March. March! Part of me is screaming “How is it March already? How?” while another part of me is yelling “Yay, Spring at last!”. My favourite season has arrived. There is not much I can do about January and February having flown by, so I am embracing Spring. The weather may not have picked up much, but the temperatures at least are a little higher now and there are pockets of sunshine every few days.
Last week I used one such sunny hour to go for an early morning amble in the garden and see if there was much sign of life. The back garden is still a sea of mud from a combination of rain, children and chickens pelting the lawn. It was in the little-frequented front garden front garden that Spring is creeping in. Crocuses and snowdrops, sheltered by shrubs, have burst through the soil and are in bloom.
With no windows looking our onto those first flowers of Spring, I picked a posie and brought them indoors to give the house a taste of Springtime. As I arranged them, I noticed the book the boys had left on the table. A compact world history for schoolgirls, published in 1900 in Leipzig. The old German typeface is tricky to read, but the boys have persevered and spent ages poring over the drawings and reading the captions.
I began to browse it myself, drawn in by the typeface. I love that lettering and fonts have some back into vogue. Soon the illustrations had me enthralled too. My interest was less in the Roman soldiers and the battles which had the children captivated and more in the architectural drawings. The detail! You wouldn’t find such beauty in a schoolbook nowadays. Granted, children now can see photos of the buildings shown as sketches in this book. But I doubt that many a schoolbook from 2017 will be hanging around in 117 years’ time.
Even the notes made by the schoolchild who used the book are fascinating to me. Than handwriting is so neat, putting my own to shame. I happened to turn to the page where the Reformation is detailed. 1517. That’s four hundred years ago now. It is being celebrated in Germany through various events this year. We’ve even got an extra bank holiday for the occasion.
How far we have come in the time since the publication of this book is clear when you read the chapter title The Reformation to the Present, 1517 – 1888. The 1880s were very recent to the date of publication and probably the decade of birth of the schoolchild using the book. To us the 1880s are deep in history. Those were the times of Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper and Queen Victoria. It was the decade of Jesse James, Billy the Kid and Ned Kelly. Karl Benz and Thomas Edison were bringing cars and electric light to the world. Christmas trees became popular. Impressionism was moving towards post-Impressionism. The first ever music recording were made. Thinking about all this I realised that the 1880s could almost be viewed as Spring in itself, ushering the changes that the 20th century would embrace.