Monday, January 22, 2007

The Circle of Useful Knowledge

I want to share one of my favorite little books because, though a book of only 255 pages, it contains much of the practical knowledge to be had in 1893 when it was published. I've spent several hours wandering around inside this book since I received it as a gift from a friend in New York, and I expect to spend several more doing the same.

According to Charles Kinsley's preface, "The "Circle of Useful Knowledge" is a system of useful information, and contains hundreds of valuable receipts in the various departments of human effort, which can be relied upon, as they are tried receipts and have been procured from the most reliable sources, many of which have cost the author quite a sum of money for the right to publish them. They tell how to manage a farm, how to cook, all about wines and vinegar, how to fish and tan, how drugs and chemicals are composed, how to be your own doctor and nurse, - in short, everything connected with everyday life is treated of in a concise, clear style that tells what you wish to know."

And Mr. Kinsely wasn't kidding. Want to know how teach a horse to follow you? How to free your hands from warts? How to cure ringworms? How to clean silk? How to salt ham? How about the best way to make boots or shoes last three years or how to get rid of mosquitoes without using smoke? It's all there and more. Mr. Kinsley's little book is jam-packed with hundreds of tidbits that are still interesting and useful today.

Here's one of Kinsley's "receipts:"
To Clear Your Dwellings from Bed-Bugs

Corrosive sublimate and the white of an egg, beat together, and laid with a feather around the crevices of the bedsteads and the sacking, is very effectual in destroying bugs in them. Tansy is also said to be very effectual in keeping them away. Strew it under the sacking bottom. Common lard, or equal quantities of lard and oil, will destroy or keep them away. The best exterminator is black hellebore pulverized. It is a deadly poison to them. Place it where the bugs will be apt to crawl.

Never fear, Mr. Kinsley is on the case. His little book is likely to have an answer for most of life's nagging problems.


  1. Sounds a lot more useful than some of the "knowledge" cntained withn one of my all time favourites - Scouting For Boys (early editions)

  2. I love those old Boy Scout manuals, Sally. Even mentioning them makes me wish that I still had the one that I used in my own scouting days so many years ago, in fact.

  3. I have the same book but it must be the first publication... 1978.

  4. Makes me wonder, anonymous, how many editions of the book were published. It had to be one heck of a useful little book in its day. I still find myself flipping through it every so often.