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Kickin' it Old School
March 9, 2014 6:57 AM   Subscribe

Each week for a year, the folks in the special collections library at the University of St. Andrews are taking a how-to book from the collection and following its instructions for a project, in order to get a clearer sense of what life was like a century or two ago. Thus far in 52 Weeks of Historical How-Tos, they've learned how to make shoe polish like an 1825 footman, bake mince pie from 10 different recipes dating from 1710-1862, perform parlour tricks to amaze your friends, and take photographs via the wet collodion process.
posted by Horace Rumpole (10 comments total) 96 users marked this as a favorite

 
What a cool project. I'm kind of curious to try the lemon mince pie.
posted by Diablevert at 7:37 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


I love mince pie. I'm going to try every last recipe, and thank you very much, Horace Rumpole!
posted by jfuller at 8:25 AM on March 9


We held a similar event to the evening of parlour tricks a while back - a night of classic Victorian seance and spiritualism. Ghost stories were told, a Ouija board was consulted until the planchette started moving on its own (due to the power of rare earth magnets), slight of hand and mentalism performances allowed our master of ceremonies to read minds, phantom knocking was heard, a phrenology bust started weeping blood (with the help of chemistry) and then I emitted spectral ectoplasm from the mouth as the spirits left my form, vanishing up into the shrouded ceiling (and terrifying the dog). With some chanting and a burst of green flame, the MC managed to banish the fell spirit before anyone's soul was imperiled. A fine evening indeed!
posted by FatherDagon at 10:10 AM on March 9 [8 favorites]


Pancakes!
posted by latkes at 10:25 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]


This is excellent, thank you.
posted by werkzeuger at 11:09 AM on March 9


That's. Fucking. Awesome.
posted by the_royal_we at 4:51 PM on March 9


"Many of the listed chemicals are highly corrosive or lethal" Yep.
posted by poe at 6:05 PM on March 9


I think they made a few too many substitutions in the shoe black recipe. Ivory black is the same thing as bone char, which is still pretty widely available. Also, small beer wasn't just low alcohol beer, it could have a thicker consistency depending on the recipe. Some things there's probably just no modern analogue, like spermaceti.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 6:39 AM on March 10


A couple of other interesting things about spermaceti:

1. It's found in a sperm whale's head, and no one is really sure what biological process it performs.

2. The candlepower unit of measurement for illumination is based on a pure spermaceti candle.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 6:41 AM on March 10


What a nice little book Parlour Magic seems to be. I wonder if a reprint in some format would be viable.
posted by Segundus at 5:53 AM on March 14


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