JF Ptak Science Books Post 1944
In the long history of People Wanting Things, it has only been in the past few centuries where human beings were able to see the possibilities of their wants, or needs, displayed in print in the forms of advertisements in newspapers and magazines. For thousands of years previously the wants were visceral and obvious--certainly the physical part of stuff that wasn't exactly needed was not on display in any format, their descriptions passed by word of mouth--at least for the vast unwashed and working classes who could neither afford the newspapers or the goods for sale, as these were the times (in general that were BDI ("before disposable income). The "luxury" of catalogued needs really didn't begin until the mass circulation broadsheet or newspaper and the growth of the lower middle class, which in North America wasn't until the 19th century. Not only did this medium display the possibly variations of need, but also made suggestions of needs-not-yet-imagined, introducing the unknown for consideration in the "need" department. These are early advertisements that were also selling the possibilities of themselves, as well the dream that went with them.
It is interesting to look at advertisements from other eras--they seem to have an hypnotic effect, a small about of caffeinated want-lust is perhaps left over from those antique displays. In any event it is fascinating and revealing to see what the popular goods were that were being displayed. And by the time of the example that I'm using for today's post--American Agriculturist for the Farm, Garden, and Household (published in New York in 1871, this being volume XXX of the rock-of-Gibraltar journal for the small farmer)--the pages were teeming with material for sale. For this one issue (February, 1871) there were a scant forty pages to the issue--the format though was packed with info, the type was about 8-point and in triple columns, and the sheets were 13 inches tall. Pages 121-148 (of 160) is news and reports on all matters agricultural, from news on different seeds to newly manufactured sowers to discussions of fertilizers to a new type of cucumber; the rest of the issue, pages 149-160, were entirely dedicated to advertisement, the ads running cheek-to-jowl, some of which were 1/8-pagers, and the other tiny slugs of one square inch. There's about 250 ads on these twelve pages, many of which are illustrated. The woodcut images are occasionally fantastic.