Alembic Blog

Victorian Advertising Paradise - A Chromolithographic Pharmacy Catalogue

Imagine walking into a drug store and seeing these exuberant, enticing labels all around you. They're part of what's probably the most colourful item in our stock at the moment: a chromolithographic pharmacy catalogue dating from the 1890s.

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Carriages Without Horses Shall Go: One of the First Books About Cars

There's no question that automobiles were one of the most transformative technologies of the 20th century, and the rise of autonomous vehicles will continue that tradition of innovation. But in the 1890s cars were little more than a novelty, and few were prescient enough to predict the automotive revolution. One who did was the British engineer Alfred Robert Sennett, whose book "Carriages Without Horses Shall Go" was one of the first books on automobiles. 

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Victorian Women & STEM Education: A Prize Book Awarded by the Edinburgh Ladies' Educational Association

Tomorrow is Ada Lovelace Day, when we celebrate women in the sciences, so over the next few days I'll be highlighting recent acquisitions that show the long history of women's engagement with STEM subjects. The first is a copy of John Herschel's Outlines of Astronomy that's directly connected to the Victorian movement for women's higher education.

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Victorian Machines & Manufacturing: The Boy's Book of Industrial Information

New in the shop is The Boy's Book of Industrial Information, a delightful illustrated children's book on Victorian technology.
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A Wheel Within a Wheel: Bicycles & Women's Rights

As specialist in science and technology I'm not interested in discoveries and inventions only for their own sake, but also for how they affect people's everyday lives, sometimes in unexpected ways. A wonderful example is the adoption of the bicycle by late-19th century women as both a practical tool and a symbol of freedom. In A Wheel Within A Wheel: How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle (1895), the American suffragist leader Frances Willard describes her attempts to master this new technology, as well her belief that the bicycle will transform women's lives and their fight for equal rights.

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What Does Sloth Taste Like? A Victorian Guide to Meats of the World

As a rare book seller you spend a lot of time working with books you already know pretty well, the famous or infamous works that have had an out-sized impact on history. But the most fun part of the job lies in the chance encounters - in finding the strange, unusual and near-forgotten volumes that can teach us about the past. Recently I found remarkable Victorian book on how animals were used for food around the world: The Animal Food Resources of Different Nations with Mention of Some of the Special Dainties of Various People Derived from the Animal Kingdom (1885), by Peter Lund Simmonds. In addition to providing detailed information and statistics on the usual domestic and game animals, the book contains passages on the preparation and flavour of a staggering number of exotic creatures.

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A School Prize Binding Inscribed by William Thomson, Baron Kelvin

Today's featured book is a wonderful find - a volume given to a student by the famous physicist William Thomson, Baron Kelvin. Though Thomson is best known today for his groundbreaking work on energy and heat, including the development of the temperature scale that bears his name, he also had an important career as a teacher, and this book is inscribed to one of his physics students at the University of Glasgow.

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Victorian Infographics: Reynolds's Pictorial Atlas of Arts, Sciences, Manufactures, & Machinery

One of the most exciting aspects of recent print & design culture is a renewed emphasis on infographics. But we're certainly not the first generation to be caught up in the visual display of information. In Europe and the United States the Victorian Era saw a flowering of infographics as the industrialisation of printing made it easier and cheaper to create books with detailed colour illustrations.

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