Pet Book Project Part 1: The Introduction to Introducing Girls to The Outdoors

The book that I chose for the Pet Book Project is called The Girl’s Own Outdoor Book. It was edited by a man named Charles Peters, and was published in 1889 by J.B. Lippincott Company in Philadelphia. When looking for a book to work with throughout the semester, I knew I wanted to choose one that had something to do with nature and the outdoors. I spent all of Jan Plan writing about those topics, and wanted to continue to do so. While this book was not exactly what I had in mind or pictured working with originally, it really drew me in once I started looking through it. This book is essentially a very detailed how-to guide for girls concerning physical exercise and outdoor recreation. The book is about 500 pages long, and includes instructions for a range of things, including horseback riding, lawn tennis, embroidery, and shopping. Part of what interested me about this book as well is that I had a similar book growing up, called The Daring Book for Girls, and this seemed like a similar idea. I thought it would be compelling to look at the difference that over a century makes in books that more or less have the same theme.

The first thing that I noticed about this book in terms of its appearance was how worn it is. The edges of the book are frayed, and the pages are pulling away from the spine. It seemed very fragile, and I was nervous about handling it. It seems to have been read quite often, and was probably meant for actual use rather than for a display in a home to show off wealth or status. The cover seems to be made of a dark greyish-green cloth, and the only other colors used are black and gold. The print and all of the illustrations are in black, but there is some gold outlining on the cover illustrations of the book, along with on the spine. The three small illustrations on the front cover depict a farmhouse, a boat in the sea, and a young girl.

The two images on the spine appear to be a stack of books and some clouds, but they are faded so it is difficult to tell. The title page boasts, “With Over One Hundred and Eighty Illustrations” throughout the book, all of which are in black and white as well. There is also an advertisement page toward the front of the book, which notes this book as being “the latest of the series” of a set of books that are meant for instructional home use.

All of the pages in the book are yellowed, and many are torn at the edges and have smudges and stains on them. There is no marginalia in the book, however, except for a few inscriptions on the first couple of pages. One of these pages has “Miss Mary Wallace” scrawled in nice handwriting and “Mademoiselle Wallace” in the same handwriting right below it. I find the next page much more interesting though. It again has “Mary Wallace” written at the top, but the handwriting isn’t quite as nice, and it also has a price of $400 listed. In addition, there is an address (25 Oxford St. Boston Mass) and a date (December 25th, 1890).

This suggests that the owner of this book (probably Mary Wallace) lived in Boston, and was given this book as a Christmas gift. It also looks as though she owned it for a long time; the nicer handwriting is the same name but with “Miss” added, so she may have re-written her name in it when she was older. The nicer handwriting is also in ink, whereas the worse (older?) handwriting is in pencil.

The margins are normal, and the print in the book is medium-sized and fairly easy to read. The only fancier thing about the book is the first letter at the beginning of each chapter: it is much larger, drawn rather than printed, and is almost like a smaller illustration.

The font makes sense, as this book is meant for young girls and would need to be easy enough for them to read. Again, the fact that it is a how-to book and is well-worn likely means that it was read quite a bit. It appears to have been built sturdily, but is falling apart and maybe was not the most well cared for. It also seems like there are a few pages missing at the end of the book, because the last page of text seems to end in the middle of a sentence. The signature in the book confused me as well. There did not seem to be a clear way in which the sections of the book were organized or why they were numbered the way they were. For example, the signature on one of the pages is “2 E 2.”

I was unsure how to interpret this.

I think this book has a lot more for me to unpack and a deep history that I can investigate, and I am really looking forward to working with it over the course of this semester.