Books for People With Alternative Interests

Posted by By at 15 September, at 09 : 55 AM Print

by Andrew Lewis,

In the back corner of an alley in the city where I live, there is a little noticed book shop. I have an understanding with the owner, and he knows the sort of books that excite me. My tastes are rather different from his normal customers, and suitable material is hard to find. He helps me out by keeping the books I’m looking for at the rear of the shop, well away from prying eyes.

I remember the first time I walked into the store, and asked in a hushed voice “Do you have any old books from around 1900? I’m looking for something quite special… The sort of books where you can see pictures of men and women… you know… doing crafts and engineering?”

A short while later, I was walking down the street with a discrete brown paper parcel that held copies of books with provocative titles like ‘Machineries Handbook’, ‘Modern Electric Wiring’ and ‘Handbook of Embroidery’. I felt slightly embarrassed. What if people saw me coming out of the shop, and realized the package under my arm contained folios of explicit diagrams about obsolete technology?

While I still love antique volumes filled with practical advice, and my heart still flutters when I catch a glimpse of leather poking out from underneath a pile of knitting patterns, it isn’t always appropriate to launch headlong into a pile of books.

Thankfully, the internet has evolved in the ten years since I made my first detour into vintage crafts, and the excellent folks over at Project Guttenberg have make it easier for me to fulfil my sordid desire for vintage craft and engineering knowledge.

If -like me- you are a discerning crafter or maker with particular tastes, I suggest you take a look at the following bookshelves on Project Guttenberg:


Looking at an online copy might not be as exciting as finding a hidden gem in a second hand book store, but there are some excellent titles to read through, on subjects as diverse as bromide photography, bookbinding, and architecture. Go on… I won’t tell if you don’t.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson
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- who has written 80 posts for Rock The Capital

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