Monday, July 27, 2009

Polyglot Washing Books

Richard Ford, an Englishman, graduated at Trinity College, Oxford in 1817, and was afterward called to the Bar. But he never practised; instead he travelled extensively on horseback in Spain and wrote A Handbook for Travellers in Spain (1845) – a “charming account enlivened by humour and anecdotes,” and “a defining moment in English travel literature.” (Wikipedia)

I found an 1855 edition of this book online. It is a 947-page romp – to the extent that gentlemen from the Victorian era can be accused of romping. But what I like most is Murray’s Handbook Advertiser, appended to Volume I.

The advertising supplement contains ads for hotels, railways, field-glasses, passport agencies, portmanteaus, maps, flannel suits – in short, everything that the traveller might reasonably need, and a lot of other junk besides. I read every single page of it – all 91 ads – for I love things like Murray’s Handbook Advertiser. I liked the emphasis on care, craftsmanship and moderate charges, the testimonials from distinguished patrons, the deferential and courteous tone (“respectfully solicits”, “begs leave to recommend”) – I even liked the wanton deployment of fonts, the flagrant violation of every typographic tenet devised by man. But my favourite is this advertisement, appearing on the very last page of the handbook.


The product is funny enough as it is. But (in keeping with tradition established on another blog) a handful of my readers may derive additional merriment from it if they remember a certain embarrassing incident from two years back. To them, I supply the following keywords: me, Delhi, laundry, white shirt.

Polyglot Washing Books, whither wert thou then?

8 comments:

Rahul said...

I obviously was not around in Delhi but let me guess - you mistook the judge as the dhobi and asked him to wash your white shirt, whereupon, in a fit of rage, he put it in with his blues and you ended up with a pale blue shirt which was no good for court.

Tommy said...

I like the comma after Books in the ad's title. I wonder just when that went out of fashion.

Ankit said...

ahem... the incident of the 'shwet' shirt, is it soreyan?

- Ankit

new age scheherazade said...

You read the strangest things, you know. I think you should repeat Ford's journey and update his charming account.
Also, yay Spain.

Indecision Personified said...

You can't use codes on a blog meant for non-select-few readers. Therefore you are hereby given notice to forthwith reveal the whole story by expanding your keywords.

Also, did you download a whole 947 page book?

Also, please expect a substantial list soon - of things you will need to bring to Bombay. (all soft copy mostly). Just ensure that in the e-books folder, you bring this one along. OK?

P.S: - Yes, I may have decided to substitute emails for blog comments - just in case you were wondering.

Aastha said...

@ Ankit - Was it 'shwet' or 'shubhra'?

Abira said...

It was shwet aastha....he went to drop off his laundry after asking the cab to do 'thoda prateeksha' outside

Sroyon said...

I see it, but I don't believe it.