Last week, I stumbled upon a treasure. I picked up a rather non-descript looking book, meaning that it resembled a great many other books in any community museum collection; neither small nor large, brown leather creased and cracked cover which had become detached, the lettering on the spine faded. Lifting off the detached front cover of the book, I read the main title – “The Modern Dictionary of Arts and Sciences” (which in this year of 2011, made me chuckle) and then the sub title – “ Or Complete System of Literature” (to which my first reaction was “oh, because those two titles soooo go together....NOT!)
Right there, the titles intrigued me; told me this was a book worth looking into. Ideas and concepts change over time and if I run across a concept which does not make sense to me now, after a little research I find out that it did...at one time. Upon further examination of the book, 3 other details leapt out at me, one after the other. No. 1 – The paper was not wood pulp paper, but a beautiful (though stained) heavy, rag paper. No.2 – The ‘blocks’ of printing on each page were not identical, some of them were off, or slanted and the letters themselves were not perfectly identically even. And No. 3 – Throughout the book, most of the letter ‘s’ were written as a stylized ‘f’, which means (since the book was printed in England) that it was printed before 1810, which is when they stopped using this style of printing.After more research, only one original printing date surfaced, all the way from the National Library of Australia. The Modern Dictionary of Arts and Sciences Or Complete System of Literature was printed in 1774.