The University of Michigan Library reprints public domain books, creating “reading copies”. You do not have to be a UML student to purchase a copy. I have one at my side right now – The Horse-world of London by William John Gordon. it was originally printed in 1893 by the Religious Tract Society, complete with illustrations.
Chapter VII captured my attention this morning – The Queen’s Horse. It begins:
In the horse-world of London, the highest circle, the most exclusive set, so to speak, is that housed at Buckingham Palace.
The accompanying illustration is of the “The Queen’s Creams” pulling a state carriage attended by liveried hostlers.
Gordon takes his reader on a tour of the Royal Mews, physically describing the space, comparing the generous square footage of the stalls to others in London. He relates a humorous tale of preparing the horses – actually failing to prepare the horses – for a state occasion. The Queen to whom he refers is not HM Queen Elizabeth II, but Victoria, she who gave her name to an era.
I toured the Royal Mews in June 2010, long before I acquired a copy of “The Horse-world of London.” Fewer horses are stabled there now, yet the stalls are still as spacious. The vaulted ceilings still exist. The tack is still on display. Even some of the state carriages mentioned in the book can still be seen.
My DIY Travel Tip
Don’t rely on the content of modern books, and youthful tour guides who deliver standard patter. Root through the stacks at your local library for antique books – or reprints – with descriptions of the building, area or country you plan to visit. Had I toured the Royal Mews with the knowledge I’ve gleaned from it, an extra dimension would have been added to the experience. I could have imagined the bustle and sounds of a stable when mechanical vehicles did not exist – and so could you travel in the past with some inexpensive effort.