A friend of mine is a library technician at the university library. Recently, he’s been cataloguing the sundry textbooks which have been donated to the achieves over the years. From time to time I’ll drop in and see what’s on his cart. One day I spotted a reader I used in grade school, The Dog Next Door, published by Ginn & Company in 1971. I like rediscovering books I used as a child and looking to see how well (or more often how poorly) they were designed. What effect does the typographic landscape have on you in your formative years?
Another day, my friend at the library told me that while cataloguing a little textbook he’d stumbled across a student’s drawing of his professor, the poet Charles G.D. Roberts (1860-1943). Which book? I wanted to know. Did you take a photo? Did you include this detail in the bibliographic entry? He pursed his lips and said he’d have to get back to me. He’d been through a lot of textbooks, you have to understand.
A week or two later he emailed to say that he’s turned up the book again. It was a tiny Greek primer, The Alcestis of Euripides, with short English notes for the use of schools, published by Oxford in 1864. The book seems to have moved through the hands of a number of students, but the last owner (and the apparent cartoonist, based on the handwriting) was one Asa James Crockett (1870–1966). Crockett was born in Wine Harbour, NS. After graduating from the Pictou Academy, he earned a BA and an MA from Acadia, which is most likely where he aquired this textbook and encountered Roberts.
Almost every available space in the tiny book was filled with annotations and drawings, including this fist.
Crockett went on to be a juvenile court judge in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. And I have to wonder if, from time to time, he did not resume his old habit of doodling while taking notes while on the bench.
ANDREW STEEVES ¶ PRINTER & PUBLISHER