One of our ongoing projects at Digital Initiatives is the the BC Bibliography project. For this project we are digitizing thousands of books, pamphlets, and other publications with historical value concerning British Columbia. These run the gamut from political speeches and documents, to travelogues, to books concerning aboriginal languages (plus lots more!). While many of these books are mostly of interest to scholars and historians, its possible to find interesting content in books you might otherwise consider boring. Case in point being the British Columbia Directory, a listing of businesses and homes in British Columbia that was published for several years near the end of the 19th century. It was like a phone book before telephones were invented and before people stopped using phone books.

Williams_Directory_83_t39_RIt might look really boring from the outside (and many of the pages are just listings of names), but there are also a bunch of neat looking ads inside! The number of different fonts used in some of these ads is extremely high; I imagine graphic designers being driven insane just looking at them, and yet somehow they seem to work.

Williams_Directory_83_t13_RElectro-Plated Ware!

Williams_Directory_83_t16_LApart from pages printed on colour paper this is the only colour in the entire book, and it really stands out.


Williams_Directory_83_t31_RThat poem is actually an ad for a tobacconist, though figuring out exactly where it’s located takes some effort.

Williams_Directory_83_t36_L Williams_Directory_83_t189_RIt’s fascinating to see undertakers who also sell sewing machines, sheets, and kitchenware.

Williams_Directory_83_t396_LWilliams_Directory_83_t397_R Straight from Wikipedia: “Coraline was manufactured from the straight, stiff fibers of the Mexican ixtle plant, bound together by two strands of thread wrapped in opposite directions.”

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