Author: Leah Price
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Leah Price must love, cherish and honor all things about, related to and involving books in the 1900s. Her book How To Do Things With Books In Victorian Britain conveys her dedication, knowledge and writing skills in regard to the art of books and reading.
This off-white linen hard-bound book is covered with a gray jacket of cut roses made out of white with black written pages. The book is three hundred and fifty pages. Of those numbered pages, eighteen are dedicated to an introduction, twenty-eight for notes, thirty-two for works cited and a twenty-two page index. There are twenty black and white illustrations throughout the seven chapters and a conclusion. There was no noticeable grammar or typographical errors.
This book is geared to those deeply involved and entrenched in the Victorian era of English writing as it cites authors such as Dickens, Trollope, Collins and Mayhew along with the Bible. Chapters dissect actual novels, religious tracts and biographies, commenting on specific sentences or paragraphs and how they relate to books, the opinions of books, the types of readers and the cultural outcome of such books during the 1900s.
Price does an excellent job in explaining the how and why of books during the era by discussing how the readers perceived themselves (men read newspapers to learn world events while women read novels that kept them away from their daily chores), the economical and social status of owning, reading or reciting books and how printed paper was mostly thrown away during the era. Often it mentions books related to the Bible and how they were promoted, popularized or shunned.
The title of this book tends to be deceiving as it is not actually how to do things with a book (meaning a physical project, exercise or task), but more of a history of the evolution of books during the time period. Based on the title alone, I expected more of show-and-tell book showing what Victorian society did with the books themselves. Granted Price mentions using books/newspapers to hide behind to avoid a spouse or use as wastepaper, but I did not see mentioned using a Bible for smacking a ganglion cyst on the wrist (perhaps this was before the 1900s). For this reader who has been out of college for decades, it was a challenge to remember the storyline of some of the books (example: David Copperfield) so missed some of Price’s humor or nuances.
Due to the subject matter, this book would be ideal for a university or college class room setting as a wonderful resource tool when discussing an author of the Victorian age. Price does a great job in getting her point across about her findings and the reader learns about the types of books and their viewpoints.
Posted May 2012: