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I think boxes are extra when all you need is elegant typography.

The boxes are also in a different font. I think the look would improve significantly if he got rid of them and made the font consistent.

In looking at my books pre 1930, boxes were primarily reserved for photographs and illustrations in general. Seldom for text.

Boxes became quite popular when DTP programs came on the market, just because all of a sudden it was easily doable, the same with different colored backgrounds (even if it was just shades of gray).

Generally not a good idea for a simple, b/w, serious layout.

If I remember correctly, even horizontal rules weren't that common back in the days. German/Swiss typography called them "English lines", so I assume they were more common in the UK.

There is this G.B. Shaw quote at the end of chapter 21 of the TeXbook:

There is not in existence a page with a rule on it that cannot be instantly and obviously improved by taking the rule out.

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