Does anyone remember when books were infectious?

Carrying on from my last post, I started replying to the comments but went galloping off down so many side alleys I thought I'd just post and have done with it.

I won't take my Penguin classic with me, though if I did, I'm sure I could find reasons for its sudden and tragic disappearance, preventing me reviewing it. The main one, I think, is its potential as a source of infection. Oops! There it goes - drowned under a pool of antiseptic hand wash.

Every now and then I get elderly library books in stock, with a list of firm instructions in the front (none of this openness, let the toddlers drool on the books stuff here) in which you are firmly told not to turn down page corners, mark the books and that you MUST let the library staff know if the book has been in contact with anyone who has an infectious disease.

As I am looking for displacement activity in a strenuous effort to try and avoid finishing my tax return (nearly there but I am finding it so hard to make the effort to do the last 10%) I googled this fascinating subject. Read this article only if you are feeling strong. In fact, do not read the next but one sentence. I'll leave a couple of lines so you know what to avoid.

One example of infection occurred when a child with scarlet fever used his peeling skin as a bookmark.

It's OK. You can come back now. The British Government introduced provisions into the Public Health Act in 1907 to provide for the disinfection and/or destruction of books (there was a £2 fine if you failed to inform as instructed), and the provisions have not, apparently, been repealed. Presumably they are kept there, just in case.

Still, back to books I am going to take with me, and which I shall try strenuously hard not to drop in my hospital supper, daub with handwash or leave lying about. Thanks to Juliet, who reminded me about Mary Wesley, I am off to try and find some, as I know I have them about. Just not entirely sure where. I've been to WH Smith and now have Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair, (thanks Gillian) and also the first Scotland Street book, for which thanks to Vanessa and Juliet. Couldn't find the most recent one, but settled for the first, which seemed sensible as I haven't read any. I also have Stephen Booth in case I feel murderous.

Here they are.

Am just hoping I do not catch the cold my husband is threatening to go down with, in which case I shall be back here again tomorrow, tail between my legs. But at least I will have plenty to read.

Anyway, providing all goes well I intend to make the most of this almost unheard of bit of enforced idleness and turn tyrant. I have been watching the labrador closely and think I now have her mournful, huge eyed look off quite well. I will probably wake up with nerves at some point tonight, but I have a plan. This wakefulness will not be wasted. I intend to practise slumping back on the pillows with a little moan.

Well, I intend to. The thing is, when it comes down to it, I have a terrible suspicion that I will say, as I always do, "I'm fine!" even if my nose is falling off. After all, I am British and I Do Not Like To Make a Fuss, and I Soldier On.

We'll see.


Juliet said…
Best of luck for tomorrow, Jane. Looks like an excellent stack of books you're taking with you (though a missed opportunity re 'losing' the Penguin Classic!) and yes, I agree it's a very good idea to start Scotland Street at the beginning. Hope they will all help take your mind off things a little. Please report back with full gory details when you're feeling strong enough.
Vanessa said…
Good luck - you'll be fine and remember, you need to get well quickly so that you can come and visit and we can waft around the book festival being fab and literary, and frankly, I'm not prepared to do that with someone snotting everywhere!

See - it's my calming and fluffy nature that's so endearing isn't it? Isn't it???
Unknown said…
That child with scarlet fever needed more observant nursing, and a sharp smack. I mean..eeewww.

I just took a look at a Red Cross Nursing Manual from 1951, which has a section devoted to the nursing room, and to disinfectant. I can't find any mention of books, but it does say:
"flowers are a cheerful addition to a sickroom, but the water must be changed daily, the vases washed frequently, and the flowers removed from the room at night."

Fat chance of all that happening.

Do well tomorrow, and don't be too brave.
Anonymous said…
Good luck with it. If you're a fan of Stephan Booth I take it you've read Reginald Hill? You should enjoy the Scotland Street books. Hope you hate Pat as much as I did...

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