the journal


Goat on a Cow

Filed Under retrotravels.net

As you might have read in the archives of this site, I’ve been working on a project called retrotravels.net.  The site will allow you to explore some of my collection of guidebooks used during the Golden Age of travel (1880-1939). You will be able to peruse books not for what is printed on the page (which is interesting in itself) but rather the lingering proof that the book was used by its previous owners. Notations and marks on the pages (called marginalia). Museum or transportation tickets. Scribbled notes. A pressed flower that has made a home between two stained pages for over 70 years. Little pamphlets on a tourist location folded into the pages. I believe that these books hold a forgotten history of a overseas trip and, if studied carefully, can reveal what the traveler from the past did with the book, where they traveled, and what they saw. I’m still working on some major layout and design issues and how to express my fascination with the books.

Luckily, I’m not alone in this fascination.  RadioLab, a weekly NPR program about… well… everything.  One episode was about the history of War of the Worlds and its effect on those who heard it when it was broadcast.  Another hour-long broadcast was about the language of music and how the brain processes sound.  Another was on the history of sperm. All of their programs are well-produced, entertaining, and discuss fascinating subjects.

For their July 29, 2007 episode, they discussed detective stories:

Forensics, archeology, genealogy, and genetics are devoted to figuring out what really happened. In this hour, we hear surprising stories of playing detective and finding that what really happened in the past is not at all what you’d expected.

One of the three stories they discussed was about a mysterious pile of old letters found on the side of a rural road. If it wasn’t for the spotting of a goat standing on a cow, the discovery would probably never had happened. I suggest listening to the program and hopefully you too will understand my fascination with these ghosts found in ephemera.