Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brains and Buckwheat

Originally uploaded by Decrepit Telephone

Yesterday, in Cocoa, I found a bunch of old nineteenth century readers, arithmetic and grammar books. They were fifty-cents each, and I had a field day. Some of them are in okay condition, but most are extremely beat up.

Not that it matters to me all that much. I'm one of those collectors who, if I like it, I buy it, no matter what the condition is, so long as I like it enough. I really don't worry about making sure everything I buy is pristine, and I don't really care about what other people say about buying things in good condition. If I like it enough, I'm going to get it.

I don't understand people who's collecting interests are based on what's popular or what's selling well, unless they're a seller of antiques themselves. If I limited myself to whatever was popular, then three years ago, when I last knew what was popular in the collecting world, I'd be restricted to buying depression glass and vintage costume jewelry. There's nothing wrong with either of those things, and they're interesting in their own right, but I'd never buy rhinestone pin or depression glass just because I knew it was popular. (Now, if it was dirt cheap, and I knew it was a good piece and had the possibility of reselling it, I would consider it. Yes, I would.)

I do what the collector friends I know do, I buy what I like and I don't care how anyone else thinks about it.

Like these schoolbooks - while they're not exactly falling apart, they aren't exactly pristine. Some collectors would turn their nose up at them, and pay a hundred times more for a pristine, clean copy, but I wouldn't. It's because they're used and they're beat up that I love them. Because when they were used, the schoolkids who used them wrote little bits of graffitti, and did their work on the back blank pages and wrote notes and silly commentary in the margins. Some kept things they were handed under the desk in them, such as the one book in the stack I bought that has an intricately hand-drawn valentine from 1894 left in the first few pages, drawn on fragile unruled notepaper. (Unfortunately I forgot to photograph this today, and now that it's dreary and rainy here, there's not enough light to work with, so it will have to wait for its own blog entry.)

They're really a record, little snippets of these kids' lives - kids who have already grown up, possibly had their own kids and raised them, and then died. It's kind of odd to go through reading the lessons that taught children who have already grown up and used that knowledge and passed on.

Such as the list in the picture at the top of this entry - it's a list of legal weights per bushel that was written down the back pages of an 1870 arithetic book, by a young Charles Wunderlich in Newell Missouri. Brain seems to be the only odd thing on the list, other than the two different types of corn listed (which I guess one was used for livestock feeding and the other used for home-consumption, or livestock feeding of a different type.) By the successive inscriptions on the front pages, it seems this book migrated to Cape Girardeau, Missouri and was used at a school there until at least 1888, where dozens of other students used the book and left their own marks and scribblings in it, left to be rediscovered over a hundred years later. It's these things, these little tidbits of these kids lives, and of life in the nineteenth-century, that people miss out on when they demand clean, unblemished old things.

I like stuff like this too much to miss out on it.


I know I've missed a couple days, or weeks on the blog-posting, but things have been getting hectic with Christmas at my heels. I have relatives visiting from South Carolina at the moment, and thought while they were out shopping I'd use the alone time two do some photoshooting and blogging today. Hopefully, I can get back onto the blog-wagon more regularly when things quiet down here some.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Originally uploaded by Decrepit Telephone
This was taken in the little southeastern Georgia town of Alma, a once busy farming town, now a town of empty storefronts, and empty streets. It's a town that still holds on, but I'm pretty certain that the busy days when my Grandma and Grandpa dated there, aren't going to be returning any time soon.

Still, they grow good blueberries there.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A little Art Nouveau

Originally uploaded by Decrepit Telephone

Art Nouveau, about five or six years ago, was a major weakness of mine. I loved the sinuous lines of Mucha and De Feure , and adored the architecture of Guimard and Van de Velde. I researched the style with the same fervor that I hold for mid- and late-nineteenth-century styles nowadays.

I was a bit of an odd kid. I was fairly normal in the sense that I played with toys and jumped at getting into mud, but I also loved going to the library and checking out the art section. The non-fiction, arts and history sections were where I'd spend a good long time combing through out-of-print books on the different styles and different subjects that I found interesting as the years passed. For a while, it was transatlantic liners that got my boat floating (yeah, that was kind of a turn-of-phrase pun, you'll have to forgive me.) and another day it could be looking through floor plans of Palliser's Cottage Homes of 1878. Still another day, I'd be hefting huge compendiums of 1960s Art Nouveau architecture and styles, getting disappointed and depressed upon finding out that my favorite buildings had been demolished over twenty years before I was even born. I learned the big names of my favorite architectural styles before I learned current slang. I was hopeless around the cool kids. I just wasn't one.

It didn't bother me at all. Seriously. I had my books and my clipboard and I devoured them. I even adopted the style in drawings, patterning the treatment of hair after Mucha, and adding the little white border around figures as seen in the poster style of the period.

It was with the Art Nouveau style that I really started taking in the texts of these books. Before I was 18, I could instantly spot poncy art-speak and scowl at it, and ignore it. I wasn't impressed by it, when other people that I spoke to my age, and interested in art, were eating it up and thinking it moving and rather smart.

My tastes changed after a couple of years obsessing over the style and its period. I just stopped really getting into the style. I no longer had a little lift in my heart when I come upon a new work of Mucha's that I hadn't seen before.

So I no longer obsess over Mucha and Guimard and De Feure, but I still like the style. It's no longer my favorite, but I still will buy a nice old piece if it has a good design on it. The little orange and gold and turquoise gilded and enameled bulb vase, in the top picture, was something I found for two dollars in Ft. Pierce Florida in an antique shop I used to frequent as a much younger person. The place has changed as much as I have since I was last there.
I think, though, that a little of the Art Nouveau ideas have stayed with me. So when I saw the little vase in January, I bought it. It happily co-exists with the mishmash of stuff that I have.

But that's okay. It's fun in my weird dimension and I like it here.