Sunday, December 13, 2020

Old but Not Dead: Vintage Textbooks

Earlier I looked at vintage tour guides. Today, it's vintage textbooks. The small sample I have, I treasure. They're an example of newer isn't always better. Comparing these books of the late 1890s and early 1900s to my textbooks of the 70s and 80s I would take these. They've not only stood the test of time as well-organized, written in concise, plain English, and they even look good on your bookshelves. What stands out is that these books were also sturdy--hard covers and bindings that still hold together and must have been made for durability knowing the treatment they'd be getting from student wear and tear.

Of my four books, two were published by The American Book Company (ABC), an educational book publisher that specialized in elementary school, secondary school, and collegiate-level textbooks. They were best known for publishing the McGuffey Readers, which sold 120 million copies between 1836 and 1960.  The other two books were published by their main competitor, Macmillan Publishing, an offshoot of the Macmillan UK publisher.

1. A History of English Literature by William Allan Neilson and Ashley Horace Thorndike (Macmillan Company 1923). 
With a name like Ashlely Horace Thorndike, your destiny to is write such a history. This book, now nearly 100 years old, was owned by David H. Popper of "Shepherd 12". Some of the pages are filled with Mr. Popper's pen and ink notes. A thoughtful balance of illustrations, chronological tables,  portraits, and excerpts. Purchased for $1 but can't remember where.

2. Myths of Greece and Rome by H.A. Guerber (American Book
Company 1893).
Being Victorians there is some good commentary occasionally mixed in with the history. A favorite example, Erebus (Darkness) first act was to dethrone and supplant Chaos and then, thinking he would be happier with a helpmeet, he married his own mother Nyx. Of course with our present views this marriage was a heinous sin; but the ancients, who it first had no fix laws, did not consider this union unsuitable... .  Excellent illustrations with text supported by quotes from poets and scholars through the ages. Bought for $2, likely from the State Department Bookstore. 


3. Carpenter's Geographical Reader: Asia by Frank G Carpenter (American Book Company 1897)
. Part of a series, I only have this one, this looks like it spent some time on classroom shelves with the battle scars to prove yet still holding together. It looks like it was sold and resold ffor .25 cents, .15 cents, then I bought it somewhere for $1. 

4. The History of Greek Art by F.B. Tarbell (McMillan company
The book follows the style of Macmillan being well organized and illustrated. Solid with navy blue binding. Bought used for $4 somewhere. 

5. A School History of the Great War, McKinley, Coulumb and Gerson  (American Book Company, 1919).
  Greatly enjoy this little book although it’s designated as a school book, I probably learned more from this than some of the giant tombs on World War I. While the book is over 100 years old it presents in concise well organized format in plain English. It’s always interesting to have the perspective of a book written shortly after an event such as this one—the title alone, the "Great War, has no number behind it; they only imagined that this was the war to end all wars. And I may be a bit of a fogey here but I do think we could use these books today as an effective teaching tool. they are well-made nice compact size with maps inserted along the way and a nice chronology of events at the back.  Bought used at State Department bookstore.

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