Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Victorian Idiot Guides

Before the Complete Idiot's Guides there was Hill's Manual of Social and Business Forms, Gaskell's Compendium of Forms, and The Peale Home Library of Useful Knowledge. They were each Victorian etiquette and reference books on everything from penmanship, sign painting, letter writing, accounting and to social behavior at dinner parties. These books were large, heavy and formidable. They looked like they were designed by trade printers who had no restraint when it came to adding decorative border treatments or headers. It became a competition amongst these publishers to see who could produce the most ornate and detailed compendium for the wealthy class in the late 1800s. They were printed on cheap paper with marbled endpapers and leather bindings which are now turning to dust on my bookshelves. You can preview an entire edition of the The Hill's Manual at Internet Archive. And if you are struggling with how to write those letters of thanks for that special Christmas sweater or a nice New Year's note, this might be a good place to start.

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