for two hours..."

All those jokes about 'English cooking' do have some basis in fact, after all. I remember reading books about Antarctic exploration at the beginning of the 20th century, and the difficulty of keeping scurvy at bay where there was no fresh food to be had. The interesting thing was, English sailors on average developed symptoms of scurvy earlier than sailors of other nationalities, because the food they ate at home was so overcooked, most of the vitamin C was destroyed. So these men were already malnourished and vitamin-starved before they even left shore!

marshalsea said...

The British sailors consumed limes as a means of getting some of that Vitamin C. It's from this practice the slang term for the Britons was born, Limey.

le_ssa said...

CooL!! ^^

Anonymous said...

"Also, some of the works have not been read and are in pristine condition"

wow, can you imagine how much they would be worth to a collector? I should think they are bordering on priceless! If only there was an unread first ed of Jane Eyre in there!!

Brontëana said...

to dr. mabuse:

If I remember correctly, in 1847 a chef was rather famous for designing recipes that could just barely keep people alive- to be used for all of those starving millions in Ireland and elsewhere. One of the dishes was ox hoof soup. But I'll really have to see if I'm remembering that right or just making it up ;)

Brontëana said...

to marshalsea:

But where did they get the limes from, that's what I'd like to know ;)

Perhaps they migrated, or were carried by swallows?

Brontëana said...

to anonymous:

I'd guess that there is a copy of Jane eyre in the collection. It would actually make a lot of sense if they had one of each of the novels. I think that library has a right to one copy of every book published in Britain- which would explain the cookbooks? ;) So there could be some very expensive treasures in there to be sure! I just want them to keep those knives away from them!

Dr. Mabuse said...

It's true that they ate limes to keep off scurvy. But not knowing yet about vitamins, they didn't really understand WHY the lime juice worked - they just knew it did. After a while, the Navy switched from fresh limes to bottled lime juice - more convenient to transport on long trips, after all. The bottling process destroyed some of the Vitamin C - the juice still helped, but it wasn't as good as before. And they never really caught on to the fact that it was eating FRESH food that would keep them healthy - limes are great, because of the high concentration of Vitamin C, but most foods have some, as long as you don't destroy it by cooking. The English cooked (and overcooked) anything they got their hands on. Even their regular diet at home didn't have a lot of Vitamin C, and the body can only stockpile it for a few months. In really isolated places, like the Arctic, they couldn't keep the scurvy away.

Dr. Mabuse said...

Bronteana: "If I remember correctly, in 1847 a chef was rather famous for designing recipes that could just barely keep people alive..."

Oh, I'll bet that would make grim reading! It reminds me of the poem, 'Lost Mr. Blake', from the "Bab Ballads", where he describes this very proper, upstanding Christian lady:

"And being a good economist, and charitable besides, she took all the bones and cold potatoes and broken pie-crusts and candle-ends (when she had quite done with them) and made them into an excellent soup for the deserving poor."

Brontëana said...

Sounds about right! And I've found that nearly all reading about 1847 is grim to put it mildly. I think the ox hoof soup comes from a book I read on the Irish Famine called The Great Hunger. That book was so graphic that I couldn't sleep well after reading it late one night!