Last year I reviewed The Georgian Art of Gambling by Claire Cock-Starkey, a slim but wonderful volume packed full of anecdotes and cautionary tales regarding one of the favourite pastimes of the glorious Georgians, who were not shy of having the odd flutter.
I was delighted, therefore, to learn that Claire has written a second volume of historical tidbits entitled How to Skin a Lion: A Treasury of Outmoded Advice. Once again beautifully produced and presented, How to Skin a Lion contains all sorts of useful advice and instructions gathered from the archives of the British Library. This time not confined to the 18th century, the advice is gleaned from centuries of documents, many of which are wonderfully obscure.
If you're looking to become fluent in the language of flowers, trap and smoke an eel or read the meaning of a mole, let alone learn dozens of other useful skills that will enhance and improve your life, you really do need to own this book. Whether discussing the polite way to turn down a proposal of marriage, quieting bees or quelling ants, Claire's style is witty and engaging and, crucially, never afraid to let the marvellous source material speak for itself.
And what source material it is.
Reproduced in faithful detail, it is easy to become immersed in these often obscure asides, with publications ranging from domestic manuals to specialist works intended for the English traveller who wished to venture into the furthest flung corners of the globe. With plenty of instructive and witty illustrations from those same original publications, you can be sure you're getting it straight from the horse's (or skinned lion's) mouth.
This beautifully produced hardcover book is an absolute delight. It comes comes highly recommended and plenty of my friends will be getting a copy... after all you never know when you might need to select a good manure or instruct someone on how to dress like a gentleman!
Read more about How to Skin a Lion went from idea to page at Claire's blog at http://nonfictioness.com/blog/, or even better, treat yourself to a copy!
How to Skin a Lion: A Treasury of Outmoded Advice is out on 14th May 2015 in the UK and 15th June 2015 in the US; click on the links below to buy a copy!