While reprocessing our Rare Book collections, we often come across unusual volumes. We enjoyed finding two volumes of The Gentleman’s Companion. Volume I is titled An Exotic Cookery Book and volume II is titled An Exotic Drinking Book. Both were donated to NSLM by Paul Mellon in 1957, and both are indeed exotic! Many of the recipes are as outlandish today as they were when the books were published in 1939.

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From Randolph Caldecott’s “Graphic” Pictures, 1898. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Broiled Turtle Steaks, a Isla de Pinos, Being a Receipt from an American Pineapple Planter in Estates there before Our Government Returned the Island to Cuba.
Steaks may be from green, hawkbill or loggerhead turtles, but not too thick or too aged — 1/2″ to 3/4″ thickness is correct. Rub with cut lime vigorously so as to get oil from peel into steak, rub with a cut clove of garlic, sprinkle with salt and let stand in squeezed juice lime for 1 hour. Brush with lots of olive oil and broil like any steak over coals or under broiler, seasoning to taste.

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“More Friends and Less Need of Them,” from Involuntary Thoughts Henry Alken, 1824. National Sporting Library & Museum.

The book includes handy advice for how to prepare its meals, “exploding” the “old wives’ tales” associated with cooking. But many entries simply give hints on how to spice up preexisting recipes or give direction as to who might enjoy the dish.

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From Randolph Caldecott’s “Graphic” Pictures, 1898. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Wine Jelly, a la Tsarina, which is another Delicate Remembrance from the Grandly Royal Days of Old Russia
We include this as suggestion for a wine jelly dish to be sent to the bedside of a favourite hospital patient, or invalid, as a taste-change from usual wabbly desserts dietitians seem to delight in inflicting on helpless souls. … Put jelly moulds on ice where they will get really chilled. Fill with any good usual wine jelly flavoured with the fruit which is the favourite of the subject, and sherry, being careful not to pass the half-way mark in the mould — retaining equal amount of the jelly. … While this last is still liquid, add 1 jigger of Gilka kummel, and whip with an egg beater so diligently that it grows white and thick. Put enough into moulds to fill, and chill very cold indeed.

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From Randolph Caldecott’s “Graphic” Pictures, 1898. National Sporting Library & Museum.

As for the exotic drinks, there are plenty of unusual concoctions and advice as well.

The Bird of Paradise, a Colorful, Eye-Filling Experience We Found in Signing Our Names to the Book at the Strangers Club, Colon, Panama
This strange little club has many famous names in its logbook, Robinson from the SVAAP, Alain Gerbault, poor Dick Halliburton whom we first met in Singapore before he flew to Sarawak in 1932, sitting at table with Ruth Elder and Walter Camp. We always have found a welcome there during the 10 or 1 doz times we have been in the “Zone” going west to east or vice versa. … Actually this Bird of Paradise Fizz is Aziz’ Special to which 2 to 3 tsp of raspberry syrup have been added instad of the sugar, and juice of 1 1/2 limes instead of the lemon. Float on a red rose petal, or any scarlet small tropical blossom, like bougainvillea, as a final garnish. Shake hard and long.

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“Nights of Pleasure,” from Involuntary Thoughts Henry Alken, 1824. National Sporting Library & Museum.

An entertaining entry is how “To Salvage a Guest from the Effects of Hanging — by Rope, not the Morning After.” Cited as an “Ancient English routine,” the instructions are unusual, and include stripping the victim of clothing, rubbing the body with wool-gloved hands, or placing the victim’s body face-down on the living room rug to perform compression on the lower rib cage. The book knowingly advises:

Don’t dawdle or joke. Hanging is no fun and must be handled quickly or not at all.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail 

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Recently I discovered a charming little item in the Rare Books Room.  It’s what appears to be a tiny book, less than 3 inches high.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

Although quaint, it is not all that unusual in the NSLM collection.  We have quite a few miniature books, particularly a collection of Compleat Anglers that contains a number of diminutive editions.  However, when I opened this book, I got a bit of a surprise.  It is actually a lovely color map of, and guide to, the Puckeridge Hunt territory.  Ahead of the folded map there are twelve pages of text.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

The first section gives distances to various meet sites.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

The second lists inns that have facilities to handle hunter horses.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

Finally, railway stations servicing the area are listed.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

Then comes the map.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

The paper is mounted to a fabric backing making the map sturdy and easy to unfold.  When unfolded it measures 7 x 8.5 inches. In addition to the usual roads, towns, and landmarks, the map shows 32 meet sites used by The Puckeridge Hunt, across Essex and Hertfordshire.

Although its tiny size and sturdy construction indicate that this was a utilitarian item, meant to be carried and used while in the saddle, that doesn’t preclude a touch of style.

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Places of Meeting in the Puckeridge Hunt.  F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room, acquired 2007.

The red cloth cover is decorated with a gilt pictorial vignette depicting a horseman clearing a fence, making this little map an eye catching accessory.  It certainly caught my eye when I opened the clamshell case that it’s stored in at the Library.  These little surprises are one of my favorite things about working with the NSLM collections.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the men of England were assaulted by a new and uncomfortable sight: women in masculine clothing! Even worse, these were upper class ladies, and they had donned cavalry-inspired costume to invade the male-dominated pastimes of riding and foxhunting. These daring women were often called ‘Amazons’ and were sometimes ridiculed for their riding habits. In 1666 Samuel Pepys lamented that, if not for their long skirts, these ladies wouldn’t be recognized as women at all! About fifty years later, Richard Steele satirically suggested that Amazons should “complete their triumph over us, by wearing breeches.”

James Seymour (British, 1702 – 1752), A Lady and a Gentleman Riding Out, c. 1740, gouache on paper, 5 5/8 x 7 1/8 inches, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Riding habits first emerged in the 16th and 17th centuries as women’s clothing became increasingly restrictive. They needed specific garments- riding habits- in order to sit a horse comfortably and safely. In the 18th century, skilled horsemanship was the domain of the cavalry, and upper class-women adopted the waistcoat, cutaway coat, and simple trims for equestrian pursuit. Ladies were able to wear lightly boned stays which allowed greater range of motion for riding sidesaddle, and durable wool took the place of flowing silk.

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Thomas Gooch (British, 1750 – 1802), Marcia Pitt and Her Brother George Pitt, Later second Baron Rivers, Riding in the Park at Stratfield Saye House, Hampshire, 1782, oil on canvas, 27 1/8 x 25 1/8 inches, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Despite the lamentations of their male contemporaries, riding habits grew to be popular attire throughout the 1700’s. In fact, Ladies began wearing their habits and other equestrian-inspired fashion as informal gowns, no longer restricted to the hunt field. Ladies made this masculine fashion distinctly feminine, expanding the feminine sphere to include historically unwomanly interests.

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Francis Wheatley (British 1747–1801), Mrs. Stevens, c. 1795, oil on canvas, 26 x 18 ½ inches. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

For example, in the image above, Mrs. Stevens wears a simply cut cavalry coat in fashionable dove gray. We can see that it is tailored to fit tightly, and it is not worn over a masculine style waistcoat. Instead it is pinned to a stomacher, or decorative panel worn over the front of the stays (18th century corset). Likewise, she is sitting serenely in a grove of trees, complete with a stag running in the background. This portrait takes the typical salon portrait of young women day dreaming on padded chairs and wrapped in billowing ruffles and frills, and completely turns it on its head. Here is a new kind of woman, feminine but unafraid of the world around her.

Women in western history have broken rules and changed norms for centuries, and sidesaddle riding and fashion are just one example of that social evolution.

Want to learn more? Visit Sidesaddle, 1690-1935 at NSLM or join us for these programs:

To close out the summer I thought I’d share a story of horses at the beach.  No I don’t have photos of horses in lounge chairs or inner tubes, enjoying the sun and surf.  I’m referring to the Laytown Strand Races that take place this year on September 6th.  Laytown is a small town in Co. Meath on the east coast of Ireland, and each year it hosts the only Turf Club sanctioned beach racing on the Irish and English racing calendar.

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Laytown Strand Races. From Field of Play

This year marks the 150 anniversary of the races.  Originally the horses took second billing to the Boyne Regatta.  The sailing was held during high tide, while the horses ran later in the day during low tide.  In 1901 a local priest who was also a racing aficionado, got involved with the races and turned them into a well-organized event.  Until 1994, competing horses charged down the beach to Bettystown, made a U turn and ran back to Laytown for the finish.  More recently safety changes have removed the U turn, and the racing today takes place on a straight, level course along the Laytown stand.  There are six races on the program, run over distances of between six furlongs and one mile.

For most of the year Laytown strand appears as any other along the coast of Ireland but as race day approaches, a race track gradually materializes.

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With the tide out preparations can now be made to prepare the track.  Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images.  From  The Guardian

An elevated three acre field with a good view of the strand begins to sprout temporary facilities for the big day including a parade ring, judge’s box, betting windows, weigh rooms, ambulance room, the bar, the secretary’s office and the grandstand.

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Coreczka, with Oisin Orr riding, powers down the home straight to win the first race of the day, the At The Races Handicap.  Photograph: Pat Healy/racingfotos.com/Rex/Shutterstock. From The Guardian.

In earlier days these facilities, as well as the crowd, were often down on the beach and the horses ran through a narrow gauntlet as can be seen in this video clip of the race in 1921 from British Pathe.  For safety reasons the beach has been reserved for the horses in more recent years.

To commemorate 150 years of racing on the Laytown beach, the Race Committee has commissioned a book on the history of the races, Laytown Strand Races, celebrating 150 years. 

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Laytown Strand Races Launch Commemorative Book to Mark 150 Years of Racing on County Meath Beach. Des Scahill, Ted Walsh and Chairman of Laytown Races, Joe Collins Photo: Healy Racing Photography.  From Horse Racing Ireland

Written by John Kirwan and edited by Fiona Ahern, the book features interviews, statistics, and historical facts about the Laytown Strand Races.  The NSLM Library is working to obtain a copy to add to the collection.  If you would like to take a look, please contact me to find out if we’ve received our copy.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail