Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyTherapy Dog

  • Sun, 25 Nov 2012 09:20:11    Permalink

    Pryor, James Chambers. NAVAL HYGIENE.  Phila.  (1918).  Color and b/w plates. vii, 507 pp. Bound in brown cloth with gold spine lettering. Light cover wear, else very good condition. $175 This is the kind of book that brings me joy. 
    It is a serious, comprehensive work dealing with hygiene and preventive care in the WWI-era U.S. Navy. It covers nutrition, diseases, hazards of the sea, health aboard submarines, and so forth. Pursuing this agenda, text and illustrations provide a marvelous view of everyday shipboard life, with a documentary earnestness reminiscent of Lewis Hine.
    The book is also an artifact of a culture with values as far removed from our own - it now seems - as those of the ancient Greeks. Bed wetting was considered a form of malingering, as was feigned epilepsy. We are warned against cordite eating (According to Pryor the stuff was taken dry, or dissolved in beer or hot water. It produced a sense of exhilaration and in about twenty minutes sleep comes on. Also terrible hangovers which, I guess, is why this form of recreational explosive use never spread.) Ditto the gasolene jag - which appears to end in convulsions. Then there is tattooing - It is difficult to understand the psychology of the individual who indulges in this form of self-abuse. 
    These are all fascinating avenues for any researcher of deviance and its history, but in my opinion the pinnacle of the experience of the book comes in the color plate section, intended for shipboard dieticians, entitled Natural Appearance of Cuts of Healthy Beef.  We are treated to seven lush color plates illustrating tenderloins, sirloins, ribs -Spencer cut and regular cut - portrayed with the gorgeous innocence of 1960s Playmates. Which (whom?), I suppose, were prime cuts during my days in the Navy.
    I bought the book last summer from a genius of drollery named Garrett Scott. For the past fifteen years he has operated an eponymous book business in Ann Arbor, Michigan, specializing in seldom visited corners of American History and culture. For example, contents of his most recent catalog  are described as odd literature, obscure reform, American popular medicine. The perils of premature interment, etc. He also runs a marvelous blog called Bibliophagist  worth a visit anytime.
    In other late breaking news
    Friday evening, after the Boston Book Fair, I had dinner with colleague Bruce McKittrick and two charming  librarians of his acquaintance.
    Owing to the excellent company we were able to avoid the Then I bought this. Then I bought that... sort of conversation that can make bookseller dinners so tedious. Instead, we talked about wine, about food, and about Rare Book School
    Then I learned about the Therapy Dog.
    According to one of our dinner companions, Harvard College Library recently shelved a living, breathing, and presumably cuddly dog.  The animal was intended to be checked out - along with whatever volumes to ease the library visit of patrons with high anxiety levels. The implications of this seemingly innocuous practice have the potential to rock the library world. What is the Dewey Decimal Class for pooches? Will No Barking signs proliferate? Will the library turn into a kennel during finals?
    The experiment has since been moved to Harvards Countway Medical Library where Cooper the Therapy Dog awaits, 
    ready at the scan of a library card to enhance a patrons reading experience. According to the library website, Cooper is friendly, energetic and would love the chance to play with you ... or just snuggle next to you on one of our sofas.
    Im going down to the powder room for some cordite now, but Ill be back next week.

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