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In office chair

A literary prototype

I thought the For Dummies/Complete Idiot's Guide style of book was a recent innovation, but apparently not. I've recently obtained an eighty year old book called The Motor-Car and How it Works, For Those Who Are Devoid of All Mechanical Knowledge by Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon K.C.B., K.C.V.O., D.S.O. with 75 diagrams drawn by Captain A. H. Green.

The preface is very patronising to the reader, for example: "What to the ordinary mechanic 'is as plain as a pikestaff' gives the average lady a headache to look at." The information contained in the rest of the book isn't too bad - it's rather outdated in places, but a lot of the basic information is still relevant, the style is easy to follow, and I learned a few things from it that I didn't know about 1920s automotive technology.

The chapter titled "A Few Hints on Driving" contains four golden rules, three of which are still relevant and common-sense, one of which now seems bizarre. They are (paraphrased): 1. Don't overtake unless you can see enough clear space ahead of you; 2. sound your horn at every junction and listen for a reply; 3. Slow down on corners; 4. Don't undertake. Elsewhere it talks about sounding your horn every time you see a pedestrian crossing the road "to warn them," and sounding your horn when you come up behind a hay wagon so that it will pull over to allow you to pass. According to Sir Bacon, "children and dogs are the real dangers of the road. Road hogs and scorchers are far less dangerous." He doesn't explain what a scorcher is. On the subject of fuel economy he writes, "The saving of a mile or even two miles per gallon of petrol means very little compared with other matters. The difference between 20 and 22 miles to the gallon in a thousand miles works out at eight shillings, at the present price of petrol. Repairs to a defective car will cost many pounds. So do not worry about petrol consumption so much as reliability." Interestingly he refers in one place to the gear lever as a "joy-stick".

This book was published in 1927 by Mills & Boon. It contains an advert for another of Sir Bacon's books: A Simple Guide To Wireless, For All Whose Knowledge of Electricity is Childlike.

Edit: According to this short biography, Sir Bacon had a rather interesting life and career, and served a very important role in the British navy during the first world war.


A scorcher was someone who went past you very fast. Road hogs were more likely to be people who cut in front, or cut you off.

Mills and Boon was a general publisher until the depression when it sat down and asked "what do we sell most of"? The answer was Georgette Heyer.

I once saw a really ace book called A Woman's Guide to Electricity from the same period. I still regret not buying it.
OMG that book sounds brillient. That's just the sort of thing I'd sit down and read while working at Oxford bookshop instead of sorting through the rubbish stock intake lol. A book that treats you as if you are stupid ~ they should institutionalise such books at schools! I'm sure kids today would have a field day with them :-)

I'm not goign to pretend that I know anything about cars myself (being an average lady with a headache,) but from something I remember an old chap once telling me, the sounding of the horn at every junction is an important saftey precution 'cos in those days cars didn't have indicator lights.

(PS was that book in that time-travelling package you recieved?)
I like to imagine a retired admiral with an elaborate waxed moustache, leather helmet and goggles, driving around in an open-top sports car constantly honking one of those long brass horns with a rubber squeeze bulb at everyone in sight, just in case they hadn't seen him coming.

The package I wrote about before has a spare part for a petrol pump in it, and it's a mere thirty years old.
Toad of Toad Hall! Admiral Toad lol.

Ah ...but the package is an item that time travels ~ the age as dated from it's last pit-stop makes no difference...
That sounds brilliant. SO much more "refined" than Dummies - and probably far more useful!
I am now exceedingly taken by Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon K.C.B., K.C.V.O., D.S.O. and his delightful-sounding books- "Nuclear Fusion Technology For Those Whose Limited Intelligence Would Be Challenged By The Concept Of Operating A Tin-Opener", and other such volumes. I love antiquated patronising books, and now have quite a collection. Bear in mind that you're probably reading about mechanisms that are at least ten years out of date- these books tended to be directed at the owner-driver in a second hand (and frequently pre-war) car. I have one called "How To Drive A Car, or The Niceties Of Control". It offers the useful advice that, in the event of the brakes failing on a hill, the average car (apparently, a six seater 12/4 Humber) may be directed at right angles towards a farm gate, and remove even a reasonably sturdy gate from its hinges with minimal damage occuring to the vehicle." What days those were..