Life in London and A London Doll

The doll, burned beyond recognition, is carried in by a large and poorly behaved dog.

A low point in the life of the London doll.

The London doll whose story is recorded in this book comes to consciousness in the home of a skillful but poorly remunerated maker of joined wooden dolls, Mr. Sprat. He, his wife, and their three children live in a rented top floor room, “the workshop by day and the bed-room at night.” The work benches are along the side of the room with windows, the beds on the floor on the opposite wall. Mr. Sprat makes the wooden parts for the dolls. Mrs. Sprat paints the eyebrows and eyes or, in the case of more expensive dolls, inserts glass eyes. The two boys paint hair or attach wigs, and fit the arms and legs together with pegs, respectively. The little girl paints the blushing cheeks and sweet lips. This industrious family produces dolls in bulk, and one day Mrs. Sprat puts the heroine of this story in a basket with nine other dolls, each wrapped in silver paper and carries them to a doll shop in High Holborn.Pages 2-3, describing the work of the Sprat family

Although the doll longs to be put in the front window, she is stored on a high shelf for some time – “it seemed like years to me” –  in the back parlour where she has nothing to do but listen to the daughter of the owner read aloud popular children’s books. One day, though, a boy arrives, asking to trade a fruit cake made for the Twelfth Night celebrations for a doll for his sister. He and the doll shop owner exchange increasingly laudatory descriptions of the objects they are negotiating over; the owner claims the doll, “of a very superior make,” is worth twelve shillings, to which the boy responds that the going price for the cake in the shop of his grandfather, a pastry-cook, is fifteen shillings or more.Pages 14 and q5, the negotiation between the doll-shop owner and Thomas Plummy.

In the end, the boy gets the doll for his sister, Ellen, and they return to the pastry-cooks’ house, where the old man asks the child to put the doll away, because he needs her to join in the work for the holiday: “to sort small cakes, and mix sugar plums of different colours, and pile up sticks of barley sugar, and arrange artificial flowers, and stick bits of holly with red berries into cakes for the upper shelves of his shop window.” When Ellen finally brings her new toy down, the doll is astonished by what she drolly describes, in a foreshadowing of a recent catchphrase, as “the fine front shop with All the Cakes!”  Overcome by the beauty of the decorations, she faints.Pages 20-21, describing the pastry shop at Twelfth Night.

The doll is happy at the pastrycook’s, but her seven-year-old “mamma” is soon sent to live with her aunt, a dressmaker. Aunt Sharpshins employs fifteen apprentices, of whom the next youngest is ten. They work from six in the morning until eight at night, with a half hour lunch break, and are exhausted and poorly fed. Under this regime, Ellen becomes ill, and she and her friend Nanny take advantage of her two sick days to finally make clothing for the doll, now christened Maria Poppet.

Ellen and her friend, Nanny, sewing clothes for the doll

Ellen and Nanny make clothes for Maria Poppet.

The story is too long to recount event by event, but by now it must be clear that the author has little interest in the sort of minor domestic incident one expects in stories about dolls, and a great deal of interest in the economic and employment situations in which children in London were living. In fact, Richard Horne’s book was first published in in 1846, three years after he finished his work as a member of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Children’s Employment. The Commission interviewed children in factories, mines, and smaller industries and businesses, investigating their work conditions, their access to education, and their diet.The report was greeted by public outrage, and inspired poets and writers including Charles Dickens to write about children who were obliged to work to survive. Horne’s Memoirs of a London Doll reflects what he learned as a member of the Commission, and reshapes the Report of the Commission into a palatable message for young readers about the hardships endured by children less affluent and less fortunate than themselves.

Horne was a friend of Dickens, and was employed by him as a sub-editor at the weekly magazine Household Words. The two men were part of a network of journalists, scholars, and philanthropists interested in understanding and improving the lives of the poor. Among the most interesting of these, from the standpoint of this book, was Margaret Gillies, a professional painter working primarily in watercolors and miniatures, who illustrated the story. She and her sister, the author Mary Gillies, resided in London and by 1841, they had been joined by the physician and sanitary reformer Southwood Smith (who lived with Margaret for the rest of his life). Among his other work, Smith examined and reported on the lives of child workers in the mines – boys and girls, who often started before they were ten, and whose work included opening and closing ventilation doors, running errands, and dragging loads of coal through tunnels too small for ponies to work in. In 1842, Gillies illustrated Smith’s first report, on his inspections in Leicestershire and West Yorkshire.

Lady Flora set fire to her skirt while dancing with the doll

Lady Flora makes a serious mistake.

True to his interests, Horne led Maria Poppet through a rapid succession of adventures with “mammas” in different walks of life. After Ellen, she passes into the home of the spoiled and heedless Lady Flora, the daughter of a countess and a cabinet minister. Maria lives in luxury with a doll bed complete with mattress and her own dresser for an expanding wardrobe, enjoys shopping, goes to the zoo, and attends the Opera. A dangerous accident sends her to a different home.

She lives briefly with Mary Hope, staying with her aunt because her father, who is a clerk in a bank, has “seven other daughters, and a small salary.” Mary drops her accidentally from a coach while watching a Punch and Judy show, and the doll is inadvertently exchanged for Punch’s baby. The master of the show sells her to a street merchant who deals in used clothing. He sells her to a young Italian organ-grinder who scrapes a living for himself and his sister. The little girl plays with her as she would any doll, but business is business and the two performers also dress her in their (deceased) monkey’s clothing and prop her up on top of the barrel organ. After several additional changes in status and position, Maria Poppet finally ends up at the country manor of a wealthy family, where she believes she has come to rest. She tells us that she has made the acquaintance of another doll whose life story she has heard, and that she hopes “at a future time that these ‘Memoirs of a Country Doll’ will be made public as mine have been.”

The London doll and the country doll, seated togther while their owners play.

The London doll and the country doll exchange life stories

Horne never did write that sequel, and one doubts the ingenious journalist could have described the exhausting and grim lives of young rural workers and child miners in a sufficiently softened and light-hearted way for his juvenile audience. At the same time, it would have been a very interesting book. The Memoirs of a London Doll is quick-paced and full of fascinating detail. The reader who is not ready to plunge into the thousands of pages of Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor (published in 1851 by another member of Dickens’ coterie) could start here to ease into the harsh realities of the mid-19th-century metropolis .

Marianne Hansen, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts

Horne, R. H. (Richard H.) and Margaret Gillies, illustrator. Memoirs of a London Doll, Written by Herself. London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden, 1855

Read our copy on the Internet Archive.

With the continuing closure of the Library, we are blogging regularly about books from the exhibition, The Girl’s Own Book. Please follow us on Facebook or subscribe here for notices of new blog posts.

Useful Gossip – About Book Illustration

Text for Golden Eagle and Titmouse; image of owl

The text describing each image is printed on the back of the page, rather than the facing page, which is initially confusing. A scan of our copy is available on the Internet Archive – find the link at the bottom of the page.

Children’s books are often illustrated, and a number of technological advances in printing during the 18th and 19th centuries led to an outpouring of stylish, beautiful, and sometimes brightly colored publications. The earliest of these innovations was wood engraving. The inventor of the technique is unknown, but it was extensively developed by the artist and printer Thomas Bewick beginning in the 1760s. Bewick’s work established the medium, and his workshop produced dozens of prominent engravers who had begun with him as apprentices.

Text for Domestic Cock and Water Wagtail; images of Fallow Deer and Civet Cat

Wood engraving is a relief printing process: the ink is applied to those parts of the printing block which stick out – imagine a rubber stamp. (This contrasts with intaglio processes, where the ink is wiped into lines cut or etched into a plate, and must be lifted out by the paper, which is pressed very hard onto the plate and into the grooves.) Woodcuts, which were normally used for economical book illustration in Europe from the fifteenth century until wood engraving superseded them, are also relief prints. Both techniques use blocks that can be printed at the same time with movable type, set up in the same frames. This makes them easy, fast, and inexpensive to print and means that even ephemeral publications or books that must be printed very cheaply, like children’s books, can have a large number of illustrations. The blocks can be reused indefinitely, and may appear in more than one publication.

Text for Partridge and Sparrow Hawk; images for Bat and Beaver

The varying widths of parallel lines to create different tones is used effectively in the image of the beaver

Woodcuts differ from wood engravings in the direction the grain of the wood runs in the block. For woodcuts, the grain runs the length of the block. Wood engravings, in contrast, are made up of closely fitted cross sections of wood, with the grain running the short way, top to bottom. When a wood engraver cuts a block, they cut into the end grain, using v-shaped burins like those used to engrave metal. The result is that they can make very fine lines, producing detailed illustrations – more detailed than those produced by even very good woodcuts. The other benefit to wood engravings over woodcuts is that they are more rapidly cut. This made them the medium of choice for illustrating newspapers and other periodicals with timely content. Like woodcuts, the blocks are durable, and can be used to make thousands of impressions.

Text for Ounce and Englishmen; image for Auctioneer

How do you know if you are looking at a wood engraving? If a black and white illustration appears on the same page as words printed from type (same color ink, impression visible on the back of the page, etc.) it is probably a relief print. Between about 1780 and 1840, the chances are good that a print of this sort was made from a wood engraving. (Wood engravings continued to be used into the twentieth century, with other print technologies joining them.) Because a burin removes material, the most important graphic elements are frequently light, rather than dark. The artist “thinks” in white line, rather than in black line. Closely parallel lines, both straight and curving, are characteristic of the technique, and are used to create light and dark areas, depending on the relative widths of the cut away and printed lines.

Text for Coffee Tree and Stag; images for Water Spout and Volcano

These illustrations come from Useful Gossip for the Young Scholar, or, Tell-Tale Pictures, a strangely various series of short paragraphs of information on birds, animals, plants, and natural phenomena (with additional entries on the auctioneer, plowing, charity, and Englishmen). Bewick is credited as the illustrator by later catalogers – not in the book itself – and many  of the pictures are very closely related to works reliably identified as his. Other illustrations were at least based on his images, but they may have been produced by his stable of apprentices or even copied by another wood engraver. The author, Mary Elliott, wrote moral juvenile works to supplement her family’s income and was published by Darton for decades. One gets the general sense that she was asked to produce text to match a collection of likely blocks in the possession of the publisher – an idea we might pursue another day. The text is broken up into single syllables, as an aid to young readers.

Text fo Cameleopard (giraffe) and Butterflyand Fruit; images for OurangOutang and Tobacco Plant

In the smaller leaf, the black lines convey shape in the “shadowed” half, and white lines delineate features on the “lighted” side.

Some of the “useful gossip” is factual and some moralistic. The Roller, for example “is of the mag-pie tribe, but we hope he does not chat-ter so much. Many words are not proofs of sense; but we may laugh at a bird’s non-sense, though we ex-pect more wis-dom from cle-ver chil-dren, such as my young read-ers.” And we learn of the tobacco plant that it is employed medicinally, for chewing, and as snuff, but “since we do not mean to smoke to-bac-co, it is of no use to us.” The book is worth reading, at least as a snapshot from 1822  of suitable instruction for the very young.

Marianne Hansen, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts

Elliott, Mary. Useful Gossip for the Young Scholar, or, Tell-Tale Pictures. London: William Darton, 58, Holborn Hill, 1822

Read our copy on the Internet Archive.

With the continuing closure of the Library, we are blogging regularly about books from the exhibition, The Girl’s Own Book. Please follow us on Facebook or subscribe here for notices of new blog posts.

Paper Dolls, and How to Make Them

 My Dear Young Friends :

I have often pitied myself, because there were no Paper Dolls when I was a little girl. I supposed that all little girls, now-a-days, played with them, until a few days ago, when a lady told me that she knew a number, who had never heard of Paper Dolls, and then she said: “Why can’t you make a little book, and tell how to make them?” And Mary looked up and said, “Please, do, Mamma, it would make a great many children happy.”

Plate VIII. Four dolls, of varying ages, and one garmentThis first American book on making paper dolls was published anonymously in 1857. The author is enthusiastic about making dolls at home and playing with them. Her enumeration of types of dolls suggests scenarios for play: “Babies to be nursed and fondled, little girls and boys to be taught and entertained, rewarded and punished, mammas to keep house, and go visiting, and take care of the little ones.” She expects the dolls will be given names and histories – and attend parties, “if you allow your little people to go to such places.”

Plate VI. An infant with a long robe and an outfit with a shorter skirtMost of the book, though, focuses on technical details of producing and clothing the dolls. The dolls themselves are made of “Any kind of stiff paper, the backs of old cards, paste-board, Bristol board,” and the costumes from scraps and leftover bits of paper. The author lists various sorts of colored paper the girl may be able to scavenge: covers of pamphlets, note or letter paper, tissue “motto papers” (imagine the pink, blue, and green amaretti wrappers); plain brown or white paper to draw or paint on; minuscule scraps of gold paper; and even tiny feathers for hats. With these materials, a pencil, scissors, and a bottle of gum arabic, the girl is “prepared to do great things in the millinery and dressmaking line.”

The ten plates show one or more “patterns” for dolls to trace or redraw or imitate, and sample sketches of types of clothing to make from the accumulated stash of useful paper.

Some of us had paper dolls when we were young where the clothing was held on the doll by folded over paper tabs. And we have seen in our examination of Little Fanny that the early nineteenth century saw commercial printing of paper dolls whose head moved from garment to garment. The author of our book is excited about a different technology: “Now the great invention, from which Paper-Doll playing may be said to have its beginning, consists simply in making the dresses doubled at the top, so that they may stay on. I consider this one of the greatest discoveries of modern times.… The way is simply this; to fold the paper of which the dress is to be made, having the fold at the top, so that the dress is cut double, front and back, and the folded part makes a shoulder-strap.”

Plate III. Doll and a variety ofgarments, including a frock shown with front and back attached at the shoulders

The attached, matching, front and back of the garments illustrated, Fig. 2

For high-necked clothing the head will not fit through, a long opening is made in the back. The author also gives tips on hats, shoes and stockings, garments which might obscure the doll’s arms, and so on.

Platre IV. Adaptations for high-necked garments

A closed neck jacket illustrated, with a prolonged opening in the back layer, Fig. 2

The author is troubled about the dolls’ appearance. She knows most children do not draw naturalistically and also that it doesn’t bother them at all: ‘[the dolls] may be cross-eyed, and their foreheads may be larger than all the rest of their faces, and their heads may grow out of their shoulders, and their fat arms may stand out straight, and end in little knobs. [I]t is all the same, they are “little darlings,” “perfect beauties,” “the sweetest little things that ever were seen.”’

Plate I. Two dolls

The author’s drawings

But she wishes the dolls were better. She instructs the young artists to try to make the faces symmetrical, and to practice on a slate before committing to paper – although she expects they will be disappointed in the results. She advises them that if their first doll is “horrid-looking” they should dress it and give it to their baby sister who won’t know any better – and make another. And “if this second one does not look as well as you hoped it would, still I think that you had best make a dress or two for it.” She clearly has experience with the painful fact that ability only improves with practice – and that somehow the aspiring artist must both feel badly enough about the product to want to do better, and good enough about the process to repeat the effort.

Plate X. A boy doll and three outfitsShe finishes up with encouraging remarks and an appeal to thrift: “There is no end to the pretty things that you can make. You will soon collect, in one way or another, the simple materials which you can convert into beautiful dresses. I am sure that you and your mothers will all agree with me in saying that playing with Paper Dolls is the most delightful, the most varied, and at the same time the most simple and the least expensive of all your amusements.”

I can tell you from my own experience that it is fun to dress the dolls. You can use any combination of drawing, copying, collage, or Photoshop you like. I printed out one of the dolls, glued it onto card stock, gave it legs, then dressed it from paper scraps. Try it and let us know what you made!

Plate VII. A teenaged doll with bonnet, coat, and ball gown. A modern doll, with costume, based on the original, is shown next to the plate.

Marianne’s paper doll, created from one of the original patterns. The costume was made from a Cook’s Illustrated magazine: the wearable art jacket was cut from a photo of pan-roasted carrots, the leggings, shell, and mask from a painting of a pomelo.

 – Marianne Hansen, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts

Paper Dolls, and How to Make Them: A Book for Little Girls. New edition, improved and enlarged.
New-York: Anson D.F. Randolph, 683 Broadway., 1857.

 Our copy of the book can be read on the Internet Archive.

With the continuing closure of the Library, we are blogging regularly about books from the exhibition, The Girl’s Own Book. The exhibition’s run has been extended through the 2020-2021 academic year. Information about when it will open to visitors and related programming will be available when we are able to give it. Please follow us on Facebook or subscribe here for notices of new blog posts.

Why is Athens like the wick of a candle? Dad Jokes from 1850

“Why is Athens like the wick of a candle? ”
“Because it is in the midst of Greece (grease).”

cover of The New London Riddle Book

There’s nothing new about corny jokes and riddles, as the New London Riddle Book reveals. This small chapbook (only 12 pages including both covers) sold for a penny, and was promoted “for Christmas parties.”

Inside cover and first two riddlesSeven pages of long riddles in verse reinforce the idea that the book is meant for use by groups. Most of the illustrations that accompany the riddles reveal the answers. This might be amusing for younger or impatient individual readers, but it makes more sense in the context of one person reading the riddles to an audience, and prompting them to guess. It would also let you give a hint to the youngest participants if they could not come up with the answer on their own.

Further riddles. No. 3 reads: 3. —Though it be cold, I wear no clothes, The frost and snow I never fear, I value neither shoes nor hose, And yet I wander far and near. My diet is for ever free, I drink no cider, port, or sack; A Providence provides for me, And watcheth that I do not lack.

Some of the riddles are more rewarding than others (surely no one could actually guess the correct answer to No. 3, above from among all the possibilities). But No. 5 seems likely to provoke amusement on its own:
“I do not live, and yet have breath,
I shield the vital spark from death:
My lungs are wonderfully strong.
My mouth at least six inches long.”

The silly short “puzzles and conundrums”, which are more like the riddles familiar to us, are punny, corny, and cringe-worthy – perfect to share with Dad on Father’s Day, unless they are already among his favorites. Try him on some of these:

“Why is the capital of Ireland increasing daily ?
—Because it’s always doubling (Dublin).”

“Why is a spoon in a cup of tea like a nice young lady ?
—Because it’s in tea resting (interesting).”

Or enjoy a brief tribute to the future Edward VII:
“Why is the little Prince of Wales like a threatening cloud ?
—Because he intends to reign (rain).”

We’ve hidden the answers to the long riddles in the image above, but you can read the entire book on the Internet Archive. And give our regards to the Dad of your choice!

Back cover, with crown, figure of Britannia, and Victorian penny with the profile of the Queen as a young woman

The New London Riddle Book. London ;: William Walker, Publisher, 1850.

With the continuing closure of the Library, we are blogging regularly about books from the exhibition, The Girl’s Own Book. The exhibition’s run has been extended through the 2020-2021 academic year. Information about when it will open to visitors and related programming will be available when we are able to give it. Please follow us on Facebook or subscribe here for notices of new blog posts.

Playing with Man’s Salvation

 

Front and back cover

Front and back covers, all that is visible with the book folded up.

Away from our collections for three months now, we have been thinking, even more than we usually do, about the importance of immediate, personal, contact with old books, art objects, original manuscripts and records, centuries-old artifacts. Photography and digitization are wonderful tools for research and education. At the same time, the study of material culture, which draws on objects to help make sense of human activity and thought, is deeply enhanced by firsthand experience with those objects. If you can turn the pages of a book, you have access to information about its size, structure, and materials at a level even the best imaging and software do not deliver. Through your own manipulation of the volume, you gain insight into the experiences of the original audience and makers.

Metamorphosis, or a Transformation of Pictures is an especially difficult object to describe or understand without handling, its physical and intellectual arrangement best revealed by experiment. This is perhaps the key to its historical success – it is foremost a puzzle, and even if the content is familiar to the reader, it is an engaging pastime to follow the instructions and trace the path of the verses.

The "back" of the opened out sheet.

The “back” of the opened out sheet, a view that the reader is unlikely to see.

Even experienced remotely, it is a fascinating example of Americana and of early books aimed at children. Since we cannot look at it together, I will offer up the parts in various combinations. But we must accept that it is a poor substitute for handling the pages and trying out different arrangements of flaps, reading the texts as they appear near one another (out of “order”), and simply playing around.

The book is based on an anonymous mid-17th-century British religious work, The Beginning, Progress, and End of Man. Near the end of the 18th century an altered and expanded set of verses, attributed to Benjamin Sands, began to be published in America in both English and German versions, with a hundred editions appearing in the following 75 years. Physically it is made up of a single sheet, printed on both sides, with a central four panel strip. Separate flaps above and below flank each of the panels; the entire object is then accordion folded to resemble a chapbook.

Verse 1: Adam comes first upon the stage, And Eve from out his side, Who was given him in marriage; Turn up and see his bride. Verse2: Here Eve in shape you may behold, One body showeth two; Once more do but the leaf downfold, And it’s as strange to view. Verse 3: Eyes look not on the mermaid’s face, And ears hear not her song: Her features have an alluring grace, More charming than her tongue

Opened, but will all the flaps still folded in.

When the folded object is first opened out, four scenes are revealed, each with a verse that introduces the topic – and tells the reader what to do next. The first scene shows Adam and Verse 1:

Adam comes first upon the stage,
And Eve from out his side,
Who was given him in marriage;
Turn up and see his bride.

All four panels, with the first flap opened up.When you follow the instructions and turn up the top flap, both Eve and the serpent – tempting her – appear. The verse nearer the image is labeled “2” and it names Eve, comments on the transformation, and promises further entertainment:
Here Eve in shape you may behold,
One body showeth two;
Once more do but the leaf downfold,
And it’s as strange to view.

All four panels, withthe second flap openedEve turns into a mermaid, described by Verse 3:
Eyes look not on the mermaid’s face,
And ears hear not her song:
Her features have an alluring grace,
More charming than her tongue.

We will come back to the additional verses, those printed further out the leaves.

Verse 4: A Lion rousing from his den On purpose for to range, Is soon turn’d into another shape; Lift up and see how strange. Verse 5: A Griffin here you may behold, As fabled said to be; Once more do but the leaf downfold, A stranger sight you’ll see. . Verse 6: Behold within the Eagle’s claws, An infant there doth lie! Which he has taken as a prey And is prepar’d to fly.

Second section in its successive versions.

Each segment of the book is read and opened in this way.  To make the transformations easier to see, the image above and the next two show the successive versions of the remaining panels. In panel 2, a lion turns into a griffin, which then becomes an eagle menacing an infant. Again the first and second verse tell the reader which flap to open next, and describe both the metamorphoses as “strange.”

Verse 7: Now I’ve escap’d the eagle’s claws And am from danger free, I’ll set my heart to gather gold; Turn down the leaf and see. . Verse 8: A Heart here is oppress’d with care, What salve can cure the same? Under the leaf you’ll find a cure: Lift up and see how plain. Verse 9: A purse with gold and silver store Has cur’d my heart, I’m sick no more; And am from cares and dangers free; What is there now can trouble me?

Third section in its successive versions.

In the third panel, a young man is revealed as the victim of the eagle, happily saved. Turning the lower flap down first, according to the instructions reveals that he has unfortunately, grown up obsessed with accumulating wealth. Having become rich, he believes he is invincible:
A purse with gold and silver store
Has cur’d my heart, I’m sick no more;
And am from cares and dangers free;
What is there now can trouble me?

Verse 10: Now I’ve got gold and silver store, Bribes from the rich, pawns from the poor, What earthly cares can trouble me? Turn down the leaf and then you’ll see. . Verse 11: Sickness is come and Death draws nigh, Help gold and silver, ere I die; It will not do, for it’s but dross, Turn up and see man’s end at last.. Verse 12: O Man! Now see thou art but dust; They gold and silver is but rust; Thy time is come, thy glass is spent; What is there that can Death prevent.

Last section in its successive versions.

Cue the spooky music! His wealth is of no use to him when he becomes ill in the fourth panel and a familiar moral is presented:
O Man! Now see thou art but dust;
They gold and silver is but rust;
Thy time is come, thy glass is spent;
What is there that can Death prevent.

The "front" of the fully opened book.

The “front” of the fully opened book.

The story is finally revealed – or is it? When you have finished opening all the flaps you still have not engaged with the additional verses. And, of course the verse initiating the interaction with each panel is hidden on the back of the open flap, and the primary and intermediate images for each are no longer visible.

Verse 13: Adam and Eve in innocence, God was their glory and defence : Had they continued in that state, Their happiness had been complete. Angels, behold the happy pair, Who did your Maker’s image wear, While in obedience they remain’d And their innocence maintained. Verse 14: In happy Eden see them plac’d, Who stood or fell for all our race; In a sweet bower, composed of love, This happy pair might safely rove. There was no curse upon that ground, Nor changing grief there to be found: There nothing could their joys controul [sic], Nor mar the pleasures of the soul. Verse 15: This land they freely might possess, And live in joy and happiness: Adam was lord of all the land, Made by the great all-forming hand. Eat, said the Lord, of all you see, Except one interdicted tree; And on this truth you may rely, You may not eat that lest you die. Verse 16 (not numbered): Had they obey’d their Maker’s voice, And made eternal bliss their choice, Then everlasting life had been The lot of all the sons of men. But Satan came now in disguise, To blind this happy couple’s eyes: Saying, this fruit now eat, and you Like God, shall good and evil know.

Verses along the top of the open panels.

The supplementary verses continue commentary on the narrative. Jumping back up to the top left, the history of the Fall is rehearsed. Adam and Eve had everything they needed, but Satan convinced them to disobey God.

Verse 17: Eve then the fatal fruit did take, And gave her husband who did eat : Thus Adam fell to his disgrace, From his native righteousness. Now every thought that roves abroad, Is known to a sin-hating God : His perfect law he will maintain, Ah! he’ll reward the fall of man. Verse 18: The Tree of Life, now in that land, And knowledge, do well guarded stand, Lest Adam should the same espy, And eat thereof and never die, There Cherubs with a flaming sword, Are set the Tree of Life to guard : Now who among our fallen race, Can hope to see his Maker’s face? Verse 19: Or who before his awful bar In his own righteousness appear? The sons of Adam, since the fall, To death are subject one and all. But to the serpent it is said, The Woman’s seed shall bruise thy head; Though Adam hearken’d to his bride, Who pluck’d the fruit which was deny’d. Verse 20: Now Christ is come to set us free From everlasting misery: All the angelic host above, will shout the greatness of his love. There is a brighter world in view, Than Adam in old Salem knew; Proposed by the eternal God, And purchas’d by our Savior’s blood.

Verses along the bottom of the open panels.

In the verses revealed at the bottom, Eve takes the “fatal fruit” and carries Adam down with her to “disgrace.” Verses 18 and 19 mourn the separation of mankind from God, and Verse 20 proclaims salvation through Christ.

21. Death! why so fast? pray stop thy hand, And let my glass run out its sand: As neither Time nor Death will stay, Let us improve the present day. Short is the space allow’d to man, Its length is fitly measur’d by a span; When life begins, we then begin to die; A few years labour’d, in the grave we lie: Yet on this space how short soe’er depends A long eternity, that never ends. How little of our little time is spent In pleasing God, for which that time was lent. Final note: That we may not mislead our little readers, it is desired they would understand the Mermaid and Griffin to be only creatures of fable, that never did exist. And although Death is represented in the form of a hu- man skeleton, yet this is only an Emblem; for Death is not a being, but a state. Closing the flaps and re-folding the sections lets the reader see the last verse, a meditation on the brevity of human life. On the final available panel the publisher added literal-minded remarks on imaginary animals and the the allegorical nature of the depiction of death, reflecting a tradition of iconoclastic Protestant religious thought strangely at odds  with the densely emblematic book itself.

Of course, the original readers of the book also had the option of creating images against the intentions of the designers. They could turn Adam into a merman with the traditional symbols of vanity, the mirror and comb; make the miser count his money on his own head; or see Death strangely dressed in fashionable trousers, making new meanings  – or perhaps new nonsense – from the sincere advice of the makers.

Another way to navigate the book is available in the digitization of our copy on the Internet archive at https://archive.org/details/metamorphosis-or-a-transformation-of-pictures-1834/

Sands, Benjamin. Metamorphosis : or, A Transformation of Pictures, with Poetical  Explanations, for the Amusement of Young Persons. Philadelphia: G. Strong, 1834.

With the continuing closure of the Library, we are blogging regularly about books from the exhibition, The Girl’s Own Book. The exhibition’s run has been extended through the 2020-2021 academic year. Information about when it will open to visitors and related programming will be available when we are able to give it. Please follow us on Facebook or subscribe here for notices of new blog posts.

Aspirational Music Education

“I often tell young ladies, that no excellence in music is to be acquired, without constant practice,” says Lady Catherine de Bourg, in Pride and Prejudice. Anyone who has learned to play an instrument knows that, for once, she is correct, but that practice is not enough. In early 19th-century families of social standing, learning music meant not just playing “by ear”, but also learning to play from printed sheet music.

Ann offers to teach Marianto playThe Gamut and Time-Table in Verse offers a minimal introduction to the notes of the bass and treble clefs, and to the duration of different types of notes, the two most basic skills in reading music. This information is necessary, but far from sufficient. Anyone who learned “Every Good Boy Does Fine” in their first music lesson knows that you soon stop repeating the phrase as you look at the score. How much more so if you had learned, “Then the second space A, is here to be seen,/ The third line is B.–C, the third space between.”

In spite of its rudimentary information, The Gamut was a very successful book. It was first printed in the early 1820s by Dean & Munday and sold throughout the decade under their name and also with A.K. Newman named as the publisher. Much of the attraction of the work must have been the appeal to gentility; the booksellers were peddling not just music education, but also social aspiration. Well-educated upper-class children, and especially girls, played and sang, providing music for impromptu and informal dancing, and as entertainment in private households. The Gamut conveys the expectation of fitting into a society of well-bred individuals not just through its ostensible topic, but also through a series of class markers that would have been understood by the contemporary reader.

The Gamut is illustrated extensively with wood engravings – in spite of their name, a type of relief prints that can be set in the press at the same time as the type and printed simultaneously. The music as well was printed in relief, rather than from engraved copper plates; each note and its lines are a single piece of type and they are lined up to create a (slightly wobbly) staff. The illustrations have been colored by hand. These features hint at the prospective audience: the book is meant to be attractive, but not expensive. At one shilling it was well within the reach of a family of moderate means, including those of respectable merchants and tradesmen who were doing well. It might also have been bought by a more elevated clientele, to which group the lesser aligned itself by purchase.

Bass clef intoduced

The illustrator stakes the book’s claim to participation in canonical musical culture in the frontispiece, with the names of Haydn, Mozart, Handel, Purcell, and the immensely popular Rossini, on the book cover in the foreground. The group of players – possibly a family – arrange themselves casually as if they were playing for their own amusement. They present an ideal picture of the pleasures of music for accomplished amateurs, although the large organ and harp both belong only in very affluent establishments.

Frontispiece with musicians; title pageMost of the instruments depicted were available in the homes of the merely well to do. There is a grand piano (or an out of fashion harpsichord), a small organ, a mandolin, two harps, and a succession of square pianofortes through the book. The appearance of the word “SMART” on the pianoforte on page 30 establishes a terminus post quem for the undated book. Henry Smart was a successful violinist, composer, and orchestra and oratorio leader who opened a piano factory in 1821 and his name evokes the fashionable music scene of London.

Pianoforte with SMART on plaqueThe sisters are well-dressed and graceful – laudable examples of female accomplishment and behavior. Although the interiors are reduced to their essentials and set within curtains as if they were stage sets, the simplified paneled walls, patterned rugs, fashionable furniture, paintings of land- and seascapes, and a glimpse of a garden through the window convey comfort and prosperity.

The book’s final claim to gentility – identifying the author as C. Finch – is subtle and almost certainly fraudulent. There is no more complete contemporary attribution on record, but from the mid-century it was understood to refer to Lady Charlotte Finch (1725-1813), daughter of one earl and daughter-in-law of another, who served as royal governess to the fifteen children of King George III and Queen Charlotte. Although Finch retired in 1793, she was for three decades the most famous, and most noble, educator in England, and an early adopter of progressive educational theories and techniques. There is no reason to think she wrote the substandard verse which first appeared a decade after her death, and the publisher carefully did not say it was her work, but one suspects the implication was an additional attraction to purchase.

The audience for The Gamut was respectable and financially comfortable, but the book conveyed a whispered promise of something better – a nicer house, more fashionable company, an accomplished family. I doubt anyone ever learned to play by reading and memorizing the book, but it must surely have provided an inducement to persist through the tedium of scales and dozens of repetitions of country dance tunes or the latest quadrilles.


Finch, Charlotte. The Gamut and Time-Table in Verse: For the Instruction of Children. London: A.K. Newman and Co., 1823.

Our copy of The Gamut can be read on the Internet Archive.

With the continuing closure of the Library, we are blogging regularly about books from the exhibition, The Girl’s Own Book. The exhibition’s run has been extended through the 2020-2021 academic year; information about when it will open and related programming will be available when we are able to give it. Please follow us on Facebook or subscribe here for notices of new blog posts.

The Three Bears

Silverlocks outside cottage; Silverlocks eating porridgeOne of the books  Ellery Yale Wood collected was this glorious Three Bears, illustrated by Walter Crane in 1873. (Click on any image for a larger view.) It differs in a number of ways from the story of Goldilocks we all grew up with – and those differences are clues to the complex nineteenth-century history of this story.

Text in verseThe images Crane begins with are exactly what we expect – but the poem contains a surprise: the little girl is called Silverlocks. In the first printed version of the story (which seems to be a folk tale that was not recorded until after it took a literary form), the intruder is not even a child. England’s Poet Laureate, Robert Southey, published “The Story of the Three Bears” in 1837. His intruder, who enters an unoccupied house, eats the occupants’ food, breaks their furniture, and tucks herself into their beds, is an “impudent, bad old Woman,” a vagrant who he says should be “taken up by the constable and sent to the House of Correction.”

By the time Cundall’s Treasury of Pleasure Books for Young Children appeared thirteen years later, the child trespasser was firmly in place in popular culture. He says the story is better known with “Silver-Hair” and he substitutes her into Southey’s text. Thereafter a series of blonde girls, including Silver Locks, Golden-Hair, and eventually Goldilocks, imposed on the bears in an increasing number of illustrated books for children.

Silverlocks sits in the smallest chairYou probably remember that Goldilocks first tastes the porridge the bears have left on the table. She finds the first bowl too hot, the second bowl too cold, and the third bowl “just right.” Similarly the chairs are too wide, too narrow, and “just right,” and the beds too hard, too soft, and “just right.” This pattern is nearly universal in both modern and older tellings of the story. In fact, the expression “Goldilocks principle” has come to be used for situations where a point in the middle of a spectrum is most desirable. For example, astronomers have the earth orbiting the sun in a so-called “Goldilocks zone” – a distance from a star in which a planet’s temperature is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist.Text in verseBut Crane’s Silverlocks finds two of the soups “too hot and biting,” two of the chairs uncomfortable in ambiguously different but not necessarily opposite ways, and two of the beds too hard. The reason for this is unclear. It is true that the story has been put into verse (by an unknown poet), but other versions in verse preserve the “two extremes and a compromise” pattern.

The bears return home and find the porridge and chairs meddled withIn this book it is only when the rightful inhabitants of the house return that we learn that they are “bears, not persons.” In most re-tellings, the story starts with the bears and there is no surprise.

The bears rush upstairsOf course Crane has been revealing this all along in his exuberant depiction of an Aesthetic Movement interior. The bears’ coat of arms in the stained glass window and painted chair, the decorated cabinet, the table linens, the labeled blue and white bowls, and the newel post sculpture that references the heraldic ragged staff and bear of the Earls of Warwick, all point to the owners’ nature.

Text in verseIn another way, though, Crane is firmly in line with modern practice. Southey’s bears were a Great, Huge Bear; a Middle-sized Bear; and a Little, Small, Wee Bear and all of them were male. By the early 1850s they were often depicted as a large male, medium-sized female, and small cub, even when Southey’s text was used. By the 1860s they were Father, Mother, and Cub, as they are in Crane’s version.

The Cub finds Silverlocks sleeping; Silverlocks jumps out the windowThe frightening confrontation between the householders and the intruder was also in flux as the story settled into its modern form. Where Southey’s bears stand and watch the old woman jump out the window as soon as she wakens, for the next 60 or 70 years, the ursine responses are less certain.

Text in verseCrane’s Mother and Father Bear dispute whether to eat Silverlocks for dinner or supper, and they are not alone among their contemporaries. In the 1893 Rays of Sunshine, for example, the bears intend to eat the intruder until they see she is a child, and become ashamed of their bloodthirstiness. The general trend is away from violence, but it is not a straight path, and in this book, Silverlocks’ Nurse very reasonably tells her that she has had a lucky escape.

Crane, Walter, and Edmund Evans. The Three Bears. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1873.

Enjoy Crane’s Three Bears on the Internet Archive. The College’s copy of Southey’s work is not digitized, but you can read his original story there as well.

With the continuing closure of the Library, we are blogging regularly about books from the exhibition, The Girl’s Own Book. Please follow us on Facebook or subscribe here for notices of new blog posts.

A New Game of Questions and Commands

Title page of The FrogIn April 1819, Mrs. Wake inscribed her gift to young John Challis – a copy of The Gaping Wide-Mouthed Waddling Frog: A New Game of Questions & Commands. John carefully wrote his name in pencil on the first illustrated page. These are facts. We have to imagine, though, what happened when John gathered friends and family to play the “new game.”

Directions for play and first verseFollowing the instructions in the book, they chose a Treasurer, perhaps John’s sister Lettice (who wrote her own name in the book sometime later). She took a thimble from her reticule, handed it to the child to her right and said, “Take this.”

The little neighbor asked, “What’s this?”

And Lettice replied, “A gaping wide-mouth, waddling Frog.” Each player, in turn, passed the thimble to their right, and the same dialog was exchanged between each pair.

When the thimble got back to Lettice, she handed it to her neighbor again, but her response to “What’s this?” was now “Two fat farmers stuck in a bog, and a gaping wide-mouth, waddling Frog.” And the game proceeded round and round, adding a line or two with each repetition.

Verses for six fine footmen and seven old maidsEvery time a player made a mistake, they had to hand over some trifling item – a forfeit – to the Treasurer. When the memory part of the game finished, the forfeits began. A Crier was chosen, and blindfolded. Lettice picked one of the objects, a handkerchief or a ring perhaps, and asked the crier to name a punishment for the owner. The assigned tasks were supposed to provoke enjoyment for all; the person had to sing a song or hop around the room or recite a tongue twister in order to retrieve their possession.

Verses for ten jackdaws and eleven tabbiesThere was a fashion in the eighteen teens for children’s books presenting cumulative rhymes as competitive games. Edward Wallis offered not just The Frog but also The Pretty, Young, Playful, Innocent Lamb and The House that Jack Built between 1815 and 1818. At the same time, John Marshall supplied The Hopping, Prating, Chatt’ring Magpie; The Pretty, Playful, Tortoise-Shell Cat; The Frisking, Barking, Lady’s Lap-Dog; and The Noble, Prancing, Cantering Horse. All are subtitled A New Game of Questions and Commands.

This raises two questions: where did these poems suddenly come from, and why are they called a new game of questions and commands?

Verse from The Universal Shuttlecock

The other version of The Frog, from The Universal Shuttlecock, 1790

A poem calledThe Gaping Wide-Mouthed Waddling Frog” first appeared in The Top Book of All, for Little Masters and Misses in 1760, then in 1790 in The Universal Shuttlecock, and around 1800 in Mirth Without Mischief. Surprisingly, the poem Wallis printed differs from the earlier texts. Both versions begin with the familiar frog, but then the texts diverge. Of course, Wallis (or whoever wrote the poem for him) knew the original verses, but chose not to use them. Likewise, all the other poems were original works created by Wallis or Marshall to offer variety for the market they had created. Only “The House that Jack Built” (first printed in 1755 as a poem, although not a game) contains a traditional text.

Questions_and_commands;_or,_the_mistaken_road_to_He-r-f-rd;_a_Sunday_evenings_amusement_by_James_Gillray

“Questions & Commands” by James Gillray, 1788

That leaves the issue of “Questions and Commands.” In 1711, in an issue of The Spectator, Joseph Addison included the game among a list of innocent amusements for a winter night. And in The Vicar of Wakefield (1766), the family plays blind man’s buff, hot cockles, hunt the slipper, and questions and commands at a Michaelmas Eve party. It turns out to be an 18th-century parlor game, played by adults as well as youngsters: A “commander” asks each player a question. If they refuse to respond, or if the answer does not satisfy the other players, the commander names a punishment. It is easy to see how, like the redemption of forfeits in our book, this game could lead to hilarity, but also to humiliation and ill will. A cartoon by James Gillray, from 1788, depicts a range of responses to a saucy forfeit requiring a gentleman to stick his head under a lady’s dress, perhaps to kiss her foot.

Miss Goodchild, and her friends, drawing forfeits at the the new and entertaining Game of THE FROGThe forfeits are the essential feature, then, on which the subtitle New Game of Questions and Commands is based. We cannot tell if it was Wallis or Marshall who thought of linking back to an old-fashioned game that was not really very appropriate for their young customers, but it must have been a successful branding decision, since they both retained it in repeated printings of their books.

Characters from The Frog on ZoomWhat about an even newer game of questions and commands? In this time of making one’s own fun and remote socializing, I’ve been considering playing The Frog on Zoom. Can modern players learn the poem by hearing it repeated? Do I have to be able to recite it perfectly to lead the game? How many of my friends would google the poem, find our scanned book on the Internet Archive, and cheat? What are the forfeits like in a digital age – do you still command someone to sing, or should they cue up a karaoke video? (The host of a Zoom meeting can mute an attendee, so it couldn’t be too bad.) Do they have to share the eighth picture from their camera roll or pictures folder? Must they say three times a tongue twister the host sends them by chat?

If you play the game, please report back!

Marianne Hansen, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts

The Gaping Wide-Mouthed Waddling Frog. A New Game of Questions & Commands. London: Printed for E. Wallis, and J. Wallis, 1817.

Read our copy on the Internet Archive.

With the continuing closure of the Library, we are blogging regularly about books from the exhibition, The Girl’s Own Book. Please follow us on Facebook or subscribe here for notices of new blog posts.

Naughtiness and – Disproportionate? – Punishment

Until the end of the eighteenth century, moral literature for the young focused primarily on religious instruction. But changing ideas about childhood resulted in new parenting styles, with increasing emphasis on empathy, reason, and psychological reward and punishment. Books for children began to speak openly of earthly as well as heavenly rewards for good behavior – happiness, parental love, social approbation, and gifts and treats. Naughtiness, similarly, resulted not only in eternal damnation but also in rebuke, deprivation, social isolation, corporal punishment, injury, and even death. Although many of these books also contained religious instruction, morality and behavior drove much of the narrative, rather than piety and belief. title page of "The Daisy, or, Cautionary Stories in Verse"The most successful book of this sort was The Daisy, or, Cautionary Stories in Verse: Adapted to the Ideas of Children from Four to Eight Years Old, attributed to Elizabeth Turner. First published by John Harris in 1807, it was reprinted in England and America throughout the nineteenth century. Half the poems are about good children who are obedient, kind to their pets and their siblings, speak courteously, study hard at school, and are benefactors of the poor. But the more interesting narratives are driven by conflict, and the most memorable characters are ill-behaved. The Daisy is famous for bad things happening to barely naughty people – burned, poisoned, drowned. It is the epitome of the alarmist books that were parodied first by Hoffman’s Struwwelpeter, and later by Gorey in the Gashlycrumb Tinies. To the 21st-century reader it seems absurd to have threatened such dire outcomes of typical childish misbehavior, especially for such a young audience.

verse and image for "The new Dolls"

Click on this or any picture for a larger view. Use the Back button to return to the blog.

Some of the infractions and punishments do seem reasonable, even to modern feelings. Sisters Jenny and Polly fight over whose new doll is bigger – and their mother takes the dolls away from them.

Social pressure is another familiar motive for moral improvement. Miss Peggy is reformed from throwing tantrums by the humiliation of having a gentleman come into the house to learn what all the screaming is about. verse and image for "Miss Peggy"We are not, of course, always sympathetic to 19th-century sensibilities. In “Falsehood Corrected” Jacky ties a brick to the cat and drowns it. But he is punished for lying about it – and not for having murdered the family pet. verse and image for "Falsehood corrected"Strangest to us are the childish infractions which result in serious injury or death. Miss Sophia neglects her schoolwork and climbs a gate she knows she shouldn’t – and is injured in falling from a gate “as high as any door.” verse and image for "Miss Sophia"Meanwhile, Peter warmed a fireplace poker to red heat, and waved it around until he burned himself – but he would not have been injured if he had obeyed his mother. Disobedience is the greatest, and underlying, offense in most of these stories. Besides recording actions that are inconsiderate, bad-tempered, or foolhardy, the poems stress that the children are doing what they had expressly been told not to do. Even “modern” 19th-century parents, who sympathized, and empathized, and relied upon discussion and reason in correcting their children, felt that those children should obey them immediately and without question. verse and image for "Dangerous Sport"As the the result of disobedience, three children in The Daisy are injured – Peter (burned), Sophia (bruised), and Frances, who spins until she is dizzy and hurts herself when she falls. Three die. The fatalities are Tom and Jane, who eat poisonous berries they should have left alone, and Helen, who looks into a well every chance she gets until the day she slips and falls in. verse and image for "The giddy Girl"Helen also used to run across the street, disregarding the danger of carriages. And this gives us a hint that there might actually have been something reasonable about the urgency that drove Elizabeth Turner and contemporary writers to condemn so harshly what seems like simple disobedience and childish foolishness.

Account of accidental deaths In the first week of April. 1844

General Register Office; Royal College of Physicians of London. A Table of Mortality for the Metropolis, Shewing the Number of Deaths from All Causes Registered in the Week ending Saturday, 6th April. London: Hartnell, 1844. Scan from the Internet Archive.

The General Register Office for England and Wales, in 1844, began publishing reports for deaths in London in a format that permits one to track causes of mortality for children. I took a quick sample – the first week of each month from that year. Of the 5350 persons between the ages of 0 and 15 who died in those twelve weeks, 102 suffered “Violent deaths” – something other than disease or an inherent medical condition killed them. 40 of those deaths resulted from the children’s clothes catching fire (and 2 more were scalded). Thirteen of the young people drowned. Eleven were run over by carriages. Five fell to their deaths. Nearly 70% of these real children died of one of the causes through which the imaginary children in The Daisy endanger themselves.

I finished my short statistical foray with new sympathy for the “dreadful results” genre of moral literature for the young. It still sounds shrill to me. But I have more specific, evidence-based, ideas now about the perils of living in a time when people cooked with fire, drove horses at high speed through crowded streets, and maintained uncovered wells. The behaviors punished in the poems were demonstrably dangerous. One can hardly blame loving parents from trying what they might to keep their children from harm.

– Marianne Hansen, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts

Turner, Elizabeth, and John Harris. The Daisy, or, Cautionary Stories in Verse: Adapted to the Ideas of Children from Four to Eight Years Old. London: J. Harris, 1807. We have not yet digitized our copy of The Daisy, but you can get an idea of the book from the 1817 edition at the University of California.

Explore the Table of Mortality for the Metropolis for yourself on the Internet Archive

With the continuing closure of the Library, we are blogging regularly about books from the exhibition, The Girl’s Own Book. Please subscribe or check back here, or follow us on Facebook for notices of new blog posts.

The Tragical Death of A Apple-Pye:

“A is for Apple. B is for Ball,” we say these days. But for two hundred years, English children learning the alphabet grappled instead with apple pie, greed, and interpersonal conflict.apple pie surrounded by the letters of the alphabet Hebrew, Greek and Latin sources provide ancient abecedarian poetry and texts, where the first letter of each line – or verse or stanza – starts with a letter in alphabetical order. Psalm 119 (“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. ” KJV) is abecedarian in Hebrew. St. Augustine’s Psalmus contra partem Donati sets the stanzas in alphabetical order, in Latin. Even Chaucer wrote a carmen secundum ordinem litterarum alphabeti, in English, in honor of the Virgin Mary.

No one knows when the first ABC poem meant for the youngest readers was created, but Apple Pie was current in England in the 17th century. John Eachard, satirist and doctor of divinity, published a humorous criticism of sermons in the Church in 1671. While abusing preachers who stretch their sermons by elaborating on each letter in a word (REPENT – Readily Earnestly, Presently, Effectually…) he says, “And also why not A Apple-pasty, B bak’d it, C cut it, D divided it, E eat it, F fought for it, G got it, &c. ?” The poem next appears in print in 1743, when it was included in The Child’s New Play-thing, a spelling book that began with several alphabets and ABC poems. It was printed frequently after that in the frenzy of the new market for children’s books.Title page of The Tragical Death

Many of those “books” were the tiny publications called chapbooks – a single sheet of paper printed on both sides, and folded to make a little sixteen-page pamphlet smaller than the palm of your hand. Our Apple Pye is one of these, roughly 3 1/2 inches tall and 2 1/4 inches wide. It was published around 1800 (it is undated) and the fragile miniature might not have survived, except that it was bound with 14 other chapbooks early on, probably in the eighteen teens.Child asking for pie. First ABC poem a-G

The book includes two alphabet poems, and it begins with a woodcut and a bit of doggerel where a canny child demands a large slice of pie, to save the trouble of asking for a second. The poem proper (The Tragical Death of A Apple-Pye, Who Was Cut in Pieces and Eat by Twenty Five Gentlemen) then begins, and each letter takes some action towards A, the apple pie itself.First ABC poem H-AThere is the usual trouble with choosing appropriate words at the end of the alphabet, and  X, Y, and Z have to collaborate with Ampersand. The “Twenty-five gentlemen” realize there may not be enough to go around, so they agree to stand in order around the pie and take turns.Discussion after first ABC poem. The pie surroudned by lettersBut they do not then all use their nicest manners to ensure a fair distribution of the meal. The second alphabet poem, A Curious Discourse that Passed Between the Twenty-five Letters at Dinner-Time, starts with A, like the little girl in the opening verse, asking for “a good, large slice.”Second ABC poem A-GEvery letter has its preferences, although most of them just want a lot of pie.Second ABC poem T-&. Publisher's advertisement.Predictably, by the time it is Y’s turn, he eats the last piece, and Z and Ampersand have to lick the dish. John Evans, the printer/publisher, then inserted an advertisement for his other books for “little readers,” complete with his shop address.Old lady who made the pie. Grace before mealsEvans still had three small pages to fill, so he added a woodcut of the imaginary old woman who made the pie in the poem, and stated she would supply a similar treat to good children. But since good people always pray before meals, he included a grace for the children to learn – to demonstrate that they deserved a pie. On the final page, he printed a postprandial grace and the Lord’s Prayer.Final page with grace after meals and the Lord's PrayerOur copy of The Tragical Death is part of the Ellery Yale Wood Collection of Books for Young Readers. It has been digitized and is available for your perusal on the Internet Archive.

The Tragical Death of a Apple-Pye, Who Was Cut in Pieces and Eat by Twenty Five Gentlemen: With Whom All Little People Ought to Be Very Well Acquainted. London: Printed by John Evans, 42, Long-lane, West-smithfield, c.1800.

With the continuing closure of the Library, we are blogging regularly about books from the exhibition, The Girl’s Own Book. Please subscribe or check back here, or follow us on Facebook for notices of new blogs.