By Jennie


One of my most treasured books, Enquire Within Upon Everything, is second hand. I bought it in an antiques shop on the coast of England many years ago when my friend Joan and I visited there from London. We walked the beach, ate lunch, and browsed through the shops. This book caught my eye. It gives remedies for ailments, recipes, and advice on correct behavior, amongst other useful advice.

The book unusually, has no publishing date listed, but on its title page, the publisher proudly notes that it is the 113th edition of the book and one million five hundred thousand copies had been sold since its very first edition. I had guessed that this edition was published somewhere in the 1930s judging by the costume of the people depicted on the cover. There is also an inscription on the inside first page, “To Flo, With love from Nellie”. Flo, short for Florence and Nellie, perhaps a nickname for Helen, would have been popular names at that time. I looked further and found on Amazon a copy stating it was published in 1923, so a bit earlier than I thought. The Amazon copy suggests a value above $130, so my investment of 50 English pennies was well worth it!

Out of interest, I looked the book up further on Google and discovered many listings, one of which was from Wikipedia that told me the book was first published in London in 1856. Another Amazon listing notes that the book became popular after the English industrial revolution answering the population’s newly found “thirst for knowledge.”

Two very interesting points are worth repeating here from Wikipedia:

  • Agatha Christie usedEnquire Within Upon Everything as an important clue in the Hercule Poirot detective novel, Hallowe’en Party.
  • Tim Berners-Lee apparently named his precursor of theWorld Wide Web ENQUIRE after this work in 1980. He said that its title was suggestive of magic and the book served as a portal to a world of information. He thought it not a perfect analogy for the Web, but a primitive starting point.

Just in case you are wondering about etiquette, here is some useful advice from the book, “The woman who wishes her conversation to be agreeable will avoid conceit, affectation, and loud laughter.” No mention is made of whether a man could be disagreeable, conceited, affected, and could laugh raucously!

I’m always pleased to discover this book again somewhere on our book shelves. It is fascinating to read, and just as importantly, reminds me of my dear friend Joan and our lovely day at the beach.

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