Pet Book Project Part 2.2: Tennis, Butchering and Saying Grace

The Girl’s Own Outdoor Book, published in Philadelphia in 1889, displays a wide variety of paratext. Perhaps the most obvious examples are the introduction, the table of contents, and the advertisement at the beginning of the book. Other paratext, which is scattered throughout the book, includes illustrations, diagrams, and sheet music.

The advertisement, which was mentioned in the previous blog post, was written by J.B. Lippincott Company, the publisher of this book. It appears to have been part of the book originally, rather than something that was added in later, which suggests that the publisher predicted that they might have trouble selling the book. The placement of an advertisement suggests that the book may not have been very well-known yet, and readers needed encouragement to purchase it. It also means that the previous book in the series, The Girl’s Own Indoor Book, may not have sold very well. Either way, the book is probably not selling based solely on its title or the name of the editor. It is also a possibility that, because the publishing company was very focused on education, they are using the advertisement to spread information about the book to a wider audience and gain a larger following for their academic/educational works in general. The introduction to the text talks about the importance of getting girls outside of the house and educating themselves on nature and the outdoors, which I find particularly interesting.

This seems like a very progressive mindset, particularly for this time period. Historically, women and girls have been encouraged to stay inside to focus on childcare and housekeeping, and the general theme of this book seems to be a significant shift away from that idea. This suggests that The Girl’s Own Outdoor Book was targeted at a more progressive audience, or at the very least, a less traditional one. It also may signify somewhat of a cultural shift toward open-mindedness about the education of women.

The fact that there is a table of contents in this book says a lot about the way that it is meant to be read and used. Typically, books like novels (which are meant to be read cover to cover) do not have a table of contents in them; they do not need one. The Girl’s Own Outdoor Book, however, is a fairly lengthy book and the presence of a table of contents suggests that it is meant to be used more as a reference book than for pleasure reading. It is meant for education, not entertainment. There are eighteen sections within the book, many of which have subsections. Many of these subsections focus on a specific detail within the section (e.g. one of the subsections for “The Gardener” section is “Window Gardening”). In other cases, subsections are divided into the months of the year, such as in the “The Botanist” section and the “The Ornithologist” section. All of these sections are organized very concisely in the table of contents, likely so that the reader can easily pick and choose the specific topics that they want to read about. The table of contents also lists all of the illustrations that are in the book, and their artists, which I find interesting.

The listing of illustrations is not mixed in with the listing of the chapters; instead it is a separate list entirely. The illustrations and their authors are likely listed partially to give credit to the artists, but it also might be to allow the reader to identify illustrations that attract their attention and then look into the image and its artist in more depth. More generally, the fact that so many authors and illustrators contributed to the making of this book suggests that the editor wanted input from a wide range of people, all of whom are likely well-versed in the topic in the book to which they contributed.

The title page of the book boasts, “with over 180 illustrations.” Of these, some of them are full page drawings that are on nicer paper, and some of them are smaller diagrams that are scattered around within the text. These diagrams range from how to do different strokes while playing tennis to how to properly cut up a pig.

These visual representations of the information provided in the text are a helpful way for the reader to gain a firmer understanding of what they are learning. Allowing the reader to picture what they are aiming for, whether they are learning a sport or figuring out how to cut up livestock, can help them learn more quickly and more effectively. Without the addition of these diagrams, the information provided in the book would be more difficult to comprehend and, therefore, the book would be a less effective learning tool than it could be. The presence of so many illustrations also suggests that the book is meant to be visually appealing and looked at, in addition to being read and used as a learning tool. The diagrams in the book are likely meant for more educational purposes, but there are also many illustrations that are not diagrams, and are instead full-page drawings on nicer paper. The nicer paper indicates that the purpose of these illustrations is to draw the reader in and make the book more aesthetically pleasing. They have value because they are high quality illustrations, not because they help teach something. 

Another piece of paratext in this book that I found surprising is the sheet music.

It is included in a section titled, “Musical Graces Before and After Meat.” The purpose of this music being included in the text is likely to give suggestions about specific graces to sing. It goes a step beyond instructing the reader how to use musical graces; it provides suggestions for specific ones, again making the education more effective.

All of the paratext that is included in The Girl’s Own Outdoor Book allows the reader to read the text more efficiently, and overall makes the book a more effective learning tool. Without the supplemental information that the paratext provides, the book would be a far less useful tool for the young women and girls who are using it to further their education about the outdoors.