Books on the Nightstand, Books on the Kindle, Part Two
Art books for less than half their listed price, old out-of-print books for free, books that I didn’t even know existed now magically recommending themselves to me, huge books that can now fit in my purse – these are just some of the things I love about e-books. Here are a few I’m carrying around with me now.
First is a public-domain book that has given me lots of new insights on the American Civil War era. In the past, I read a lot about it, but for some reason I never considered that it might have had an impact outside the US. I knew that the South hoped that Great Britain would come in on its side, because of the relationship that they had in the cotton business, and that Great Britain decided it had had enough of trouble in America by that point, and declined to do so. But I never knew that this had a huge economic impact on Great Britain, throwing thousands of textile workers into unemployment. Home Life of the Lancashire Factory Folk during the Cotton Famine was written about these issues in 1862, by Edwin Waugh.
Since there was of course no safety net back then, the factory workers were starving, and relief efforts had sprung up around England. Mr. Waugh wrote this as a series of columns for the Manchester Examiner and Times, to persuade readers that these relief efforts were worth contributing to. He described the virtues of the workers, the extreme distress they were suffering, and the thoughtful oversight of those people who were trying to administer aid.
It is a difficult book to read, partly because there are long sections where Waugh quoted the workers, reproducing their dialect and slang. I can follow the gist but not the detail. But mostly it’s hard to read so many descriptions of such extreme poverty – families that have had to sell off all their furniture and even their blankets, little “shops” where the only things left to sell are a few empty bottles and a mug of buttermilk, soup kitchens where the recipients have to bring their own cup or bowl to get a portion of soup. This is one of those books that makes you see “the good old days” in a clearer light.
A modern book that covers the same era (and much more) is Tracing Your Textile Ancestors by Vivien Teasdale. When I bought it, I didn’t pay enough attention to the description to know that it focuses on Great Britain. The information on finding and using British historical records is detailed and thorough, but since I’m not much of a genealogist and don’t have any British ancestors, I don’t really need all that info. However, it has also has good summaries of the history and processes in the different textile industries – silk, wool, cotton, linen, etc. So if you are curious about that, this is a good succinct source.
OK, I’ve dealt with the books I feel I should read, now on to the ones that are just sheer joy. For years I’ve longed for those huge art books, but just didn’t feel I could spend the money or spare the room to store them. With e-books, I can afford both the price and the storage space. One of my favorites is Quilts Around the World by Spike Gillespie. It has over 300 illustrations of all kinds of quilt, from five continents. Another favorite is Textiles by Bobbie Sumberg. This is a collection from the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It has over 100 photographs of clothing, ceremonial and decorative textiles from all over the world. The reason I love both of these books is that they take me outside my familiar conceptions of textiles and give me fresh ideas.
I don’t want to infringe on any copyrights, but I also don’t want to have a post without any pictures, so here are a couple of textiles that my thoughtful sister-in-law brought me back from her travels in South America. These are the kinds of things you would see in Textiles. (And for more, you can check out their online exhibitions.)