February 1, 2009

The most unusual book in your house.

Here's a little project that everyone can get in on, which I got the idea for reading this comment from AllenS in The Glad Hand Café:
I have two of my grandfather's books. Automobile Electricity -- Starting and Lighting, and The Automobile Storage Battery -- It's Care and Repair. Anybody remember when you had to check the water in your battery? There are pictures of a visit to the battery factory. Looks like young boys were used in the cutting and grooving exide wood separators. Some of them are wearing ties. Almost everybody in the factory are wearing caps. The very back of the books is where you can order wiring diagrams for cars. Such as the Brisco, Cole, Glide, Pullman. Hard to believe how many different car manufacturers there used to be.
So what is the equivalent thing in your house (or apartment)? It needn't be old, just odd. Find your most unusual book or two and tell us about it, either here in the comments or separately on your own blog (with a link in the comments or emailed to me). A photograph of the cover or a page or something would be nice. I haven't figured out what my book(s) will be for this project. I got rid of all the books I didn't really care about a couple of years ago when I almost moved out of my house, so there's nothing that's just bad. I'm not really looking for bad, just unusual, like "The Automobile Storage Battery."

ADDED: My book is "The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross," by John M. Allegro. This 1970 book puts on a big show of scholarship to make the point that Jesus Christ was really a psychedelic mushroom.


Marshall said...

My favorite book in the house is titled "Faster than Thought/A history of Digital Computing Machines" published in 1951.

Wonderful stories about how things worked "back in the day". There's even a mention of a new invention called 'the transistor' which had the potential to make building computers easier.

Richard Fagin said...

"United States at War, December 7, 1942 to December 7, 1943", published by The Army and Navy Journal, has an introduction by President Roosevelt, a number of short articles by U.S. and foreign government officials, as well as U.S. and some foreign military leaders. I was thumbing through it in an antiques store in Searsport, ME last summer, when I noticed one of the articles, "Naval Aviation - Spearhead for the Fleet" was written by V. Adm. J.S. McCain. I had to buy it after seeing that. Maybe I can even get the Senator's autograph on it.

The advertising in it is unabashedly pro-military and emphasizes the contribution of the repsective advertisers to the war effort. It's really astonishing to see what this country used to be like 65 years ago. Not just the fact that we were at war, but that the public faces of our businesses and government were entirely supportive of the effort and seemed to expect everyone else to be of the same mindset.

I'm sure our enemies believe, with more than a little justification, that we're no longer capable of summoning such national unity of purpose.

David said...

"The Manipulated Man," by Esther Vilar. It asks the question: "Why are women never unmasked?"

Her answer is that men are such fools and wimps that they either can't or won't free themselves from the domination of women.

Skyler said...

I have my dad's 14th edition of the Bluejacket's manual. It was written in 1938 and reprinted in 1950. The Bluejacket's manual is the handbook they issue sailors in boot camp telling them how to salute, how to fold clothing, how to wear uniforms, how to march, etc.

This is not so unusual in itself. In the center they include the only color pages which contain all the medals and ribbons allowed to be worn.

Again this is not so unusual. What is unusual is that one of the ribbons is the Civil War Medal to be worn by veterans of the Civil War.

Christy said...

The best I can do, if we discount ancient FORTRAN manuals, are two experimental novels.

David Markson's novel, This is Not a Novel. Written in the style of a commonplace book, it is a collection of trivia and short anecdotes about artists, writers, and philosophers that builds coherent themes. Performance art as literature.

Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler .... is a novel about reading books, and about writing books, and frustration. It begins as a spy novel but a chapter in, after becoming engrossed in the story, Reader discovers the rest of the tale is missing. Reader goes in search of the rest of the story. Gets a new edition, but finds it is an different engrossing narrative. And so it goes.

Host with the Most said...

A 1956 Britannica Book of the Year signed on the "Television" article page by Sid Ceasar and Imogene Coca. It was a gift to my father from his brother-in-law, who at the time was the VP of Marketing for Hanes Corporation in Manhattan (All of the women relatives would get hosiery for Christmas gifts from Uncle Don back then).

It was in the books from my father's collection that I received after he passed.

Synova said...

My parents had a couple of HUGE antique tomes (definitely qualified as "tomes") about native Americans with those old "etching" style illustrations. They also had an old book on taxidermy, which prompted my squirrel stuffing.

I don't have anything interesting, or at least not particularly odd.

There's a row of Lupin III manga titles on the shelf behind me. I suppose those are sort of strange.

madfolly said...

I collect old books, and after a recent trip through Scandinavia, I was drawn to a two-volume set of memoirs, originally written in 1818. The title inside: Secret History of the Courts of Sweden and Denmark. When I randomly opened the first volume in the Charing Cross bookshop, this is what I read:

"Her complexion was exquisitely fair; and it was a disadvantage to her beauty
that the fashions of the day obliged her to hide the color and texture of her
fine silver tresses under a load of powder and pomatum. [Queen] Matilda looked
handsome in any proper dress, and truly noble in her gala robes. In her common
evening dress, she adopted that of the Court of Versailles. She had a bosom such
as few men could look on without emotion, or women without envy; and she
displayed more of its naked charms than strict modesty could approve, and far
more than the Danes had ever witnessed in preceding Queens -"

A few pages later:

"Nothing could be more licentious than the Court of Matilda in 1770 and
1771; her palace was a temple of pleasure, of which she was the high-priestess:
everything was found there calculated to excite and gratify sensual desires...no
respectable lady would be seen there."

This is my first comment on the site, and ironically, when I first read the above passages I thought "this is something I think Althouse would like" but didn't think there would ever be a reason to share it.

I've posted the above on my blog:
Yet another blog inspired by Althouse.

Robert said...

The strangest book I own I can't put my hands on at the moment, but is a pocket sized Yiddish dictionary for travelers from the nineteen sixties. I got it at a book sale-- I always check for the Yiddish books to grab up.

It's filled with the kinds of phrases you'd find in the other guides in the series, which concern languages you might need to have a traveler's dictionary for, like french, italian, greek.

Since virtually all Yiddish speaking communities had been wiped out at that point, except from hasidic enclaves in places like Crown Heights, the incongruity is pretty striking. In 1965, you really would never need to know how to say "Can you tell where I might find the nearest bank" in Yiddish so that you could find one. If you ever would have.

Anonymous said...

An Autobiography by Sir Arthur Keith. A rare copy he sent to a friend in Canada containing a hand written letter by Arthur Keith.

He was a great 20th century anatomist and anthropologist.

David said..."The Manipulated Man," by Esther Vilar. It asks the question: "Why are women never unmasked?"

Her answer is that men are such fools and wimps that they either can't or won't free themselves from the domination of women.

That's not much of an answer. Seems she's just restating the problem.

john said...

"The Life of My Choice" by Thesiger.
A very unapologetic autobiography of a Brit in Arabia and N Africa before and during WW2. His choice was to be an explorer of the empty quarter, Abyssinia, Sudan. Wonderful and scary description of life in Darfur in the '30s. It's reminiscent of Lawrence without the self aggrandizement.

David said...

Ripper--Blame me for the lousy summary, not Ms. Vilar. The book, published in 1972, is an amazing polemic. It's forgotten now, overwhelmed by the feminist point of view.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I have a book that was in the cookbook section of the antique store, but turns out to be a 'primer' from 1878 on teaching orphans and poor childen how to be servants to the wealthy in New York City.

KITCHEN GARDEN.... a play on Kindergarten. Kindergarten for servants.
I guess the dealer didn't bother looking inside the book and thought it was an herb growing book.


Here is a link to my blog with a few photos. Sorry the illustrations aren't too clear because I don't have a very steady hand for photographing.

Anonymous said...

A very large volume published in the 19th century, for pioneers heading west. Contained a section on every subject. The veterinary section included how to cure a horse of the "blind staggers", and about every third remedy in the apothecary section involved "tincture of opium".

James Wigderson said...

"A Day At The LBJ Ranch" by Sam Savitt.

No, it does not include him making a deal on the phone in an outhouse.

Fred Drinkwater said...

John, that must be Wilfred Thesiger,I think? There's a remarkable picture of him in my copy of Eric Newby's "A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush", and the last few pages concern Newby and Hugh Carless meeting up with Thesiger's expedition in the Arayu in Afghanistan. Sounds like a tough old coot.

rcocean said...

I don't know about Odd, but a favorite book is "New York By Gaslight" published in 1882. Subtitled:

" The Descriptive of the GREAT AMERICAN METROPOLIS"

'Its High and Low Life, Its Splendors and Miseries, Its Glorious Palaces and Dark Homes of Poverty and Crime, Its Public men, Politicians, Adventurers, Its Charities, Frauds, Mysteries, etc. etc."

Palladian said...

Hmm. I have thousands of books. The most unusual one I can think of off-hand is.... [deep breath]


OR The Arts of Drawing, Engraving, Etching, Limning, Painting, Washing, Varnishing, Gilding, Colouring, Dying, Beautifying and Perfuming.


Exemplified, in the Drawing of Men, Women, Landskips, Countreys, and Figures of various forms ; The way of Engraving, Etching and Limning, with all their Requisites and Ornaments; The Depicting of the most eminent Pieces of Antiquities; The Paintings of the Antients; Washing of Maps, Globes or Pictures; The Dying of Metals; The Varnishing, Colouring and Gilding thereof, according to any purpose or intent: The Painting, Colouring and Beautifying of the Face, Skin and Hair; The whole Doctrine of Perfumes (never published till now,) together with the Original, Advancement and Perfection of the Art of Painting.

To which is added

Discourse of Perspective and Chiromancy.

The Fourth Edition, with many large Additions : Adorned with Sculptures : The like never yet extant.

Professor of Physick.

Non quot, fed quales.

London, Printed by Robert White, for John Crampe, at the Sign of the Three Bibles in St. Paul's Church-Yard, and are to be sold by Charles Passenger at the Seven Stars on London-Bridge. 1678.

[Gasp gasp gasp cough]

I photographed the title page. I wonder if Sir Archy once owned this book?

Darcy said...

Wit and Humor of the Age, by Mark Twain, Robert J. Burdette, Josh Billings, Alex Sweet and Elie Perkins, published in 1889.

In the contents, under "Irish Bulls and Blunders":

Two Irishmen, who, fancying that they knew each other, crossed the street to shake hands. On discovering their error:

"I beg your pardon!" cried the one.

"Oh, don't mention it, " said the other. "It's a mutual mistake; you see, I thought it was you and you thought it was me, and after all, it was neither of us!"

Footnote on the book page:

*The Irishman has made so many good natured bulls and blunders, that a separate chapter has to be given to them.

MadisonMan said...

Am I Immortal

I actually only have the page proofs -- I don't know if the beast was ever published. It was written by my rags-to-riches-to-rags Great-grandfather. Full of turgid, melodramatic Victorian prose. So if unusual means no one else has it, it qualifies. However, I've never sat down and read it first page to last. (Can't really say cover to cover, it doesn't have one!)

john said...


Yes, that's the same guy, and he was a very tough coot.

When I was reading TC Boyle's "Water Music" I was often reminded of Thesiger.

T J Sawyer said...

Well, I can't claim much for the most unusual in my house since I am not at home to go throught the library. But I am reading "The First Computer, History and Architectures." This book hits the computers of the 1930s and 1940s. Do we see a pattern developing among your commenters?

And I can proobably claim the most unusual place to read a book among your commenters. I was sitting on the balcony of my Cairo, Egypt, apartment looking out at both the Giza and Sakkara pyramids between pages. See http://sawyertravel.blogspot.com for more Cairo stories.

ark said...

I can't decide between two.

One is called Faster, Faster! and is a detailed description of a vacuum-tube computer named NORC (Naval Ordnance Research Computer) that occupied the ground floor of a building on West 115th Street in Manhattan (between Broadway and Riverside Drive) during part of the 1950's.

The other is called Codex Seraphinianus and is an art book by Luigi Serafini. It defies description, and Google will yield plenty of examples to support my claim.

chuckR said...

The Prussian Calculator - published about 1840 and meant to make you a veritable prodigy at arithmetic. Contains such tricks as multiplying two arbitrarily long numbers on one line. Paper was expensive, your time to learn the trick wasn't. No explanation for why many of these shortcuts worked either. Just do it.
Runner-up - the four inch thick (each) volumes 3 & 4 of a Short History of New York State, published about the time of the Civil War. Peeked inside once, and only once.
All three rescued from western NYS barns by my father.

KCFleming said...

Every Valentine's Day, I leave out my copy ofthe 1939 pulp novel, Careless Hussy.

I have a First American edition of
Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, from a San Fransisco book store, 1966.

My grandfather signed his copy of "Handbook for Scoutmasters", 1932; he was a scout leader for decades.

I loved the obscure comic Barnaby by Crockett Johnson, 1942. Fans are pretty much gone for that.

Jason (the commenter) said...

I'll admit to two.

First, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon.

The author was basically an 11th century Japanese blogger. She'd sleep on a pillow of paper and write thoughts on it before she went to sleep. Then they'd pass what she wrote around court. Some of it is bits of poetry, or just lists ("things that should be short"), but there are tons of tiny little stories and thoughts about society. It has a massive appendix, with lots of notes and illustrations. And it really does have the feel of a modern blog with all the translator's notes acting like comments.

Secondly, Anathem by Neal Stephenson.

It's about scientists who live in a giant clock and can only go out into the world every ten, hundred, or thousand years. It's probably the most unreadable book I ever managed to get through that I also ended up enjoying. The first few hundred pages are like a puzzle, because you have to figure out what many of the words mean. The subject matter is also strange. One of the appendices explains how to cut a sheet cake to perform a geometric proof. But none of this is what makes it truly unusual. What does is that it has a soundtrack.

traditionalguy said...

I have some family papers including the Diary of S. P. Richards( my mother's great grandfather ) made during Sherman's siege of Atlanta in July-August 1864. Much of this diary is quoted from in the book, "Last Train From Atlanta". As an English immigrant,Richards had started a Book and Music store in Atlanta in 1852. Also many original books he had given to his children and grandchildren, such as Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, with his gift inscriptions inside the cover. These people wrote everything out, in ink, in beautyful handwriting without flaws. I took after the other side of the family.

gbarto said...

I have the fourth edition of Hésart de Villemarque's Barzaz-Breiz, Chants populaires de la Bretagne. It's a collection of Breton folk songs evoking the times of Arthur and Merlin and further back to the age of the druids. It appears to have been printed in 1846. The Breton is on the left-hand pages, the French and notes on the right-hand pages.

The book is the subject of some controversy. Villemarque (Kervarker in Breton) claims to have gone out and collected the folk songs the same way the Brothers Grimm gathered up old folk tales. Critics say that while a few of them appear to be reworked folk songs, he probably made most of them up.

I also have Istorioù Spot evit kousket (Spot's Bedtime Stories - in Breton) by Scott Hill.

(I spent a semester of undergrad at the University of Upper Brittany.)

john said...

gbarto -

Does your book on Breton folk songs include Bravely rode Sir Robin? If not, it can hardly be considered authentic.

Deborah M. said...

I couldn't decide, there are a few. Cottage Economy by William Cobbett: "Information relative to the brewing of Beer, making of Bread, keeping of Cows, and relative to other matters deemed useful in the conducting of the Affairs of a Labourer's Family; to which are added, Instructions relative to the selecting, the cutting and the bleaching of the Plants of English Grass and Grain, for the purpose of making Hats and Bonnets; and also Instructions for erecting and using Ice-houses, after the Virginian manner."

blake said...

I don't have a lot of truly unusual things in my library that I'm aware of. (I have some very old foreign books that might be, I suppose.)

I do have a book called Lovecraft and Me, which is correspondence that Lovecraft wrote to one of his young readers before his death. I've only ever seen one other copy available, online.

Much like the current electronic forums, the old pulps had letters that were written and circulated between readers (and writers) which produced more commentary, etc.

It was sort of fun to read HPL referring to the late Forrest Ackerman as "little Forrie".

Ron said...

All the books mentioned so far seem far too literary to be 'unusual.' Mine is "The Screwing of The Average Man", more a rant in book form, than a true, well-thought out tome, what made me keep it was the unmitigated bile that filled the pages about...well, pretty much everything. Government, religion, the opposite sex, human bodies, everything is meant, designed to make you, The Average Man, miserable and you're a fool if you don't see that.

Today that guy'd be blogging.

George M. Spencer said...

Finnegans Wake.

Like ark, I also have Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini.

I Clean the Chicken (or, The Ouevre) by Lester Scoggin.

The strangest—and scariest—book I ever saw was what appeared to be a Nazi party yearbook from around 1938. Was shown to me by the owner of a rare book store. It looked like a high school yearbook. Heavy embossed black cover. Except that it had fold-out spreads of a massive rally. And faded technicolor-y photos of high party officials. The same way a yearbook would have individual photos of seniors. Guy wanted $100 for it. I was afraid to have it in my home. It was an evil object. Later, I thought I should have bought it and given it to a rabbi so he could burn it or donate it to a museum. Or give it to Indiana Jones.

Does anyone know what that book was?

I notice at least two writers above mention U.S. Navy-related books. I have my father's 20th anniversary yearbook from Annapolis. "The 20 Year Rendez-vous Lucky Bag" shows a picture of each graduate and tells what happened to them in the years since they earned the commissions. Maybe 20 percent of the men did not make it through the war, and the book tells how they died. Here is the story of John James Powers, Lieutenant.

"Remember the folks back home are counting on us," he told the other pilots. You will cry when you read about his heroism. To think that there were men among us like him.

the riverrun past....

chuck b. said...

I guess this would be mine: How to Be a Party Girl, by Pat Montandon (McGraw Hill, 1968), pictured with Miss Penny and a small painting I bought on eBay for $20. Montandon was a pretty girl from Waurika, Oklahoma who moved to San Francisco in the 50s or 60s and became a well-known socialite and society columnist. She was famous for her parties, and wrote a book on how to throw memorable parties. I took a box of books from my grandmother's house when she died and this was among them.

A paragraph, chosen entirely at random I assure you:

There are men, and then, of course, there are other kinds of men. The problem of whether or not to invite “gay boys” to your parties is one you ought to decide for yourself. You may not have observed any in your home town, but in the larger cities, especially on the East and West Coasts, homosexuals are part of the social scene. Not lisping, mincing types, but perfectly presentable people who are often well-read, talented, and amusing. Some hostesses say that homosexuals are among the most charming, attentive, and helpful guests you can invite to any party, and I myself have many friends of this sort. I think a woman who is sure of herself as a woman can afford to associate with people who deviate from the norm. Follow your own feelings about it, of course, but remember, women need all kinds of men in their lives, men of all types, all ages, and varying interests. You are not going to fall in love with all of them—not unless you are off your rocker. You appreciate them, each in a different way, for a different reason. (page 20)

misterarthur said...

A factory-issued repair manual (in two volumes) for a 1959 Citroen 1D- and DS- 19s

Zachary Sire said...


chuck b. said...

Does anyone have Klaus Kinski's autobiography? That's a very unusual book.

Scrutineer said...

Von Drinnen und Draußen, my mother's 1935 German schoolbook (I think she was in first or second grade):


Everything's cute ...

pic1, pic2, pic3, pic4, pic5, pic6

... until about halfway through:

pic7, pic8, pic9

Original George - The strangest—and scariest—book I ever saw was what appeared to be a Nazi party yearbook from around 1938. .... I was afraid to have it in my home. It was an evil object. Later, I thought I should have bought it and given it to a rabbi so he could burn it or donate it to a museum. Or give it to Indiana Jones.

Books like that shouldn't be destroyed precisely because Nazi Germany now seems like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. It's useful to be reminded the Nazis were real.

dbp said...

Jason (the commenter) said...

"Secondly, Anathem by Neal Stephenson."

I am reading that right now. Yes, the first couple of hundred pages are a bit of a slog--though probably not as hard as his baroque series.

Irene said...

My favorite book in the house is a first-edition, autographed copy of Zsa Zsa Gabor's autobiography. My husband bought it for me as an engagement gift.

TerriW said...

Lichens of North America.

828 pages of lichens, lichens, LICHENS!

Why do I have it? I put it on my Amazon wish list, pretty much as a joke. I mean, it did look neat. It is also 80 bucks and weighs a zillion pounds. But, by golly, someone overlooked 100 other normal, reasonably priced other options on my list and bought it for me.

Be careful what you wish for, indeed!

Jake said...

I have three, which I know is cheating, but more fun. The first is "L'Homme Arme" by "LHS" (my grandfather). From several feet away, it is indistinguishable from any other book on the shelf. But pull it out, slide the wooden case open and find in its velvet bed a loaded Colt .45 ready to take down that intruder who is threatening your person.

The second is "Yachting", from the Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes, edited by "His Grace The Duke of Beufort, KG" and published in 1894. It appears to have been stolen from the Oriental Club in London in 1927, probably by my other grandfather.

And third is "International Law" by Soule and McCauley, published by the Naval Institute in 1925, and ex libris de one Robert Dexter Conrad, USN Midshipman First Class, Room 1151.

Captain Conrad's widow was my mother's soul mate in the little island village in Maine where I grew up. They had tea on Thursday afternoons. I only knew Captain Conrad from the scrapbook Mrs. Conrad once gave me. However, upon Googling his name for this little exercise, I find that he was quite the man! See here:


Rockport Conservative said...

We have a first edition Gray's Anatomy but it probably isn't the most unusual book we have. I am married into a family that NEVER throws away a book. We have a music education book that was my husband's great grandmother's, my husband is 73 so figure how old that book is.
It is very interesting in that it has her handwritten notes in it. We actually gave it to my older son who is very talented musically so it isn't technically in our house anymore. We also have some very delightful children's books from the early 1900's.
And a book from France brought over by an uncle during WWII. I really get tired of having soooooo many books because we are still buying them. But it is pretty neat in a way, libraries do not hang on to books very long, we have a history in our books that goes back to circa 1872 and probably earlier.

Eli Blake said...

"The Great Endurance Horse Race," an autographed copy by Jack Shaffer (the author of "Shane") about an actual horse race that ran 300 miles from Rawlins, Wyoming to Denver in the early part of last century.

My favorite book was a compilation of WWII cartoons that Dr. Seuss drew when he worked at a newspaper in New York as an editorial cartoonist. I don't have it anymore though because I donated to my kids' sixth grade teachers last year because they said they could use it every year to teach editorial cartooning.

Sydney said...

The Human Harvest by David Starr Jordan.

The dedication reads "To the memory of my brother, Rufus Bacon Jordan (1838-1862) of the "Human Harvest" of 1862. It's opening paragraph begins:

"The human harvest was bad!" Thus the historian sums up the conditions in Rome in the days of the good emperor Marcus Aurelius. By this he meant that while population and wealth were increasing, manhood had failed. There were men enough in the streets of Rome, men enough in the camps, men enough in the menial labor or in no labor at all, but of good soldiers there were too few. "Vir had given place to homo," Roman men to mere human beings.

It's a eugenic argument against war, published in 1906. His argument was that wars ruined races and nations by killing off the best and the brightest in the flower of their manhood and leaving behind the weak and ignorant to reproduce.

kjbe said...

They're not books, but from my in-laws, I've got Canadian Department of Mines & Resouces, original 4-color topoquad maps (circa1940) of Jasper & Banff National Parks.

What's cool about them is that deep into each park are vast unknown & unmapped areas. Very cool for this geographer. My inlaws picked them up on their honeymoon. They're now framed in my living room.

Kirby Olson said...

The mathematical probability of Christ's return, by a 17th century mathematician named Craige. Christ will return in 3156, according to Craige.

bearing said...

Hm, I have a children's biography of Bartolomé de las Casas.

chuck b. said...

I had the first English translation of Mein Kampf. My grandmother gave it to my grandfather as an anniversary present (from the inscription) in the 1930s. I sold it on Ebay to someone in Australia.

Donna B. said...

I have Walworth's Catalog '47 of valves, firttings, pipe, wrenches. And the Catalog and Engineering Data Book, number 111 from the same year.

Both this books were taken from my father-in-law's house and tucked inside them are his 1963 tax return and numerous memos from Philips Petroleum.

Those books contain information about tools, valves, and welding that is still a bit useful today.

The most useless book still on our shelves is Home VCR Repair Illustrated. Yep, we're going to be referring back to that one 50 years from now.

Athena DePaul said...

Trying to decide between 1) a history of British Naval operations from 1625-1815, 2) a companion cookbook to a historical fiction series about British naval officers in 1812 or so, and 3) Dr. Axelrod's condensed atlas of freshwater fish.

I live in the desert, so I'm unnaturally attracted to anything remotely water-related.

Cedarford said...

Most unusual book I ever had would have to be the 200-205 page British WWI Field Manual I found at a yard sale, complete with a collapsing carrier pidgeon hut, little message tubes, and folding feed bins and water trays.

The manual was entitled "Use of Carrier Pidgeons: What Every Messenger Must Know Of His Duty".

How to erect the hut, care of pidgeons on the battlefield (including batting to shield pidgeons from sounds of loud explosions, training to achieve reliable homing, one-time or one-day codebook use when the Germans jammed radio, best tactics for deployment when Germans were using anti-pidgeon countermeasures (trained hawks, bird netting, shotguns, decoy pidgeons).

The kit and the book appear never used.

Revenant said...

The most unusual book in your house.

A children's book called "The Elephant Who Likes to Smash Small Cars".

Revenant said...

My favorite book was a compilation of WWII cartoons that Dr. Seuss drew when he worked at a newspaper in New York as an editorial cartoonist.

The interesting thing about that book (aside from the weirdness of Seuss having done editorial cartoons) is that it shows that the arguments we're having over Iraq and the War on Terror were had over WW2 as well -- the exact same arguments. And not just in 1939-1941, but all the way up through the end of the war. You don't often here about the folks who wanted to give up in 1943 or 1944, but there were rather a lot of them.

Clyde said...

ine would have to be The Third Millennium: A History of the World: AD 2000-3000 by Brian Stableford and David Langford, published in 1985. It's a hardback coffee table book with a hologram of a couple of acorns on the cover. The edition shown at Amazon.com has a hologram of a nautilus shell instead.

They were already on the global warming hobby horse even back then; there's a chapter about it with a photograph of the spring tide of 2025 inundating London; the book does note that global warming helped the Soviet Union with increased crop yields... Okay, they weren't perfectly prophetic.

bearbee said...

Bible written in modern Syriac about 1930ish?

The Jerusalem Bible illustrated by Salvatore Dali

A favorite is Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words

Susan said...

The most unusual book actually belongs to a friend. It is an antique book on anal diseases complete with turn-of-the-century photos of people bending over and on tables with their butts in the air waiting for anal examinations. My friend bought the book after we spent an inordinate amount of time in the back of an antique store giggling like a couple of teenagers.

sonicfrog said...

I don't know if it's unusual, except that, of all the books in the house, it's the one that stands the least chance of EVER getting read - "The World According To Al Gore".

And yes it was a "white Elephant" gift. Sitting next to it is Kevin Mitnics "Art Of Deceptioon"

AllenS said...

After reading everybody's contribution to the thread, I have to say this, man, we're a weird bunch.

sonicfrog said...

That's "Deception". "DECEPTION"!!!

Unknown said...

Uh, yeah. I don't think I'll even try to top Susan.

Anonymous said...

"Revolution and Socialist Construction in Korea". Collected speeches of Kim Il Sung, published in New York in the 1970s by some followers of the Idea of Juche.

Anonymous said...

No, it's impossible to top Susan.
I'll just add one more or the pile underneath.
"Things", volume II of the series People, Places and Things, published in London in 1954.

All kinds of fascinating quotes inside, like "Iron: the democratic metal". Or a plate illustration titled:
"Dental punch, or goat foot elevator, for drawing stumps and roots, and the English Key, for drawing teeth. Eighteen Century".

Found on a sidewalk 5 years ago and cherished ever since.

bill said...

I've already lost and it's not that unusual, but the funniest I own is The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory by Carol Adams. I'll just open it to a random page and start giggling.

Methadras said...

Without question the most unusual book in my house is The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Demonology, and the Paranormal. It's two gigantic volumes and I don't even know why I have them. Honestly, I can't even remember when I got them or where. They are just there. The second closest are my Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books. 1st edition, 1st printing. Two complete sets. My wife doesn't get why I hang onto them then I remind her why I don't nag her about some of the clothes she's got jiffy jambed in her closet that should be burned in a pile as a sacrifice to the fashion gods for past mistakes never to be worn again.

blake said...

That's "Deception". "DECEPTION"!!!

That's too bad 'cause my deceptioon skills need a lot of work.


Oh, I have a complete set of 1st ed AD&D books, too. (First run, 1st ed., even.) Never occurred to me that that was unusual. Heh.

Henry said...

I'm late to the party, but I can't pass up the subject. Thanks to a "thought-you'd-find-this-interesting" gift from my wife's mom's antique-dealer friend we have a large album titled: To Mrs. Birkbeck of Wilkes-Barre, USA.

The album of photos, lithographs, and a hand-lettered message, is a gift to Mrs. Birkbeck from the Trustees of the Primitive Methodist Sunday School in Kirkgate, England in appreciation of her donations.

My wife has made some small efforts to find either a descendant of Mrs. Birkbeck or a current trustee of the church to whom to pass it on, but to no avail.

Jeremy said...

I've got an old (mid-60s?) book on Interrogation and Interview Techniques that I bought from the school (Cal Poly) library for 50cents. I thought it would be fun because we were playing a lot of Mafia back then and I could use my Interviewing skillz to figure out who was lying. No mention of waterboarding, but it does say that sometimes you need to slap a guy around a bit.

Skylar said...

"Flushed With Pride" - a book about the invention of the flush toilet by Thomas Crapper.

SteveWe said...

TerriW: I also have Lichens of North America. It's still an unusual book to have even if two Althousians have it. Being an Althousian is unusual enough.

Let me add "The Ever-Present Origin", Jean Gebser, Ohio U. Press; "Knots and How to Tie Them", BSA, 1942 (10 cents); "The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light", Wm. Irwin Thompson.

amba said...

Okay, beat this: "Nützlicher Zeitvertreib auf dem Kranken- und Sterbebette." "Useful pastimes on the sick- and deathbed," with a subtitle something like, "in spiritually rich contemplation of certain powerful Biblical sayings to that end." Published 1753, with several generations of pensive inscriptions in Gothic script on the flyleaves from and to various of my husband's ancestors.

Ann Althouse said...

Amba... wow. "Pastimes" ... I was thinking puzzles and games... but apparently not. So it's more: things to do while dying to improve your chances in the afterlife.

Scott M said...

Dick Clark's Easygoing Guide to Good Grooming. One of my ex-girlfriends gave it to me as a joke.

Duncan said...

Oxford English Dictionary 1st Edition in Blue Leather 12 volumes + 1 supplement.

Basically the 1933 OED 1st.

rsf said...

Oh, I love The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars! I tell that one to the kids at the library all the time.

The most unusual book I have is buried at home, so I don't remember the title, but it's a paperback autobiography of the entertainer who was "The Judge" (as in "here come da judge") on Laugh-In.

Or possibly the history of fire, written for children in the fifties, which is already talking about peak oil and the need to switch over to solar power...

wormme said...

Okay, Susan's isn't to be topped, but mine is "The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases", which includes a few imaginary anal ailments. Does that count?