Dartmouth College Library Bulletin
DO YOU know the recipe for a 'bath tonic for flabby flesh'? Or, what do the three groups of digits in your Social Security number indicate? If you wanted to, would you know how to make a tobacco stain to use on pine wood? These and hundreds of other such queries can be answered by checking books now in the Reference Room, as well as others in the stacks.
A volume of this kind that has gone through many editions (the Library does not have the latest at this time) is the reference collection's 1944 edition of Henleys Twentieth Century Book of Formulas Processes and Trade Secrets; A Valuab1e Reference Book for the Home, Factory, Office, La60ratory and the Workshop. 1 Turn to this to see how one puts together white vinegar, rosemary, rue, camphor, and lavender to take care of that flabby flesh. If the intent is not so salubrious try making the arsenical weed killer. For any do-it- from-scratcher there are recipes from making automobile wax paste polish to making baking powders. If the business is one of making inks, there are five or so pages offering a variety from which to choose. Who today polishes shoes? Not so many of us -- but four pages will explain various mixes for doing it. The subtitle of our edition describes this work as 'A Valuable Reference Book for the Home, Factory, Of fice, Laboratory and the Workshop Containing Ten Thousand Selected Household, Workshop and Scientific Formulas, Trade Secrets, Chemical Recipes, Processes and Money Saving Ideas for Both the Amateur and Professional Worker.' The best way to appreciate the amount of information in this book is to browse through it. A perusal of a continuous run of Henley, first published in 1907 and dropping old recipes while adding new ones, would offer a perspective on how everyday life has changed.
Today there are many how-to-do-it guides published but none is as wide-ranging in topics covered as Henley is. The Henley volume might be seen as a development from other kinds of books. For example, nineteenth-century household guides tended to include not only directions for preparing food dishes but, as Beeton's Book of Household Management2 did, included instructions for household helpers (cooks,butlers, coachmen, lady's maid, upper and under house-maids, and the like) as well as legal memoranda, and a section entitled 'The Doctor' where remedies of various sorts are given. A scanning of the old accounts of early physicians shows that they frequently include recipes for wines and other things in addition to strictly medicinal potions. Perhaps present-day versions of the collections of recipes and formulas might be the newspaper columns and books of Heloise, such as Heloises Housekeeping Hints and Heloise from A to Z3 as well as Vermont's own 'Ask Anne & Nan' column, which appears regularly in the Vermont Sunday Magazine, published with the Sunday Rutland Herald and the Sunday Argus Times.4
Two other reference books, though not collections of recipes, or formulas, or how-to-do-it instructions, are useful compilations of facts and figures of potential use. First, there is Mary Blocksma's Reading the Numbers; A Survival Guide to the Measurements, Numbers, and Sizes Encountered in Everyday Life5 In addition to explaining the facts and figures of clothing sizes, babies', men's and women's, and children's (pp. 33- 37), the reader can also discover why a man with 'a largish head' will take a size 8 hat and a 'small-headed'women might take a size 2I (pp. 92-93) . If bar codes intrigue you (as they did President Bush), see pages 7-11 for an explanation of them. For house builders the discussion of insulation on pages 99-104 will help determine how much insulation is needed depending upon what zone the building is in. There is concern today about the constant barrage of loud music that many persons afflict upon themselves and others. The discussion of 'Loudness' on pages 170-172 lists a range of decibels and the effect on hearing and provides examples, running from leaves rustling to a jet taking off.
The second is International Time Tables by Gary L. Fitzpatrick6 of which the compiler says (p. iii), 'The basic principle of this volume is that the time under a specific column in one time table is directly comparable to the time under the same column for any other time table.' TheAmerican Reference BookAnnual for I99I notes (Item 1757) that 'If librarians in El Paso, Texas, want to call colleagues in Thimphu, Bhutan, how do they easily determine what time it is in Asia? What time is it in London when it is 2:00 p.m. in Honolulu? Does Mexico City observe Advanced Time (Daylight Savings Time) ? These practical questions and more can easily answered with this handy reference work. Its purpose is tO make "it possible to determine time relationships of places around the world and to visualize those time relationships over the spectrum of a full day."' Read the introduction on pages iii-vii, and even if you are not a librarian, you will be able to answer your own 'what time is it in' questions.
Many other compilations could be mentioned--for example, of weights and measures with conversion tables, of calendars (and perpetual calendars) showing how to convert from one form to another. This brief article simply suggests the variety of helpful volumes that are available.
1.(New York: The Norman W. Henley Publishing Company, 1944).
2.Beeton, Isabella Mary (Mayson), The Book of Household Management (London: S. O. Beeton, 1861 [New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969]).
3.(Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall,I962); (New York: Perigree Books, 1991).
4.Anne (Adams) and Nan (Nancy Walker) have published their own book, AskAnne eiNan (Brattleboro, Vt.: Whetstone Pub., 1989).
5.(New York: Viking, 1989).
6. (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1990).