Things Not Generally Known – 1859

This little book printed in 1859 is an interesting collection of historical and social facts, very pertinent to the times in which it was written. I thought it might be fun to take a look at how they wrote, seeing as we are into writing. Life was so amazingly different over 200 years ago, thoughts, attitudes, manners, inventions, science and medicine are absolutely nothing like today. I randomly chose snippets of information to compare with today’s grammar, spelling and punctuation.

 Wearing the Watch.

The Wearing of a Watch was, till late times, considered in some degree as a mark and proof of gentility; though the invention may be traced back to the 14th century. Watches were even worn ostentatiously hung round the neck to a chain; which fashion has been revived in female dress.

• I didn’t know the watch dated back to the 14th century.

 The Paschal Light.

This was an enormously thick wax-candle, which was lighted on the morning of Easter Day; the wax itself being curiously adorned with grains of incense, and inscribed with the epact, dominical letter, &c.; also the names of the reigning pope, king, and bishop of the diocese, and the date of the consecration of the church.-Hart’s Ecclesiastical Records, &c.

 The Dinner Hour.

The proper Hour for Dinner is laid down by Thomas Cogan, a physician, in a book entitled the Haven of Health, printed in 1584, as follows:
When foure hours bee past after breakfast, a man may safely take his dinner; and the most Convenient time for dinner is about eleven of the clocke before noone. The usuall time for dinner in the universities is at eleven, or elsewhere about noon.

 Juniper.

It was formerly supposed that the wood of Juniper, when once lighted, would remain on fire a whole year if covered with its own ashes. Hence Ben Johnson, in the Alchemist, talk s of the “coal of juniper,” which the tobacconist kept for his customers to light their pipes from.-Nares’s Glossary.

 The Days of the Week.

Ancient deeds are frequently dated the day of the week on which there were executed, e.g. Die Jovis, Die Mercurii, &c.; each day being dedicated to a heathen deity , as follows:

• Dies Solis………………..Sunday
• Dies Lunae……………..Monday
• Dies Martis…………….Tuesday
• Dies Mercurii…………Wednesday
• Dies Jovis……………..Thursday
• Dies Veneris…………Friday
• Dies Saturni………….Saturday

In some ancient deeds we find the equivalent terms Dies Dominica for Sunday, and Dies Sabbati for Saturday.

These Latin designations are also generally used in entries in the account-books of surgeons and apothecaries.

 March-Pane.

This, one of the glories of olden confectionery, is a sweet biscuit, composed of sugar and almonds, like those now called macaroons. It is also called massepain in some old books. The word March-pane exists, with little variation, in almost all the European languages; yet the derivation of it is uncertain. In the Latin of the Middle Ages, March-panes were called Martiipanes.

• In Australia this same sweet is called Marzipan, still made with sugar and almonds hundred of years later. Do you have this sweet in the U.S.? Does it have the same name and do you use it underneath the hard white icing on Wedding cakes?

 How To Avoid Sleepless Nights.

Mr. A. J. Ellis has announced to the Scottish Curative Mesmeric Association, that persons wishing to avoid sleepless nights should lie with their heads to the north, and not on any account lie with their heads to the west.

• I added this for my friend’s who suffer from insomnia. This may be valuable advice. Turn you bed around and see if you sleep better; let us all know if it works.

The language in this book is old fashioned, and the spelling is giving my Word Document software a fit with all the different spellings, there are little red squiggly lines littered all over the page. That alone makes this book very interesting, as the changes in the English language over hundreds of years are immense. The differences in punctuation are also quite remarkable. I wonder if the American form of English has changed so much in the last 200 years? I am interested to know how much it has changed and in what ways.

The example of English from the year 1584 reminds us that language is always evolving, changing to suit the times. It is interesting how language models itself around new inventions, scientific developments, economic and business prosperity and of course the social changes that are constantly occurring in our world.

Old books contain information that allows us to look back into a world we will never see again. I believe they give us much better insight into the past than modern day historians. We can never go back to living in those times, but we do write about them and original books of factual information are invaluable to us as writers.

4 Replies to “Things Not Generally Known – 1859”

  1. Wow! That’s very interesting stuff, Eaton. Is the book you have actually published in 1859? Gadzooks, that would be cool!

    We have Marzipan too, though I don’t like it much.

    I will have to see about moving my bed. My head is currently at the West! *lol*

    Lovely post, and if the book really is that old – post a picture!

  2. Wow! Amazing the difference in how they wrote then. I could barely understand what they were saying. The knowledge is laughable, making me wonder if people really believed there was a ‘correct’ time to eat and that a university could dictate it.
    I too have seen marzipan, it is used in wedding cakes here in Utah, but by no means is the most popular choice. My mother makes wedding cakes and says that it’s hard surface is much easier to decorate than the traditional frosting, so bakers tend to recommend it for their more ‘challenging’ orders.
    I have slept with my head to the north for the past 25 years and ‘never’ had a problem sleeping, there may be some truth to that one. ~wink~
    I’m with Liz, I wonder what people will say about our books in the future?

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