A Telephone Book with Real Leaves

By Erik Jensen

22. Dec. 2009

Alternative exploitation of articles for everyday use takes place from time to time. Here we present a literary example from the infancy of the telephone. 

In May 2007, when the museum moved out of 7-9, Valkendorfsgade we found on an apparently rarely visited shelf in a cupboard a hardcover book with the title "Telephone Handbook" printed on the back. As the premises had to be cleared, the book was put into a removal box with unregistered books for the museum library.

From here the book emerged again about a month ago in connection with an overhauling of the stock of books. The librarian ascertained that it was a book from 1893 titled "Alphabetic List of Telephone Subscribers of the Copenhagen Telephone Company", i.e. an ordinary telephone directory from the year before the above-mentioned company became the KTAS.

We already possess a couple of these and as the present copy did not appear to be in excellent condition to put it mildly, the telephone directory was almost discarded. For some reason - and luckily - it did not happen on that occasion because the next time when the librarian had the book in her hands, she discovered that it was filled with pressed and dried plants, leaves, and flowers and in this way turned into a herbarium.  

A page of the telephone directory anno 1893.  

First Drying

Every single plant or part of a plant has been carefully attached with paper strips and the names of the individual plants are written by ink. At that time, the telephone directory was provided with punched out guide cards for the individual letters and the plants have been mounted in alphabetic order according to their Danish names on the "right" pages. Very practical and reasonable, but today this way of collecting live plants has receded into the background in favour of digital nature photographing. In this way you also avoid violating possible prohibitions of collection of rare plants which should stay in their natural habitats.

Today, more or less a hundred years later, many of the plants in the old telephone directory are still in their original places, but not all in good condition. On some of them you can still see faintly that the petals once had colours. Despite the condition the museum has chosen to keep the gem as a funny example of practical use of an available adjunct, in this case an obsolete telephone directory. 

Second Drying

I was a collector myself as a child, but of stamps and I still remember that when I was a little boy in Jutland I also used a discarded telephone directory to dry stamps in when they had been washed off the envelopes. How I got hold of the telephone directory has slipped my memory because my parents did not get a telephone until several years after I had left home in 1968.

What I do remember is, however, that a telephone directory was better suited for drying of stamps than the discarded copy of the newspaper "Tidens Tegn" which my father subscribed to because the printing ink of the paper contrary to the telephone book tended to come off on my stamps. 

An Inquiry 

In case a reader of our online magazine also used to dry stamps in an old telephone directory which is still preserved with the last lot of stamps inside, the museum is very interested in taking over the jewel, and in that case we ask you kindly to send us a comment below.   

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