Friday, February 16, 2018

Trout Fishing in America

We just picked up a beautiful copy of a 1960s classic that inspired a generation of hipsters to try to write novels: the first printing of Richard Brautigan's Trout Fishing in America. The cover art declares itself as a hippy bible, though Brautigan was fairly cynical about the younger generation that adored his work.

A blurb on the back cover says it all:
Mr. Brautigan submitted a book to us in 1962 called TROUT FISHING IN AMERICA. I gather from the reports that it was not about trout fishing--The Viking Press.
Needless to say, our first edition is not published by Viking but by the Four Seasons Foundation in San Francisco. To take a look, ask for Rare PR3503.R2736 T767 1967.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

To Each his Own

Diagram from Woodcok's patent showing arangement of desks on the diagonalHave you ever wondered whether there was a reason for the arrangement of student desks in school rooms? Well, in 1855, Virgil Woodcock of Swanzey, New Hampshire, did. A carpenter by profession, Woodcock argued that his “Diagonal Arrangement,” which included favoring single desks over double desks, had many benefits. Firstly, it would provide each student with “a separate desk and chair” thereby giving the student “full control of his books and writing.” In addition, he declared that this arrangement “releases every one from any interference with another and gives to all the privilege of inhaling the pure air, without taking it second handed from the one sitting near him.”

From his description it appears that the separation of one student from another was the key thinking behind his idea,
[N]o one scholar can see the face of another without one of the two being at right or left half face. When school is called to procession, all can rise at once and step into files in the aisles without coming in contact with one another.
Trying to sell this new concept to teachers, he pointed out to them that “scholars are more directly in view of the teacher, and can therefore be kept in better order, which greatly diminishes the labor of the teacher.”

Woodcock submitted his arrangement to the US Patent office and on March 6, 1855, was granted a patent “for the term of fourteen years.”

Woodcock’s pamphlet is part of a notebook containing signatures of school commissioners, teachers and other notables approving of the new arrangement, some of whom also provided Woodcock with affidavits to that effect. Both items are part of Codex 003426.