Music of the American Colonies

Colonial Intimacies

Customs and Fashions in Old New England

Four rhymes seem to be specially the property of schoolboys, being found in Accidences, Spellers, "Logick" Primers, and other schoolbooks, down even to the present day.

          "This book is one thing, My fist's another,
          If you touch the one thing, You'll feel the other."

                          "Hic liber est meus
                          And that I will show
                          Si aliquis capit
                          I'll give him a blow."

                          "This book is mine
                          By Law Divine
                          And if it runs astray
                          I'll call you kind
                          My desk to find
                          And put it safe away."

          "Hic liber est meus Deny it who can
          Zenas Graves Junior An honest man."

There also appears a practical warning which may be read with attention and profit by the public now a days:

                  "If thou art borrowed by a friend
                  Right welcome shall he be
                  To read, to study, not to lend
                  But to return to me.

                  "Not that imparted knowledge doth
                  Diminish Learnings Store
                  But books I find if often lent
                  Return to me no more."

"Read Slowly—Pause Frequently—Think Seriously—Finger Lightly—Keep Cleanly—Return Duly—with the Corners of the Leaves Not Turned Down."

The fashion of using book-plates was by no means so general among New England Puritans as among rich Virginians and New Yorkers and Pennsylvanian Quakers. Mr. Lichtenstein, writing in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register in 1886, says he has seen no New England book-plates of earlier date than 1735. At later dates the Holyokes, Dudleys, Boylstons, and Phillips, all used book-plates. The plates most familiar to students in old libraries in New England are those of the Vaughans and of Isaiah Thomas.

Another, a living interest is found in these old, dusty, leather-bound volumes, which is not in the inscriptions and not, alas, in the printed words. They are the chosen home of a race of pigmy spiderlings who love musty theology with an affection found in no one else nowadays. In these dingy homes they live and rear their hideous little progeny: for in the cold light of a microscope these tiny brown book-dwellers are not beautiful; they are flat, crab-like, goggle-eyed, hairy; and they zigzag across the page on their ugly crooked legs in a sprawling, drunken fashion. They do not eat the books; they live apparently on air; yet if you crush them between the pages they leave a stain of vivid scarlet to reproach you in future readings for your needless cruelty. I cannot kill them; though flaming is their blood's rebuke, it is aristocratically as well as theologically

These pages are © Laurel O'Donnell, 2005, all rights reserved
Copying these pages without written permission for the purpose of republishing
in print or electronic format is strictly forbidden
This page was last updated on 12 Oct 2005