Posted 2 years ago
This certainly isn't a pretty book - and it wouldn't be even I was a decent photographer. But it was the book that started my collection and it's still my favorite.
I found it in an antique shop in Maryland, on a shelf of "damaged" items. The book had obviously seen a lot of use and was in pretty bad shape but something made me open it up and on the inside cover I saw that someone had written her name: “Mrs. F. S. Gover”. Flipping through it I could see that at some point before the pages became too brittle someone - presumably Mrs. Gover - had threaded a needle through several pages and left it there. Looking further through the book I discovered that she had left other bits and pieces of her life inside it: pressed flowers and leaves, newspaper clippings, advertisements, receipts, another needle…
Standing in that basement I realized that this wasn’t a book that had been left to sit on a shelf somewhere while its owner got on with her life; this book had been referred to often and used frequently. At some point it had been repaired with newspaper and it was important enough to her that she chose it as a place to save her memories (flowers, leaves). And that was the beginning of my obsession with historical advice and advertisements.
In a time when information was something people had to actively seek out - rather than attempt to filter and “manage” as we do now - this book was an important resource and I like to imagine Mrs. F. S. Gover picking it up whenever she found herself wondering how to tell if her cake was done (“You may know the cake is done when it leaves the sides of the pan; when it will not stick to broom splint when stuck in centre of cake or when you no longer hear it sing when held close to the ear”), or how to restore her velvet dress (“When velvet gets crushed from pressure, hold the parts over a basin of hot water, with the lining of the dress next to the water. The pile will soon rise and assume its original beauty”).
I don’t know anything about Mrs. Gover other than what she left in this book, but I hope to be able to do some research and find out more about her life. In the meantime, it seems very fitting that her book should be my first "Show and Tell".