Landgirl 1980: I love old things. From frocks, films and photos to bags and books. Ah… old books. Actual, bendable, page-fold-downable ones, made of paper and bound –  and small enough to fit on your hand bag. Coloured in deep blues, reds and greens, with age spots and a slight wiff of damp –  I adore them. I have been known to buy them instantly if they are inscribed and dated. The fact that they once belonged to someone, usually 70+ years ago, as is my collection, makes me feel warm.

Part of my exstensive collection (30 and counting) are copies of Shakespearian plays. They range from hard to soft backed, have been scribbled in and are well thumbed. I like to imagine an actor learning their lines. Perhaps a long past student taking down notes from a teacher. Maybe a lover seeking a romantic quote for the object of their affection.The delights I am sharing with you today are The Tempest (1904), Hamlet (1919) and King Richard III  (c1943).

The Tempest is an acting edition from His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, Scotland. I am intrigued that this copy inscribed “Clara Alexander from RBAE 1904” when the theatre didn’t open until 1906 –  but either way –  it is an antique, with the speckled spots to prove it. And beautiful illustrations. And the smell of shed. It leaves a the slight grime of age on my fingers when I leaf through it’s chunky paper pages. I romanticise over who it belonged too, which part did they play? Was Clara Alexander a long haired, corsetted Miranda? I shall never know.

Second up is one of my all time favourite plays –  Hamlet. I basically taught this to myself after significant abandonment by my then teacher who could not have been less interested. I became mildly obsessed. I own 4 old copies of this complex addition to Mr Shakespeares reportoire. This copy is a small, faux leather bound copy dated 1919. There are no notes or illustrations, but there are some pages folded down, which makes me wonder if the previous owner had found favorite quotes within it’s leaves. A convalescing soldier maybe, stuck within the confines of starched bed sheets, trying to make sense of it all. Perhaps.

Lastly is Richard III. This is a Junior Edition, with Girls’ Grammar School, Ilminster, Somerset faintly stamped into the front. A student copy for sure, with R.Dibble and T. Reynolds pencilled underneath. No dates of printing or hand written numerals to give me a real clue as to it’s age. However, a few pages in and there is a War Economy Standard notification. Ah ha! A bit of research later and I can share that, by 1940, paper production had been cut by 60% in the UK.

A voluntary agreement between the Ministry of Supply and the Publisher Association agreed codes of publishing which set standard paper thickness, print size, font and words per page. Publishers who decided not to join faced their rationed supply being cut further. The demand for books grew during the World War II – escapsim in your pocket if you like – with paper rationing ended in 1949. What had the students been through? How had the war affected these young women? What did they face when their education came to an end? Who can say.

And there we have it –  a glimpse at my pre-loved, mildly pleasing on the nostrils, grubby collection of plays.

Until next time – forsooth and merrily – fare thee well.

LandGirl1980 is Charly Surry, a gal with a penchant for history, head-scarves and humour.

Charly is a full time retro dressing, history book reading, letter writing (the pen & paper kind), old recipe trying, hair setting, red lippy wearing, cat loving lass. The female role within both World Wars grabs her interest most, but she also has a thing for Anne Boleyn and Royal History in general. Partial to listening to music genres that are too loud for her ears, she knows pretty much all the words to We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel. Charly runs Well Rounded Retro, an Etsy shop stocking mainly plu-sized vintage and retro.

2 Responses

  1. Jackie B

    I have a new testament and psalms book from 1916 which is not much bigger than the palm of my hand, very very small type though! It belong to my grandmother x