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.

Pussy’s Road to Ruin – A Warning to Older Girls

Ttile pageIn a recurrent narrative arc in nineteenth-century literature, small acts of disobedience weaken the protagonist’s moral resilience, lead to increasingly serious offenses, and then inexorably to crime and punishment. Boys tell fibs, are shunned by more ethical companions, join criminal gangs, and end their lives on the gallows. Young women play hooky from church, associate with undesirable and lower-class girls – then their even worse brothers – and end up pregnant, prostituted, and disowned. The defining characteristics of these tragic narratives are bad companions, downward social movement, degradation, and destruction,

With upper- and middle-class Regency and Victorian hesitation to discuss sex openly with girls and women, loss-of-purity narratives become loci of linguistic negotiation. Lydia Bennett’s immoral connection with Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice is characterized by her conventional sister Mary: “Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson: that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable — that one false step involves her in endless ruin — that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful — and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex.” For younger readers, symbolism was more appropriate than even this circumlocution, and one common way to touch on charged relationships between adults was with stories about animals, especially cats.Pussy as a model kittenAt the beginning of Pussy’s Road to Ruin, Pussy is a model kitten. Her mother teaches her to purr when the children pet her, and absolutely not to scratch them. She helps with domestic work, and listens carefully to maternal good advice and cautionary stories about kittens who are disobedient, self-centered, and idle.Pussy helping her mother with the spinningAbove all, her mother teaches her to be industrious, to earn her place in the household, and to deserve the good opinion of their master by hunting mice.Mother cat teaching Pussy to hunt miceUnfortunately, Pussy is a typical teenager, and one day when she is wasting time on the stoop, a disreputable, older male cat (“a strange Grimalkin”) chats her up. Grimalin greets PussyAlthough she very properly rejects his casual familiarity to begin with, he invites her to meet him on the roof that evening. He begins his psychological assault by denigrating her style of life, disputing her interpretation of her mother’s rules, and coaxing her with promises of enjoyment.text describing the meetingPussy lets herself be persuaded, and they pass a pleasant hour, with the tomcat behaving like a gentleman. Pussy and Grimalkin on the roofBut like other manipulative males, as they part respectably, he sets Pussy up to comply with a less conventional request.text describing the stroll on the roofHe induces Pussy to become his accomplice in killing a jackdaw. The following day,  guided by Grimalkin’s advice on how tasty domestic chickens are, she undertakes two additional murders,. Pussy and Grimalkin killing the chickens He convinces her to commit the more serious offense – his own role being to restrain the rooster – while claiming he is taking care of her well-being during this crime, imposing gratitude upon her and tying her to him emotionally.text describing Pussy killing the chickensNext he suggests she take cooked mutton chops from the kitchen and later convinces her to steal a string of smoked sausages. Pussy escaping thorugh the windo into the night, carrying the sausagesMeanwhile he establishes his authority by criticizing Pussy’s knowledge and intelligence, and speaking abusively of her inexperience.text describing the sausage esacpadeLike other young females, Pussy internalizes the criticism, and anxious to overcome her perceived inadequacy and gain his good opinion, she commits a crime on her own initiative, with only the recollected prompting of the unscrupulous Grimalkin. text describing the canary slaughterShe kills the pet canary, perverting the skills her mother taught her to protect the household.Pussy kills the canaryOf course, at this point the master of the house catches Pussy and incarcerates her in the cellar, where she is obliged to subsist on mice, rather than the fine food she has become accustomed to under the tuition of her deceiver. Grimalkin disappears, leaving Pussy to suffer her fate while he entices some other foolish young cat to do what she ought not.Pussy looking out the barred window of the cellarThus Pussy reaps the certain fruits of having been too little guarded in her behavior towards the undeserving of the other sex. Whether this lesson can be learned by the juvenile reader – and whether she can translate the lesson about obedience into one of chastity – is left to the imagination.Our copy of Pussy’s Road to Ruin 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. Please follow us on Facebook or subscribe here for notices of new blog posts.

Clara de Chatelain. Pussy’s Road to Ruin, or, Do as You are Bid. Leipzig: W. Engelmann; London: A. & S. Joseph Myers, 1840. 2nd ed.

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.

Remembering Jane Martin

Photograph of Jane Martin and workers at Nyema Smith's sugar cane production in Liberia (April 15, 1976); Catalog Card written by Jane Martin (c. 2000) from The Jane Martin Papers, Bryn Mawr College Archives

Photograph of Jane Martin and workers at Nyema Smith’s sugar cane production in Liberia (April 15, 1976); Catalog Card written by Jane Martin (c. 2000) from The Jane Martin Papers, Bryn Mawr College Archives

Special Collections remembers Dr. Jane Martin (Class of 1953, MA 1958), the generous donor of a significant collection of African Art and related papers from her professional work in Liberia, who died on April 14. After graduating from Bryn Mawr with two degrees, Martin went on to earn her PhD in African History from Boston University in 1968. Her research focused on the Glebo of Eastern Liberia, and many of her interests there are reflected in the archives she donated to the College, including material on specific individuals in the Kru tribe, African women and their roles in education and society, and governmental and non-profit organizations in Africa.

Martin lived and worked in West Africa for several years, teaching African History at the University of Calabar in Nigeria and the University of Liberia in the 1970s. Her papers demonstrate her careful thinking about how to teach history and what to teach, as well as research interviews she conducted during this time. From 1984 to 1989, she was Executive Director of the United States Educational and Cultural Foundation in Liberia, administering the Fulbright Program and other cultural exchange programs. She was a strong advocate for binationalism between the US and Liberia for all of her life, continuing this work at the African-American Institute in New York, when civil war forced Martin to leave Liberia in 1989.

Throughout her travels in Africa, Martin collected a wide variety of art and cultural objects, some 150 of which she donated to the Art & Artifacts Collection at Bryn Mawr. These include helmet masks danced by women of Liberia’s Sande society, Ashanti gold weights, baby carriers, toys made by the artist Saarenald T. S. Yaawaisan from recycled flip-flop sandals, and a Baule Chief’s chair. She documented her collecting with various field notes, photographs, and correspondences, all of which serve to enrich the gift of objects immeasurably.

Works from Martin’s Collection have been featured in exhibitions organized by students since their arrival at the College in 2016, including On Selecting: Profiles of Alumnae Donors to the African Art & Artifacts Collection (Spring 2017) and Mirrors & Masks: Reflections and Constructions of the Self (Spring 2017). These materials are regularly used in courses across a variety of fields at the College.

To learn more, visit:

The Jane Martin Papers Finding Aid in College Archives

The Jane Martin Collection in Art & Artifacts