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Friday, June 16, 2006

New Serial Feature: 1903 Book Catalogue

Today marks the start of a new Fourmilab serial feature which will run for the next couple of months until the entire 1903 book catalogue of the Frederick J. Drake & Company of Chicago is on-line. This catalogue appears in the back of one of their books that bears a copyright date of 1903 and two of the books listed in it are described as New or Latest editions for 1903 and 1904, so I presume it dates from one of those years.

Just reading the descriptions of the books immerses you in a world long gone and largely forgotten, when humour trod on topics forbidden today, home handymen consulted 560 page two-volume works on the use of the steel square, and the infatuated would turn to North's Book of Love Letters for help in winning the heart of their dearly beloved. Teddy Roosevelt was president of the 45 United States, the Wright brothers were fiddling around with a curious contraption on a sand dune in North Carolina, and the dollar was as good as gold: 50 cents would buy you a hardbound book of 200 pages, shipped postpaid to almost anywhere in the civilised world, which wasn't ashamed to so describe itself.

The pages are presented as JPEG images, scanned at 600 DPI and scaled to a uniform height of 768 pixels. The quality of the original printing isn't all that good—the ink blots and occasional missing letters were there from the start; there is almost no degradation due to age apart from yellowing of the paper (which isn't evident in these greyscale images).

Special thanks to Bill Walker for discovering and providing the source document for this project.

Posted at June 16, 2006 14:02