Rab and His Friends is a slim, 5.5" x 4.5" volume of stories by Dr. John Brown. It starts interestingly enough, "Four-and thirty years ago, Bob Ainslie and I were coming up Infirmary Street from the High School, or heads together, and our arms intertwisted, as only lovers and boys knows how, or why..." but really I haven't read further than that. The reason for this is I bought this book for it's cover. So it's a fact, people judge books by their covers. Take that, content.
It is a lovely cover, made of teal book cloth with a long, rectangular window and the title plainly gold-stamped in the lower right hand corner. What I found especially beautiful about this book was how the image in the window had been worn away to abstraction.
The first title page is so humble, just the title of the book printed crookedly in black ink. Rab and His Friends. That's it.
The second page is a more traditional decorative title page printed in red and green. These pages as well as the rest of the book were so obviously hand printed that I decided to try to research the book on the internet. Soon enough, I found an entire web page devoted to the work of the Henry Altemus Company, the publishers of this edition.
And get this, they are from Philadelphia, my dearly missed home. It was pretty fascinating to the read the history of the company and to recognize so many addresses. I like to imagine what Philadelphia was like when it was a more industrialized place, and so many more things were being made right there in the city. There are some great examples of advertising ephemera on the Henry Altemus Web Site. I recommend checking it out if you feel like geeking out on what it was like to be a publishing company in the 1800-1900's. I know I did!
And ladies. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It's witty, it's philosophical, it's full of sound sense in concentrated lozenges, need I say more? I don't think so.