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The best book ever!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wow, I just totally and completely forgot to post yesterday. So, how about a special Saturday edition? It's hard to follow up on Washoe and Reese River, but I'll give it a try with this little gem.
It reads:

Matrimony Made Easy,
or
How to Win a Lover:
With instructions for courting, in order to win the affections of the opposite sex. This is the most wonderful book ever published, containing 162 pages, with illustrations. Sent to all parts of the country, post paid, on receipt of 25 cents.
C.C. Hammond & Co. 130 Nassau street.
N.B. - Prints, Cards, Books, Stereoscopic Views, &c., &c. Catalogues sent on receipt of three cent stamp.


Wow! The most wonderful book ever published?!?! Sign me up! I wish I could get me a copy of that one! I mean, the 1860s may not have quite had the flood of publications that we do today, but there have already been quite a few pretty amazing books by this time, so if this is the most wonderful ever it's got to be really phenomenal.

Still, I'm a little skeptical. Who wrote this book? I'd like to have a few credentials. If you're going to claim that you've written the most wonderful book ever, especially about how to get married, I think you really ought to explain who you are and what makes your book so special and different. I also think some examples of the information you're providing might be appropriate, so I know I'm getting my money's worth. Although even back then 25 cents was not a whole lot of money. Pretty cool that you could get the most wonderful book ever for only a quarter! Especially one with illustrations. It always costs more to print a book with pictures, you know.

I wonder what the advice inside was. I'd wager that there's a lot about letter writing, since manuals on how to write a proper letter were really big at that time, including how to write a love letter. (The funny thing about those is that they give you examples of a good love letter but then insist that a good love letter must be original, sincere, and from the heart. Ha!) There's probably some good stuff about proper behavior too. Maybe they even give some advice about how to improve your appearance.

Now, it's possible that this book is still out there! I have found a book (though not at my library or anywhere near me, and unavailable on Google Books, sadly) with the exact same title, originally published six years before this ad. The name of the author/publisher is different, and the location is in Albany rather than New York City, but that doesn't necessarily signify. C.C. Hammond & Co. could be a bookseller rather than a publisher, as I had originally assumed. The third part of the title reads: "the secret principle of love, interspersed with directions for the preservation and exaltation of personal beauty and loveliness!!" Wow! "Directions for the preservation and exaltation of personal beauty and loveliness!!"

But the fourth part of the title (they dug long titles back then) goes off on an entirely new tack: "the reproductive organs of females ... : a brief exposition of the nature and treatment of the contagious and other diseases of the urinary and sexual organs, and such as arise from secret habits ... : pregnancy illustrated by plates ..."

Um, that's not what I would have expected! Can you imagine some silly little teenage girl buying this book from the description in the ad, and then it shows up with illustrations of women's reproductive organs, descriptions of sexually transmitted diseases, masturbation ("secret habits") and pregnancy? Ha ha ha! That would be hilarious. Poor thing! That would have been quite a shock!!

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein

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