This evening I was inspecting the various books on my bookshelf and came across some very old volumes I had picked up from somewhere and somewhen. The first book was in Latin; I skimmed a few paragraphs and then put it back since I currently do not read Latin.
The next book I picked up is called The Third School Reader and through the magic of Google I see they’ve scanned it in. It was written by S.G. Goodrich and published by Morton and Griswold in Louisville, Kentucky in 1847.
First caught my eye is that there is a name – Josephine B Steward – and the date of 1849. Young Josephine has written her name in cursive quite a few times in my book and seems to be getting much better at her penmanship.
I have thought about Josephine the entire evening; she must have belonged to a rich family in order to have such a nice book as this and such fantastic cursive. She would have been the first or second owner of this book since she wrote the date 1849 which is just two years after the date of publication. I imagine the book wouldn’t have traveled too far and would still be in the South. Her name is a beautiful French name which was popular among Southern aristocratic families seeing as the French had much influence coming out of New Orleans and Louisiana.
Since she would have been around 10 years old in 1849, she would have been around twenty two at the start of the civil war! Oh, Josephine, who were you? Did you belong to a plantation owning family and have slaves? Did you marry a confederate soldier who never returned? Did you lose everything from the Civil War? Did you die old, alone or relatively young? You probably wouldn’t have seen the start of World War One or did you live as long as that? I imagine the civil war would have been enough death to last a lifetime. Josephine, wars have not stopped and I fear we’ve yet to see the worst.
Reading the very first lesson of the book fills one with hope and enthusiasm for humanity. Unfortunately the killing hasn’t stopped, race and borders still separate us and sometimes the world doesn’t seem to have gotten much better since the publication of this book.
Perhaps if everyone in the world had read the first lesson like young Miss Josephine B Steward the world would be a better place.
The New Book
- There was once a boy eight years old, named Thomas, who had received a new book from his mother. He was greatly delighted with it; and, having looked at the cover, and turned over all the leaves, he ran about, showing it to every body in the house.
- Not satisfied with this, he ran out of doors, and, in his joy, whistled for the dog, and called aloud for the poultry. First came Dash, wagging his tail and looking his little master in the face.
- Then came the old hen, and the goose, and the turkey; and even the pig, who was rooting the ground, at no great distance, came up and made one of the party.
- Puss, who was watching for a mouse in an adjacent field, perceiving that something was going on, left her post, and scampered away to join the assembly. When they were all collected, Thomas held out his book, and seemed to expect that they would share in his pleasure.
- But Dash, having smelt of it, turned away, disappointed that it was not something to eat. Thomas then showed the book to the goose, but she hissed and walked off. Then the hen cackled, the turkey gobbled, and both went away.
- The pig put out his long snout, working it back and forth, and, perceiving no flavor in the book, uttered a grunt, and returned to his rooting. Puss rubbed her side against the corner of the book, mewed, and went off to watch the mouse.
- Thomas was soon left alone with his book, and he was surprised, for he thought these animals were his friends, and he felt that they should be interested in what pleased him so much; but after a little reflection, he took another view of the subject.
- “These poor brutes,” said he to himself, “don’t they know how to read and why should they care about a book? Had it been something to eat, they would have understood it and liked it very well. Their whole business is to eat, and drink, and sleep and they care for nothing else.
- “But boys and girls are not brutes, which only eat, drink and die. They can think, and talk, and love one another; they can obey their parents, and love God and pray to him.
- “They can take pleasure in stories, and in accounts of things which have passed in days gone by. They can acquire a knowledge of the world, of the seas, rivers, and lakes upon its surface, and of the different nations which inhabit it.
- “Now, books are made for beings that think, feel and reflect; for beings that have minds and souls; and not for these creatures that have no other wish or pursuit than just to satisfy their hunger and thirst.
- “Books, however, furnish food to the mind; and, for my part, I have no doubt, that I take ten times as much pleasure in feeding my mind with poetry, tales, and other things, which I find in books, as these creatures do in munching their food.”
- Full of these ideas, Thomas ran to a house near by, and inquired for one of his companions. He soon found him, and telling him he hada new book, they both went into a hay-loft, where they were quite alone; and, sitting down together they did not leave the place, thill they had read the book through.
*Side Note – Eleven Ways School Was Different in the 1800s