I’ve been tidying through my own books at home which is difficult when you share the book cases with children’s toys, especially the small bits you need to keep out of reach of the smallest hands. But after managing some sort of ordering I found that the oldest one I have is The Book of Days edited by Robert Chambers, the writer of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. This does make me sound like I have a collection of wonderful old books. I don’t. Just this one which I got from a work related book sale.
The edition I have was published in 1864, a first edition, and the preface gives an insight into its content:
It goes on to say that the editor wants it to be a traditional fireside book but with added wisdom making it more modern. The book comes in two volumes, the first running January to June and the second July to December.
Here is the illustration for the fine month of April. It gives a description of the month, mentioning green fields, children playing and running about, flowers appearing and birds building nests. This month sees the birth of William Harvey of circulation of the blood fame and Hans Sloane plus the death of Richard Napier. One of the anecdotes that caught my attention was on the 7th April. It is a tale has about a man selling his wife after they had agreed to separate. Joseph Thompson believed that a marriage could be annulled if he sold his wife Mary Ann at auction. So off they went to Carlisle where after listing her qualities (mainly bad in his eyes) he sold her for 20 shillings. Another interesting item from this month is a poem on nail cutting.
A man had better ne’er been born, Than have his nails on a Sunday shorn. Cut them on Monday, cut them for health; Cut them on Tuesday, cut them for wealth; Cut them on Wednesday, cut them for news; Cut them on Thursday, for a new pair of shoes; Cut them on Friday, cut them for sorrow; Cut them on Saturday, see your sweetheart tomorrow.
Other standout sections include a description of paper marks, a biography of Saint George, and the history of the Silk stocking.
If you are a YouTube person you might want to look at Sandi Toksvig’s channel Vox Tox where she looks at this, and other books in her collection.