22 November 2005

Sister Tillie's good ol' thesaurus

This is one of the oldest books I have. I bought it many years ago for $3 in a used bookstore in New York. The covers are slightly damaged and some of the pages are loosening. But otherwise, and considering that it's almost 130 years old, it's in pretty good shape. I hope I will be as healthy when I am 130.

Inside, there is a dedication probably to the original owner of the book.

It reads
"...... the crown[?]
Dear Sister Tillie
December 2nd - 1878"

I cannot figure out the first word of the first line. The first 3 letters appear to be i-n-i and the last 2 are e-d. There are only 16 entries starting with "ini" in my huge Random House Dictionary, but none makes sense in this context. I think the last word of the same line is "crown".

In the thesaurus, the words are numbered, and presented in a hierarchical classification rather than alphabetically. You can see below that even in the smallest groupings, the words are not alphabetized. Instead, they follow each other somewhat subjectively based on their meanings. For example, "Intrinsicality" comes before "Extrinsicality". But there is an alphabetical index that lists every word and its number.

Despite these shortcomings and its age, however, this could still be a useful book. There is also a long list of foreign words and expressions. Why evolution was considered "motion in a reverse cycle", I don't understand, though.


deniz said...

I am envious, jealous, green, covetous, etc. I have a few old books myself but:
a) all our stuff is in storage right now and I'm already forgetting what I used to own...
b) I never thought of presenting them in this fashion, which seems to give them more value.

Bardiac said...

I think your first word here is "inioied." I see three pretty clear dots (aka tittles) over what I read as "i"s, and elsewhere the dots over the "i"s are similar.

I'm guessing the writing is by someone who used older conventions/spellings where i and j, and i and y were sometimes interchanged compared to modern conventions. (Thus, for example, we see Ben Jonson's name spelled Ben Ionson at times.)

So, a modern rendition would be injoyed, or enjoyed. (The on-line OED shows "injoy" as an archaic variant spelling of "enjoy.")

Sounds like some sort of inside joke to me.

The hand looks pretty clear and the dots distinct, otherwise the minims (small up and down pen strokes that are so easily confused in some hands) might make it look more like "invied" (envied). (Envied the crown sounds a little less like an inside joke.)

PS. I just ran across your blog, and have been enjoying reading it. Good job!

deniz said...

aha! you know what - I bet the word is "invoiced" and the "the" is actually a shortened version of "half" or some other word denoting the price and the crown is a crown, part of the old English monetary system. She may have paid half on receipt and the other half later but why would they write the invoice in the book and not on a paper?


I am leaning towards Bardiac's interpretation. The mystery word indeed appears to be "inioied", which meant "enjoyed". See, for example the 1st sentence in 2nd paragraph at: http://www.clicknotes.com/macbeth/Holinshed/Holin265.html