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

Naughtiness and – Disproportionate? – Punishment

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

verse and image for "The new Dolls"

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Marianne Hansen, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts

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

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

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

The Tragical Death of A Apple-Pye:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transformations of Images and Texts – The Orphan Girl

Dean & Co. was an early and prolific publisher of toy and movable books for children: pop-ups, pantomime books, “peepshow” or tunnel books. Their first line of novelty books was the series Dame Wonder’s Transformations, books with a hole cut in each page through which the face of the main character appears, surrounded by the events of the story.Cover fo the book: Dame Wonder's Transformations. The Orphan Girl. The Orphan Girl, published between 1843 and 1845, is a charming example of this technology.

Face of the orphan girl showing through the hole through all five pages

The orphan girl’s face showing through all the pages of the book.

The story is told in the first person by the “orphan girl”, who appears to be in her mid-to late teens at the beginning of the book. She is left alone, although in possession of a cottage, and she calls upon God to keep her from sin and to supply her needs. The orphan girl kneels in prayer at a table, hands restin on a large book. Tree branches without leaves are seen through the window.As a result of her earnest piety, her garden provides abundant bouquets which she sells to the wealthy. The orphan girl sells a bunch of flowers to a well-dressed lady. A fashionable coach appears in the background.In addition, her domestic fowl and sheep increase prodigiously, bees swarm to her home, and her fruit trees and vines bear heavily. The orphan girl stands otudoor, surrounded by a variety of domestic birds. A yong boy and girl stand nearby. Sheep are on the hill in the background.She occasionally teaches a neighbor’s child to read, apparently as a leisure activity. The orphan girl sits sewing wiht a youn g girl next to her holding an open bookSuddenly, her brother returns from India, having made a fortune, and provides the means for the two of them to live comfortably in the cottage. The brother, dressed in naval uniform embraces his sister at the cottage. A ship in full sail appears in the background.In the last scene, supplied abundantly herself, she gives bread and drink to an impoverished neighbor.The orphan girl gives food to a neighbor woman with two childre. The brother sits nearby under a trellis.The narrative is related to the most famous children’s book of the eighteenth century, Little Goody Two-Shoes, although in The Orphan Girl, the account is condensed to an extreme. The original, first published in 1765, tells the story of a sister and brother whose parent die when the children are small. They are separated, and the story follows the sister who lives at first in extreme poverty in the country, gradually gaining the respect and trust of her fellow villagers. By the time she is in her early teens she supports herself by going house to house daily, teaching younger children to read. When the schoolmistress retires, she is chosen to replace her. Her competence and kindness induce a local gentleman first to employ, then to woo her. Their wedding is enlivened by the return of her now wealthy brother, and she lives afterward as a model of prudence, piety, and effective charity. The Libraries do not, unfortunately, have an early copy of the book, but you can read it on the Internet Archive.

Of course, if you reduce a story from 100 plus pages to a bare six images you must simplify the narrative. Goody Two-Shoes appeared in dozens of later, shorter versions, many of which suggest that the reader was expected already to know the story. But the differences in these two accounts give us an opportunity to reflect on the lessons conveyed by books to their young readers. The “orphan girl” is devout and trusts God, and she is rewarded for her faith and piety by prosperity, without any effort beyond prayer. Although Goody Two-Shoes also conveyed numerous religious messages, it featured a protagonist who made her way in the world though dogged hard work, good nature, and intelligence. Both are historically acceptable role models – but what a difference in the influences the two might have on a young female reader.

Detail showing the orphan girl teaching a little girl.The Orphan Girl. London: Dean & Co., 35 Threadneedle Street, 1843-1845