British Library 19th Century Historical Collections iPad App.

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This application provides access to titles from the British Library’s 19th century book collection. It includes classic novels, works of philosophy, history and science. Browse, search and read these historic books on a platform that enhances the reading experience. These digital book images have been captured in colour to preserve the look of the original book. Marbled papers, embossed covers, engraved illustrations maps, and beautifully coloured plates are intact and help create a unique reading environment.

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• Search the collection
• Browse titles by subject
• Read commentary on selected titles
• View images of original maps
• See author inscriptions and margin notes
• Create favorite title lists
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Below are highlighted titles from the 19th Century Collection with multi-media commentary --

10558351646
Travels in the Island of Iceland, during the Summer of 1810
George Steuart Mackenzie (Edinburgh, 1811)
George Steuart Mackenzie, a mineralogist and member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, was drawn to Iceland by the extraordinary natural phenomena.  He saw in Iceland ‘…a country which everywhere presents objects to fill the scientific mind with astonishment and delight’.   He was accompanied on his journey by two companions, Henry Holland and Richard Bright and all three contributed to the content of the book. 
Mackenzie wrote a journal of their travels with particular detail on the mineralogy, some of which is technical and academic in style, some which demonstrates an infectious enthusiasm for his subject.  The sulphur mountains inspire awe: ‘..quite beyond my power to offer such a description of this extraordinary place, as to convey adequate ideas of its wonders, or its terrors…’  On seeing the geysers he talks stirringly of ‘the mingled raptures of wonder, admiration and terror, with which our breasts were filled’ and believes them ‘among the greatest wonders of the world’.  Nor is he too engrossed in his own interests to ignore the challenges that face the people he meets.  He writes movingly of the harsh conditions in which many Icelanders live.  
Holland wrote chapters on history and literature, on government and religion, and Bright an account of the zoology and botany of Iceland.  The combined contributions of all three writers give a very detailed picture of Iceland at the beginning of the 19th century.  It is a rich source of historical, social and scientific data.
 Fabulous Iceland Feature

Travels in the Island of Iceland, during the Summer of 1810

George Steuart Mackenzie (Edinburgh, 1811)

George Steuart Mackenzie, a mineralogist and member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, was drawn to Iceland by the extraordinary natural phenomena.  He saw in Iceland ‘…a country which everywhere presents objects to fill the scientific mind with astonishment and delight’.   He was accompanied on his journey by two companions, Henry Holland and Richard Bright and all three contributed to the content of the book. 

Mackenzie wrote a journal of their travels with particular detail on the mineralogy, some of which is technical and academic in style, some which demonstrates an infectious enthusiasm for his subject.  The sulphur mountains inspire awe: ‘..quite beyond my power to offer such a description of this extraordinary place, as to convey adequate ideas of its wonders, or its terrors…’  On seeing the geysers he talks stirringly of ‘the mingled raptures of wonder, admiration and terror, with which our breasts were filled’ and believes them ‘among the greatest wonders of the world’.  Nor is he too engrossed in his own interests to ignore the challenges that face the people he meets.  He writes movingly of the harsh conditions in which many Icelanders live.  

Holland wrote chapters on history and literature, on government and religion, and Bright an account of the zoology and botany of Iceland.  The combined contributions of all three writers give a very detailed picture of Iceland at the beginning of the 19th century.  It is a rich source of historical, social and scientific data.

 Fabulous Iceland Feature

10558246396
A Pilgramage to the Saga-Steads of Iceland
W.G. Collingwood & Jon Seefansson (Ulverston, 1899)

With growing interest in England in the saga literature of Iceland, the aim of this publication was to be ‘a picture book to illustrate the sagas of Iceland…  intended to supply the background of scenery which the ancient dramatic style takes for granted’.  William Gershom Collingwood, a writer, academic and artist, and Jón Stefánsson, a teacher of Nordic literature in London, spent two months in 1897 travelling around Iceland and sketching scenes where events from the sagas were supposed to have taken place.  ‘While one of us drew, the other made notes … with the local saga always in hand.’
 The result is a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated guide, featuring over 150 illustrations, some in black and white, some coloured plates, as well as a map showing where particular views where sketched.  There is a useful index too, of landmarks and characters, which means it also acts a reference tool for the reader who just wants to look up certain aspects rather than read it cover to cover.  It translates and explains Icelandic words and links them to English words with the same etymology, as well as giving guidance on pronounciation.  There are quotes from the sagas and in places, some re-telling of the stories. 
Although Collingwood states that the book is not intended as a description of their travels, there are times when he captures particular moments, in a style more poetic than factual, and which evoke their personal experiences: ‘We saw the place on a showery day, when cloud-rack brushed the sky-line of the crags, and passing gleams of sunshine made the buttercups of the meadow brighter than gold…’
 In conclusion, Collingwood asks, ‘was it worthwhile, our pilgrimage to the Saga-steads?  We have missed, we must confess, nearly all that attracts the tourist’.  To which there can only really be one answer: ‘We have seen the homes of the heroes…  It is as if a curtain had gone suddenly up: as if our eyes were opened, at last, to the glory of the North’.  
Fabulous Iceland Feature 

A Pilgramage to the Saga-Steads of Iceland

W.G. Collingwood & Jon Seefansson (Ulverston, 1899)

With growing interest in England in the saga literature of Iceland, the aim of this publication was to be ‘a picture book to illustrate the sagas of Iceland…  intended to supply the background of scenery which the ancient dramatic style takes for granted’.  William Gershom Collingwood, a writer, academic and artist, and Jón Stefánsson, a teacher of Nordic literature in London, spent two months in 1897 travelling around Iceland and sketching scenes where events from the sagas were supposed to have taken place.  ‘While one of us drew, the other made notes … with the local saga always in hand.’

 The result is a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated guide, featuring over 150 illustrations, some in black and white, some coloured plates, as well as a map showing where particular views where sketched.  There is a useful index too, of landmarks and characters, which means it also acts a reference tool for the reader who just wants to look up certain aspects rather than read it cover to cover.  It translates and explains Icelandic words and links them to English words with the same etymology, as well as giving guidance on pronounciation.  There are quotes from the sagas and in places, some re-telling of the stories. 

Although Collingwood states that the book is not intended as a description of their travels, there are times when he captures particular moments, in a style more poetic than factual, and which evoke their personal experiences: ‘We saw the place on a showery day, when cloud-rack brushed the sky-line of the crags, and passing gleams of sunshine made the buttercups of the meadow brighter than gold…’

 In conclusion, Collingwood asks, ‘was it worthwhile, our pilgrimage to the Saga-steads?  We have missed, we must confess, nearly all that attracts the tourist’.  To which there can only really be one answer: ‘We have seen the homes of the heroes…  It is as if a curtain had gone suddenly up: as if our eyes were opened, at last, to the glory of the North’.  

Fabulous Iceland Feature 

10558038474
A Girl’s Ride in Iceland
Mrs. Alec Tweedie (London, 1894)

Mrs Alec Tweedie, one of the first British women to explore Iceland, writes of how her 25 day trip  would ‘ .. remain engraven on my mind asone of the most agreeable experiences of my life…’. Her lively and informative account paints a vivid picture of the landscape, the people and their customs. 
 She undertook the journey with her brother and three friends, and from the start adopted a very no-nonsense approach: “it is no use going to Iceland, or any other out-of-the-way place if one cannot cheerfully endure the absence of accustomed luxuries”.  They travelled by boat from Akuyreyri to Reykavík and for the most part the party slept and took their meals aboard, stopping off at various points for excursions inland.  The longest of these excursions was a four-day trip to the geysers.  As all journeys inland were taken by pony, and finding that no ladies’ side-saddles were available, she had to take the decision to ride astride (observing that ‘necessity gives courage to emergencies’), a fact much commented on back in England, and described by one reviewer of her book as ‘a remarkable feat’!
 Her descriptions of the natural landscape are enthusiastic.  She experienced the geysers as ‘one of the greatest marvels of nature’ and describes the view of Thingvalla lake ‘like going out of a desert into fairyland’.  She enjoys the rich flora and the many (over 90) species of birds that she sees, and comments on the salmon fishing as being ‘some of the finest in the world’.   She was also a keen observer of the people around her and the way they made their livelihoods.  ‘On the hay crop so very much depends for when that fails, ponies die, sheep and cattle have to be killed …Hay is therefore looked upon as a treasure to its possessor’.  She understood that conditions on the island could be hard, witnessing at first hand the departure of around forty emigrants bound for Manitoba and Winnipeg. 
Her affection for the Icelandic people is clear, writing that although they ‘are on first acquaintance with strangers somewhat reserved… this reserve soon wears off and their hospitality is unbounded’.  She notes too that they are a ‘wonderfully well-educated people’ and muses that ‘might not some of the hours so fruitlessly spent in misinterpreting Horace be more fitly devoted to the classics of Northern Europe’.
Fabulous Iceland Feature     

A Girl’s Ride in Iceland

Mrs. Alec Tweedie (London, 1894)

Mrs Alec Tweedie, one of the first British women to explore Iceland, writes of how her 25 day trip  would .. remain engraven on my mind asone of the most agreeable experiences of my life…’. Her lively and informative account paints a vivid picture of the landscape, the people and their customs. 

 She undertook the journey with her brother and three friends, and from the start adopted a very no-nonsense approach: “it is no use going to Iceland, or any other out-of-the-way place if one cannot cheerfully endure the absence of accustomed luxuries”.  They travelled by boat from Akuyreyri to Reykavík and for the most part the party slept and took their meals aboard, stopping off at various points for excursions inland.  The longest of these excursions was a four-day trip to the geysers.  As all journeys inland were taken by pony, and finding that no ladies’ side-saddles were available, she had to take the decision to ride astride (observing that ‘necessity gives courage to emergencies’), a fact much commented on back in England, and described by one reviewer of her book as ‘a remarkable feat’!

 Her descriptions of the natural landscape are enthusiastic.  She experienced the geysers as ‘one of the greatest marvels of nature’ and describes the view of Thingvalla lake ‘like going out of a desert into fairyland’.  She enjoys the rich flora and the many (over 90) species of birds that she sees, and comments on the salmon fishing as being ‘some of the finest in the world’.   She was also a keen observer of the people around her and the way they made their livelihoods.  ‘On the hay crop so very much depends for when that fails, ponies die, sheep and cattle have to be killed …Hay is therefore looked upon as a treasure to its possessor’.  She understood that conditions on the island could be hard, witnessing at first hand the departure of around forty emigrants bound for Manitoba and Winnipeg. 

Her affection for the Icelandic people is clear, writing that although they ‘are on first acquaintance with strangers somewhat reserved… this reserve soon wears off and their hospitality is unbounded’.  She notes too that they are a ‘wonderfully well-educated people’ and muses that ‘might not some of the hours so fruitlessly spent in misinterpreting Horace be more fitly devoted to the classics of Northern Europe’.

Fabulous Iceland Feature     

10304414325
The Rose and the Ring…Fourth edition.
William Makepeace Thackeray (London, 1866)
While Thackeray may be best known for his more adult works, Vanity Fair and The Luck of Barry Lyndon (made into the film Barry Lyndon by Stanley Kubrick in 1975), The Rose and the Ring is a funny and engaging story with wide appeal across age groups (ages 7+). Originally published in 1854 at Christmas, it was intended to be read to the whole family during December evenings in front of the fire. Scholars describe it as a satirical work of fiction that challenges aristocratic ideals of beauty and marriage. Most others would describe it as a very silly and entertaining story about four royal cousins.  Heavily illustrated with delightful drawings by the author (who originally intended a career as an illustrator), this novel is still an excellent choice for reading out loud on long winter evenings. Of the illustration above, Thackeray writes, “Would you not fancy, from  this picture, that [Countess] Gruffanuff must have been a person of the  highest birth? She looks so haughty that I should have thought her a  Princess at the very least, with a pedigree reaching as far back as the  Deluge.”
Novels of the 18th & 19th Century

The Rose and the Ring…Fourth edition.

William Makepeace Thackeray (London, 1866)

While Thackeray may be best known for his more adult works, Vanity Fair and The Luck of Barry Lyndon (made into the film Barry Lyndon by Stanley Kubrick in 1975), The Rose and the Ring is a funny and engaging story with wide appeal across age groups (ages 7+). Originally published in 1854 at Christmas, it was intended to be read to the whole family during December evenings in front of the fire. Scholars describe it as a satirical work of fiction that challenges aristocratic ideals of beauty and marriage. Most others would describe it as a very silly and entertaining story about four royal cousins.  Heavily illustrated with delightful drawings by the author (who originally intended a career as an illustrator), this novel is still an excellent choice for reading out loud on long winter evenings. Of the illustration above, Thackeray writes, “Would you not fancy, from this picture, that [Countess] Gruffanuff must have been a person of the highest birth? She looks so haughty that I should have thought her a Princess at the very least, with a pedigree reaching as far back as the Deluge.”

Novels of the 18th & 19th Century

10194395767

Face to Face with the Mexicans: the domestic life, educational, social, and business ways of the Mexican People. With 200 illustrations. With musical notes.

Fanny Chambers Gooch (New York, 1890)

After living for seven years in Mexico, Fanny Gooch thought the Mexican people were “not properly understood” by her countrymen and, as a “sacred mission and a tribute” to her Mexican friends, undertook the writing of Face to Face with the Mexicans. Here Gooch endeavors to “minutely describe” Mexican life and character. The result is a highly personal and incredibly detailed account of nearly every conceivable aspect of Mexican life at the end of the 19th Century. In 600 pages Gooch covers everything from public gardens to the shape of house keys. There are recipes (including Chili y Huevos con Queso and a “dainty dessert” requiring 22 eggs), descriptions of home remedies, sections on literature, song, dance, children’s games, courtship, religion, history, markets, prisons, and railways. Because Gooch took the time to record the ‘obvious’ details of everyday life, exactly the minutiae that is often later lost to history, this book is a rich resource for anyone interested in answering questions such as, “Where did cradles hang?” (underneath the table), “How were headaches cured?” (rose petals pasted on the temples), “What could one expect as a guest in a hotel?” (no soap or matches for the candles), or “How were tonsillectomies performed?” (don’t ask…)

History of Central & South America

10067890339

Narrative of shipwrecks of the Royal Navy between 1793 and 1849.

William O.S. Gilly (London, 1850)

With his gripping and sensational writing style, Gilly would have done well writing for some of today’s tabloids. For his Narrative, he selected only the “most interesting” shipwrecks that occurred in the 54 year period from 1793-1847.  These included shipwrecks resulting from storms, accidents, military engagements, and other misfortunes. In the Preface, Gilly warns the reader that “tragic scenes are described, many of them far exceeding the imaginary terrors of fiction.” As an example, in 1796 on the eve before sailing, and when the Amphion frigate was crowded with family members, an explosion on board killed all but ten people. One of the survivors was a child. Gilly writes that “in the terror of the moment, the mother had grasped it in her arms, but, horrible to relate, the lower part of her body was blown to pieces, whilst the upper part remained unhurt, and it was discovered with the arms till clasping the living child to the lifeless bosom.” The reader of these harrowing tales will require nearly as much “cool determination” and “nerve” as the British seamen involved in the shipwrecks. Not recommended reading before bed.

Military History & Warfare

9774929857
The Pictorial Itinerary, an illustrated guide to the railways and coach-roads of North Wales.
Anonymous (London, 1884)
For only a shilling, the tourist in North Wales could have in hand a fine railway map, railway and coach itineraries with mileage noted and points of interest explained, 150 sketches of what they could expect to see, a list of hotels in North Wales, and over 40 pages of advertisements. The advertisements are mostly for hotels and local railways such as the Cambrian, Corris, and Festinog (a narrow gauge, ‘miniature’ railway). Other advertisements are for a Dress Warehouse (boasting “Eight Head Dressmakers, and Three Hundred Assistants,” an establishment advertising “pianofortes on hire during the Summer Months,” apartments with “well aired Beds to let,” and tonics such as Rowland’s Euplysia, “a botanical wash for cleansing the hair…of dandriff.” Publicized as the “most Practical and Interesting of all Guides to North Wales,” this book was hailed on publication as “a marvel of cheapness” by the South Wales Daily News. This is a curious piece of ephemera that will interest anyone fascinated by Wales, trains, or the details of Victorian daily life.
History of Britain & Ireland

The Pictorial Itinerary, an illustrated guide to the railways and coach-roads of North Wales.

Anonymous (London, 1884)

For only a shilling, the tourist in North Wales could have in hand a fine railway map, railway and coach itineraries with mileage noted and points of interest explained, 150 sketches of what they could expect to see, a list of hotels in North Wales, and over 40 pages of advertisements. The advertisements are mostly for hotels and local railways such as the Cambrian, Corris, and Festinog (a narrow gauge, ‘miniature’ railway). Other advertisements are for a Dress Warehouse (boasting “Eight Head Dressmakers, and Three Hundred Assistants,” an establishment advertising “pianofortes on hire during the Summer Months,” apartments with “well aired Beds to let,” and tonics such as Rowland’s Euplysia, “a botanical wash for cleansing the hair…of dandriff.” Publicized as the “most Practical and Interesting of all Guides to North Wales,” this book was hailed on publication as “a marvel of cheapness” by the South Wales Daily News. This is a curious piece of ephemera that will interest anyone fascinated by Wales, trains, or the details of Victorian daily life.

History of Britain & Ireland

9488511113

The Rhetorical Class Book: or, the principles and practice of Elocution defined and illustrated. …Being an exposition of the organs and the operations of speech.   With selections from popular writers, principally of the present day, etc.

Henry Innes (London, 1834)

This 1834 textbook on elocution promises, among other things, to set one straight on the correct pronunciation of suttnty (certainty), idear (idea), and flutt’rin’ (fluttering). Innes divides the Class Book into two sections: the first addresses the “organs and operations of speech.” Here one learns about the anatomy of speech, correct pronunciation, inflection, and appropriate actions (e.g. when beginning to speak, one “should rest the whole weight of [one’s] body on the right leg.”) Included here are “impediments in speech” such as spluttering, clipping, hissing, and snivelling (otherwise known as “speaking through the nose,” Innes attributes snivelling to the taking of too much snuff.) This section concludes with Rules and Hints, where Innes suggests that, when speaking, one should “draw in and expel the breath with the utmost vehemence.” The second section, comprising the greater part of the book, is devoted to Rhetorical Exercises. These are often literary or otherwise of the edifying variety, presumably so that in addition to drastically improving one’s elocution, one is able to simultaneously improve one’s moral fiber. The Exercises range in length from a single line, such as “The breast of the upright man is the abode of peace and joy,” to poems or prose of a few pages. One of the first Exercises is from Addison: “If we must lash one another, let it be with the manly strokes of wit and satire.” The passage of time may have lent more wit and satire to Innes’ Class Book than he originally intended…

History of Social Sciences

9362540812
Gleanings from Bible Lands, Being Chapters on Eastern Cities, Their Dwellings, Furniture, &c. and the Dress and Occupations of the Inhabitants.
Alfred E. Knight (London, 1891)
Knight skillfully combines Eastern social history with Biblical study and suggests in his Preface that “a general knowledge of the manners and customs of the East is of real assistance to the student of Holy Scripture.” His inquiry is broken down into chapters titled “Without the City,”, “Streets and Dwelling-houses,” “The Kitchen,” “The Banquet Hall,” “The Bath and the Bed-chamber,” “The ‘Wardrobe’ and Jewel-casket,” and “Some Ancient Handicrafts.” The details within each chapter are extraordinary: there is a section devoted to Onions, Leeks, and Garlic, another to Drinking Fountains, and another to Nose-rings and Earrings. In the course of his book, Knight explains the social customs behind over 500 passages of scripture. This book will be of interest to anyone wanting to deepen their understanding of the relationship between Biblical passages and daily life in Biblical lands. Enthusiasts may also want to seek out Knight’s Bible Plants and Animals.
History of the Middle East

Gleanings from Bible Lands, Being Chapters on Eastern Cities, Their Dwellings, Furniture, &c. and the Dress and Occupations of the Inhabitants.

Alfred E. Knight (London, 1891)

Knight skillfully combines Eastern social history with Biblical study and suggests in his Preface that “a general knowledge of the manners and customs of the East is of real assistance to the student of Holy Scripture.” His inquiry is broken down into chapters titled “Without the City,”, “Streets and Dwelling-houses,” “The Kitchen,” “The Banquet Hall,” “The Bath and the Bed-chamber,” “The ‘Wardrobe’ and Jewel-casket,” and “Some Ancient Handicrafts.” The details within each chapter are extraordinary: there is a section devoted to Onions, Leeks, and Garlic, another to Drinking Fountains, and another to Nose-rings and Earrings. In the course of his book, Knight explains the social customs behind over 500 passages of scripture. This book will be of interest to anyone wanting to deepen their understanding of the relationship between Biblical passages and daily life in Biblical lands. Enthusiasts may also want to seek out Knight’s Bible Plants and Animals.

History of the Middle East


9236224844
The Life and Adventures of Toby, the Sapient Pig; with his opinions on men and manners. Written by himself.
Toby (London, 1817)
Learned pigs, pigs that could spell, read, count, or tell the time or the age of audience members, were all the rage in late 18th and early 19th century England. One such pig named Toby became quite a sensation in his own right. This 25 page book is his brief autobiography, ostensibly written by himself, but published and sold (and most likely penned) by former magician turned animal trainer, Nicholas Hoare. It is a tongue-in-cheek piece that also serves as very effective publicity for Toby’s many performances (for a handbill advertising one of Toby’s appearances, please click here.)
Fiction & Prose

The Life and Adventures of Toby, the Sapient Pig; with his opinions on men and manners. Written by himself.

Toby (London, 1817)

Learned pigs, pigs that could spell, read, count, or tell the time or the age of audience members, were all the rage in late 18th and early 19th century England. One such pig named Toby became quite a sensation in his own right. This 25 page book is his brief autobiography, ostensibly written by himself, but published and sold (and most likely penned) by former magician turned animal trainer, Nicholas Hoare. It is a tongue-in-cheek piece that also serves as very effective publicity for Toby’s many performances (for a handbill advertising one of Toby’s appearances, please click here.)

Fiction & Prose