This past weekend I was rummaging through a used book store in Providence, Rhode Island and came across some great buys. The first book that caught my eye was entitled Naval Knots and Them What Tied ‘Em. I’m always on the lookout for a good old fashioned knot book and saw right off that this was a keeper. It was written by Heathcliff G. Sanderson who most of you will recall was the Knottier-in-Chief of the Department of the Navy in the early 19th century and coined the famous phrase, “Knot without a fight!” during the War of 1812. Naturally, I snatched this little treasure up and added it to my library.
The second find of the day was a suprisingly well-kept 3rd printing of Blargle & Feeney’s Treatise on the Grooming of Excessive Body-Hair for the Modern Mountaineer, first published in 1794 but subsequently given a dozen print runs due to the explosive popularity of the tome. It features such rich and indisputable advice as “If it’s cumbersome, take your time” as well as a number of classic chapters like “101 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Braid” and “Why Real Mountaineers Shave with an Axe.” I’m still on the lookout for one of the elusive first editions so if anyone comes across one, please let me know.
The final discovery of the day was a rare printing of the stageplay Petticoats and Corn! along with a handwritten set of stage directions tucked between the pages. The play was an initial failure when it debuted in the theatre district of Wilmington, NC in the late 18th century but has since come to be known as a play that was so far ahead of its time that it prefigured many of the great Broadway musicals of the modern era. A cursory read through supports this claim. The play features an army of doomed frenchmen singing about love, liberty, and revolution, a memorable singing cat, and a strange third act involving the heroine and an overbearing vocal tutor that lives in a cave beneath the theatre and plays creepy music on his bagpipe. The choice of bagpipe seems rather odd to me and I wonder if it contributed to the play’s poor reception by the critical establishment of the day.
The good news is that among the handwritten pages of the play, I found a letter dated January 5th, 1776 and bearing the initials “FB”. Hard to believe, I know. So, I have spent countless hours transcribing the letter and am now happy to present it to you on the Letters to Peter page. Enjoy.