Arlantique Fair in Arlon one Saturday morning a couple of years ago: the fair turned out to be quite large, taking up two large rooms in the local equivalent of the cultural centre. Many of the stalls had very high class items for sale and some were quite reasonable. I found an old poetry book with a very ornate cover.
It originally had blank pages and was destined to be the recipient of a number of poems painstakingly copied out in examples of beautiful penmanship.
The date at the bottom of the page is 5/8/1898.
Judging from the writing inside it must have been given as a farewell gift to a young female – and a number of people had written messages to her or copied out poems or did little drawings in the book.
Most of the poems appear to have been composed by the French poet Victor Hugo.
During a visit to the monthly flea market a week before I had found an exercise book from a home economics course. The first half of the book has instructions on all sorts of things from how to cook and carve a chicken to nutritional values of food. The owner of the book was required to plan menus and copy out recipes – again in beautiful handwriting – as well as write a number of short articles which had been marked as being “very good” by the teacher.
This page is a list of ingredients and prices for the menu whose recipes feature on the other page of this spread.
The writing at the top of the page “pour manger avec plaisir et vivre longtemps: sois frugal et sobre” invites one to be frugal and sober in order to eat with pleasure and live a long time.
Both these books are reminders of times gone by, when people cared about their handwriting and when they had the time to sit down and copy out a favourite poem or recipe and took pleasure in so doing. How many of us even have handwriting good enough to be able to do this now; I know I haven’t.