Sun Dials and Roses of Yesterday (1902)

Written by historian and author Alice Morse Earle (1851-1911), this wonderfully eclectic treatise on the sundial is a reminder of how much possibility lays within the wilderness of the blank page. Each chapter begins with inhabited initials and each chapter’s contents encourage readers to consider verse from poets such as Rossetti and Dickinson, photographs of sundials and horologists, and sketches and diagrams that demonstrate no particular affinity for a given style, perspective, or even alignment on the page. In fact, the concept behind the entire work represents a philosophical exercise or associative mashup. As Earle comments in the introduction:

The union of the subject of Roses with that of sun-dials has not been through any relation of one to the other, but simply a placing together of two ‘garden delights’—to use Bacon’s term,—and with somewhat of the thought that as a dial standing alone in a garden was a bit bare without flowers, so it was likewise in a book.

The book brings to the fore small sociological details, anecdotes, and domestic subject matter characteristic of other works by Alice Morse Earle. Other books of hers include China Collecting in America (1892), Curious Punishments of Bygone Days (1896), Child Life in Colonial Days (1899), and Old Time Gardens (1901), the last of which immediately preceded this work and contained a chapter on sundials that — according to the author — led readers to solicit a book length treatment.

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