It’s All in Good Form, Isn’t It?

First, a quick update on a previous post, A Tiny Post for Some Tiny Books: We have acquired The Tiny Book on Home Candy Making! It looks much like its counterparts, and we’re still waiting for it to return from cataloging, but we’re very excited. That leaves us with the only the elusive The Tiny Book on Cocktails. We’re keeping our eyes peeled and our fingers crossed that we’ll turn up a copy one of these days.


This week’s feature is one of those strange discoveries that hide on our shelves. I was perusing a slightly different call number range without much luck (I guess I wasn’t inspired by manuals on feeding children this week) when I sidestepped and looked down. (Hint: When shelf browsing, it’s important to look below eye level, not just above it.) I suddenly found myself sitting on the floor where an unlabeled, thin green spine caught my eye. The cover was even more curious.

Front cover, Dinners, Ceremonious and Unceremonious and the Modern Methods of Serving Them, 1890
Front cover, Dinners, Ceremonious and Unceremonious and the Modern Methods of Serving Them, 1890. (The lion adds panache, doesn’t it?)

This turns out to be a somewhat eclectic manual, probably due to the fact that is relatively short and still seeks to cover a lot of topics. The book jumps from types of dinners to invitations, from dress to table habits, and from planning the dinner to arranging the table.

The whole of the book is text heavy, so there are limited number of pages in the post, but it makes for great reading. (If you want to read more, you can check out a copy online: https://archive.org/details/dinnersceremoni00longgoog.) Not sure how to eat an olive that was served on a piece of silverware versus with fingers? Wondering if you should pick up strawberries served without stems or lettuce leaves without dressing? Dinners, Ceremonious and Unceremonious and the Modern Methods of Serving Them can help!

Interestingly, though, this book seems to have at least three audiences–people invited to dinner parties, people hosting them, and wait staff. It integrates tips on creating invitations with directions on how to reply to invitations. Chapters move from table manners (for guests and hosts alike, presumably) to planning the meal with household staff. Parts of the book address said staff more directly in terms of how to “read” the way someone places silverware or when to serve what. While the blog has featured manuals before, very often, they are aimed at one of these groups. It’s uncommon to see one that addresses all three, especially in only 80 pages. Of course, it does leave a few questions unanswered. Reading aloud to a colleague resulted in the question of what one does if one drops food on the table: Do you cover it with a napkin, try to retrieve it, or simply ignore it? Dinners, Ceremonious and Unceremonious and the Modern Methods of Serving Them doesn’t say. Which means I guess I have a new research question in hand for this week…

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