JF Ptak Science Books Post 1888 [An entry in the Museum of Impossible and Imaginary Things series.]
I found this lovely series of images at the fantastic Public Domain Review blog--I was very and instantly taken by them, as they immediately suggested themselves to repurposing. (They were truly meant to illustrate the proper posture of the domestic worker; but now of course they are open to vast interpretation, creative speculation, and mild fantasy.) To this observer their original insistence is gone, even at an historical micro-level (except for a history of housework): they aren't so much an illustration of housework and the postures by which a person would conduct them, but as a map of the silences encountered in the daily cleaning of a house. It is all fiction of course, but the photographs do have an overwhelming sense of beckoning silence to them, even in their depiction of motion--even though they are a series on dealing with proper movement, they all seem strangely static, like marble.
And so they become a geography of house-bound silence, made by silent geographers, capturing moments of silence in moments of near-silent work. And if I was the one compiling these geographic interests (and I might as well be), I would want to position the five greatest house-silences so that they could be found once again. And so:
Location 60: back stairs, beyond kitchen.
Sounds and silence: olympic kneeling done in pursuit of dusting invisible pollens from floor. A very quiet Shaker step waits in the background. It is mostly the silence of the whitewashed stair that commands this image, and not the diligence of the dust.
Location 32: kitchen entry/semi-hall.
Sounds and silence: Old uncovered wooden floor and oak-handled broom, well-polished leather boots with new heals. The silence is that which comes after the light sweeping is finished is the elusive "great grandmother sound" of satisfied work being completed.
Location 6: firing-strip floors for the support of small table and three bowls.
Sounds and silence: The silence comes between the attempts to peel the apple whole. There is a slight scuffing of the chair on the floor, crispness of the apple to a metallic touch, muffled sounds of starched apron folds. The chair creaks from having been stored next to the boiler in the basement, suffering effects of 15 years of dry heat.
Location 37: back hallway, maids quarters.
Sound and silence: the unispired window-washing is completed with due diligence given to makign a few splashes on the esposed wood floor. The cleaner window allows just enough more photonic excitation to occur to heat the long loose paper in the background just enough to bend. There is a fine silence following a hundred years of this paper roll to be exposed to light again.
Location 9: butler's pantry.
Sound and silence: low water pressure washing of dishes in cold water only, causing tender and cracked skin in the cold months. Whisking away at the large frying pan in a porecelain sink. No cloth or any other wall fixture makes for a very high-tin sound. The worker finishes the task, opens the west window for the evening sun, which points a bit of ray and warmth on the teacup in the drying rack, making it translucent. No one has seen this happen at any time in the 175 years of doing dishes in this house. The kitchen maid claims that she can hear the waning of tanslusence.