Materials for the Friday Finds workshop “Sew, Snip, Tie: Early American Children’s Blank Books”

“Sew, Snip, Tie: Early American Children’s Blank Books” will take place on Friday, October 30, 2020 at noon, via Zoom. Register to attend at https://brynmawr.libcal.com/event/7204459.

This is a hands-on workshop, during which participants make a simple blank book in the stye of early 19th-century children’s homemade copy books.Campus community members will be able to pick up a kit of materials (first photo below). Off campus participants should gather materials before the event – see the second photo and list.

Campus community members who would like a kit of materials must register separately for the kit at https://brynmawr.libcal.com/event/7235349. You will be able to pick it up in Canaday Library from 9-4:30 Thursday,  October 29 or Friday morning before the workshop. We will send you an e-mail as soon as the kits are available (maybe a day or two early, depending on our suppliers).supplies provided for on-campus community membersThe kit includes:

2 sheets of 8 ½” x 11″ laid paper, for the pages

One half sheet of 8 ½” x 11″ heavy, handmade, decorated paper, for the cover

Needle to sew your book with. This will also be used to make holes in the paper for sewing

Bookbinder’s thread – 1 yard

Beeswax to wax thread

A popsicle stick to use as a folder

Pen and ink to practice your alphabet. The first ten on-campus students who want them may have the pen and ink shown in the photo as part of their kit. The rest of us will need a calligraphy pen or any fine tipped pen or marker

Pages to copy (Alphabet_smaller, Running_Hand_recto, Running_Hand_verso)

You supply your own scissors

 

Off-campus participants will need the following items:

materials needed for participants who are not using kits2 sheets of 8 ½ x 11 paper, for your pages.

One half sheet of 8 ½” x 11” heavier paper, for the cover (8 ½” x 5 ½”). shown here, a rectangle cut from a manila folder

Needle to sew your book with. This should be sharp and as heavy as possible. It is best if the eye is no wider than the main part of the needle

Thread for sewing. A heavy thread is ideal – buttonhole/carpet thread if possible. No more than a yard will be needed

Wax to smooth your thread with. Beeswax is traditional, but you can use any candle, or a  lip balm like ChapStick or Burt’s Bees

Folder – something to press down the edge of the folded paper. You can use a popsicle stick or the handle of your scissors

Pen and ink to practice your alphabet. If you have a calligraphy pen, choose that. If not, any fine tip pen will work.

Scissors

Pages to copy (Alphabet_smaller, Running_Hand_recto, Running_Hand_verso)

We hope you will join us for this workshop – see you there!

The Girl’s Own Book – Now Open Online

Screenshot of the online version the the exhibition, The Girl's Own BookThe Girl’s Own Book is now open online at http://exhibitions.digital.brynmawr.edu/the-girls-own-book/index. We invite you to explore the digital exhibition.

The show will open in Canaday Library next Monday, September 14. It will be open Monday through Friday 10am – 4pm. Open to campus community members only through the Fall semester.

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.

Nice Little Games for Nice Little Girls

 

Back cover of book showing various series offered by the publisher

Nice Little Games for Nice Little Girls was one of several volumes of amusements issued by Dean & Sons in the 1850s and 60s.  Other books in the Mamma and Papa Lovechild series included Nice Little Games for Nice Little Boys, Picture Book of Games and Pastimes (for older children), and The Pleasing Book of Boy’s Sports. Dean offered many books in series, often named after a “relative” – Sister Lady-Bird, Brother Sunshine, and so on. Our book’s full title begins Cousin Lively’s Picture Book of Nice Little… These rather similar books are differentiated by the gender and age of their prospective audiences. Our book is distinctly meant for girls, and it provides a number of clues for the modern reader about what that meant to the anonymous compiler.

Page 6. "Fox Among the Poulty" and "Swinging"

The amusements are meant for very young girls – small enough for the warning that the swing should be tied to two trees, which limits the length of the arc the swing can move through. This age range is confirmed by the book for “little boys,” where the children are shown in skirts, rather than trousers, identifying them as too young to go to school – at most five or, just possibly, six.

page 4. "Fox and Geese" and "Morris" board games

The board games are also chosen for children who probably still need someone to read the book to them. Nine-men’s morris is offered as comprehensible by girls who are able to play tic-tac-toe (around four years old) And the variant of Fox and Geese adds additional geese to the traditional thirteen to make the sides more even.

Page. 3. "Cat and Mouse" and "The Skipping Rope"

There are many active, primarily outdoor, activities, some competitive, some requiring cooperation. The warning against overexertion while skipping rope reflects ideas about gender and physical activity. But many active games are included, in spite of reservations, and skipping is described as “a healthy and graceful exercise,” revealing more interest in fitness than one might predict of a Victorian writer. The companion book, “Games and Pastimes” includes archery, hopscotch, badminton, a game related to cricket, and other athletic activities as suitable for girls as well.

Page 2. "Buff" and "Cup and Ball"

An important difference between this and its “brother” book is that many of the boys’ games include striking one another or contain other aggressive components; the girls play together without much conflict. The author has to add rules to some of the pleasurable activities suggested to make them “games.” As revealed by “Cup and Ball,” a game has at least two players, a competition, and a winner – or more commonly, a loser.

Page 1. "Thus Says the Grand Mufti" and "Frog in the Middle"Fortunately, disappointment or triumph is often fleeting: the rounds in many of the games are short, and the loser in any round simply takes over the special role, for example, as the frog in “Frog in the Middle.”

Games which depend on quick thinking are more likely to have multiple losers, and the forfeits we discussed when we looked at the Wide-Mouthed Waddling Frog come into play again. “Thus Says the Grand Mufti” is like Simon Says, with the players obliged to distinguish between “Thus says…” and “So says…” (A mufti is an Islamic jurist, and at the time the book was published “Grand Mufti” referred to the chief mufti of the Ottoman empire, made topical in Great Britain by the Crimean War of 1853-56.)

Page 8. "The Genteel Lady"

Quicker and easier than forfeits, and one suspects more likely to promote general hilarity, is the “punishment” of adding a paper horn to one’s coiffure after making an error in reciting an increasingly complex series of silly sentences. “The Genteel Lady” is the last game in the book, and in many ways its highlight, with two illustrations (hand-colored wood engravings) and a long set of instructions.

It’s easy to imagine that this book, like most of Dean & Sons’ carefully considered and promoted offerings, was successful. It was attractive and included fifteen games, with a mix of active and intellectual pursuits, indoor and outdoor amusements, and games that could be played instantly as well as some that required equipment or preparation – and all for sixpence (less than $5 today).

– Marianne Hansen, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts

Cousin Lively’s Picture Book of Nice Little Games for Nice Little Girls. London: Dean & Son. 1859

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.

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.