Home for the – Victorian – Holidays

Adults and children playing Snapdragon, wiht a large platter aflame in the middle of the table and participants reaching into the flames

A family playing Snapdragon. See footnote for further information on the game.

This year, many of us are struggling with unfamiliar versions of our celebrations of Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year. Affordable transportation, flexible schedules, and leisure for the middle class (comparable to that available only to the wealthy during Victoria’s reign) have made vacation travel to join family in December an annual pleasure – and obligation – for many of us. As we choose to stay apart this year to protect our loved ones, we may think bitterly of the ideal gatherings depicted in movies and stories, and blame the Victorians for inventing the Christmases we think of as traditional, with a lighted tree, a roast goose (more modernly a turkey), gifts, happy children, and the entire family brought together under one roof.

Of course, we all know that most holiday gatherings fall short of that ideal, no matter how much effort Mother expends. Uncle Harry tells jokes that offend everyone, the turkey takes seven hours to cook instead of five, the children are over-excited and loud, and no one can forget that Grandma died in June. I felt better about the Victorians after finding in the Ellery Yale Wood Collection the 1885 children’s gift book Aunt Louisa’s Holiday Guest, which embodies a far more nuanced depiction of homecomings than one might have predicted.

Large party in a domestic interior. Boys and girls dance together while adults look on. A woman plays the pianoforte in the background and a maid brings in refershmentsThe publisher’s introduction suggests that the book contains a random assortment of four interesting stories, finishing with one that is topical:
“Again the Publishers offer a new Picture Book to their little friends. The story
of Dame Trot.and her Cat is revived with entertaining Pictures; and, in Good Children,
kindness to the afflicted is the subject. Hector the Dog shows his brave adventures on the
mountains; and Home for the Holidays is what all good boys and girls hope for, in order
that they may enjoy in quiet “Aunt Louisa’s Holiday Guest.”

Dame Trot takes tea with her cat In fact, all four stories are about homecoming and, whether the editor thought about them in this way or not, they illuminate a variety of facets of that uncertain pursuit. Dame Trot and Her Cat was an anonymous work first printed between 1800 and 1805, perhaps as a knockoff of the new popular poem Old Mother Hubbard. The text of Dame Trot is always about the old lady’s cat, but the language and events vary wildly from edition to edition. The narrative, though, has a stable pattern: Dame Trot comes in and discovers the cat doing something unexpected. It has died, or revived, or is making tea, or cleaning the kitchen, or teaching the dog to dance, and so on. Sometimes she has been in the house all along, perhaps coming downstairs after waking up. Frequently she has gone out to shop or pay calls, and she returns home to novel feline behavior.

Dame Trot returns and find the cat teaching the dog to danceThis is a very light-hearted take on homecoming, focusing on mostly pleasant surprises. It accepts that things change, and that you may find your life altered when you return to your home, but most of the changes are neutral or beneficial.

The blind man and his dog approach the children playing on the pathThe Good Children is less cheery, focusing on hardships suffered by those who are poor and disabled, especially those whose burden is increased by the absence of family. A tired and hungry blind man, walking with his dog, is welcomed at the cottage where the good children of the title live, and they promptly enlist their mother’s and aunt’s aid to offer him food and drink. The man tells the children about his son, a soldier, whom he has not seen for years because he had been stationed in a foreign country, and who he fears is dead.

The blind man blesses the children and his sonMiraculously, as he finishes speaking and gets up to leave, his son appears on the road, looking for him. The soldier’s return guarantees the old man’s comfort and support, and sets this small part of the world to right. A homecoming after suffering, and with challenges to come, but an uplifting narrative of family love and filial piety.

The traveller struggles in the blizzardThe third story, Hector the Dog, recounts the outcome of an imprudent decision. On Christmas Eve a traveler is in Martigny, Switzerland, intending to go through the Great St. Bernard Pass to get to his family’s home by the next day. An innkeeper, who is familiar with the terrain and the weather predicts a storm and urges him to stay the night. He insists that he knows the pass and that he will go ahead. Of course, the weather is as bad as the innkeeper said it would be, and the traveler is overcome.

The monks and dogs return with the injured traveler, but without Hector. The monks look solemn and the dogs depressed.Fortunately for him, the monks of the Great St. Bernard Hospice make their routine rounds, searching with their dogs for those who need their aid. In recovering the traveler, one of the dogs – the heroic Hector – is buried in an avalanche, but the stubborn traveler survives. The original child readers may have focused sentimentally on the heroism and loss of the dog, but this is also an account of a homecoming gone wrong, where the man’s self-centered and rash insistence on returning on schedule when it was not safe to do so nearly led to his death – and did cost the life of a useful and noble animal who had saved others.

Schoolboys on a railway platform talk with guardsThe final story, Home for the Holidays, is a happy version of homecoming, exemplifying the ideal Victorian Christmas that shapes our own expectations. The narrator is a boy, returning to London from boarding school by train with his friends. No archaic nonsense poems or foreign customs here – the poem is entirely up to date with the boy addressing his requests for speed to the guard and the engineer on the train.

Boys and girls, with two adults, watch a pantomime performance in a theaterHe is as pleased as any student by the prospect of a break from studies, and looks forward to family parties and merrymaking. He mentions Christmas, but he expects the fun to go on through Twelfth Night, and plans to go to the pantomime and an equestrian show, and to see Punch and Judy.

The boys rush from the train to embrace their familiesThe trip is over at last, and the boys rush out of the train to be embraced by their parents and siblings. Here is the homecoming everyone desires – your friends and family together, good food, your favorite entertainments, and nothing to worry about – and it is this homecoming the publisher ends with.

I know, as the publisher did, that this is a fantasy, and that for most of us “home for the holidays” is very different. But there is value in optimistic enthusiasm and being willing to be pleased, even this season. I wish you every happiness as you find ways to celebrate the return of light and warmth in the darkness. And we will look forward to a better year to come.
– Marianne Hansen, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts

 Aunt Louisa’s Holiday Guest: Comprising Dame Trot and her Cat, Good Children, Hector the Dog, Home for the Holidays. Laura Valentine., Kronheim & Co., engraver. London: Frederick Warne and Co., c. 1884. Read our copy on the Internet Archive.

Footnote on Snapdragon
* Snapdragon, the game shown in the first illustration, was defined succinctly in Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1823: “A Christmas gambol: raisins and almonds being put into a bowl of brandy, and the candles extinguished, the spirit is set on fire, and the company scramble for the raisins.”  Read more about it on Wikipedia. Should you choose to play, here are a few useful tips:

Protect yourself – hair pulled back; no clothing hanging into the flames; natural fibers; a fire extinguisher next to the door
Protect your table – nothing flammable; protect finishes from damage by alcohol drips; a hot pad under the platter
Most ordinary ceramic dishes will work. The ideal platter is easy to reach into, with a low, slanting rim.
Warm the brandy gently (~100-110° F) before pouring in the dish, or you may have trouble lighting it. The flames of 40% alcohol are relatively cool. Do not use overproof, which burns hotter.
Enjoy!

Bad Children – And Their Imitators

Heinrich Hoffman wrote Lustige Geschichten und drollige Bilder for his three-year old son, creating a persistent pantheon of naughty children to whom hilariously bad things happen. The book was published in 1845 by the Literarische Anstalt J. Rütten – the same year they published Marx and Engel’s first joint work, Die heilige Familie. Although Karl and Friedrich went on to bigger things, Funny Stories and Comical Pictures was much more widely read than the reformers’ first book throughout the century that followed. By 1847 more than 20,000 copies of the German children’s book had been sold, and in that year the same publisher issued a translation, The English Struwwelpeter, or, Pretty Stories and Funny Pictures for Little Children. Struwwelpeter means Shock-headed Peter, in reference to the wild disarray of a shock of harvested wheat, with sheaves piled up to keep the grain off the ground. It is the name of one of the original naughty children in the book, whose striking appearance made him the eponym of the work, even in English, whose native speakers struggle to get their tongues around the word.Peter, from the 1851 English StruwwelpeterThe German publishers actively defended their copyright in both languages, but the extreme popularity of the work led to an immediate outpouring of new English books which took their inspiration from Hoffman’s poems. Some books had titles with children’s first names (Envious Tom, Naughty Susan, et alia) or the words “Funny” or “Laughter” – or even “Struwwelpeter”. There were also reprints of earlier works which dealt with childish misbehavior, like Sketches of Little Girls and Sketches of Little Boys, originally published in 1838.

We are gradually expanding our collection of these books about naughty children, but they are relatively uncommon on the market. We do have Funny Books for Boys and Girls: Struwelpeter, Good-for-Nothing Boys and Girls, Troublesome Children, King Nutcracker and Poor Reinhold, published in 1856. In violation of the copyright, it contains a (new translation of) most of the poems in the original, excluding Flying Robert and Shock-headed Peter. It also prints (Heinrich) Hoffman’s Nutcracker, itself part of a complex group of reworkings of E.T.A. Hoffman’s 1816  Nussknacker und Mausekönig. The adaptations of that work include the 1844 version by Dumas, which served as the basis for Tchaikovsky’s ballet. We also hold the 1857 Little Minxes, the crimes of whose female protagonists include refusing to learn to sew, being a self-obsessed clothes horse, and preferring boyish to girlish pursuits. These redressed Hoffman’s neglect of bad little girls – while reiterating conventional ideas about the sexes and gender roles.

When Rütten & Loening’s copyright expired in 1901, the book was still popular and new translations and illustrations appeared immediately. Here is the original English version (third edition, 1851) of Harriet – Gretchen in the German editions – who played with matches in spite of the instructions of her mother and the last-minute pleading of her cats:

When Pauline, renamed again, was published in 1903 by the American firm McLouglin, she had an up-to-date wardrobe, but the same pyromaniacal impulses. Translation of the book into Latin took until 1934, when it had entered the public domain.Outright parody had appeared before the copyright expired. Fritz Netolitzky’s Egyptian-themed takeoff was published in 1896, with the faux-scholarly subtitle Being the Struwwelpeter Papyrus: with Full Text and 100 Original Vignettes from the Vienna Papyri.The work found its 20th-century niche as an abundant source of parodic political commentary. Harold Begbie’s books The Political Struwwelpeter and The Struwwelpeter Alphabet use adaptations of Peter’s portrait to make their lineage clear.You can, with effort, decipher both books – unless you are already well versed in late Victorian British politics – but the satire has lost its edge. Harriet’s poem, for example, mocks Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, who was Prime Minister from March 1894 to June 1895. He was, as the poem records, interested in racing and two of his horses, Ladas and Sir Visto, won the Derby during his term in office. The critical cat with glasses is the religious reformer Hugh Price Hughes; Wikipedia reveals how unmistakable the identification would be to the contemporary newspaper reader.Swollen-Headed William: Painful Stories and Funny Pictures After the German, by humorist Edward Verral Lucas, appeared in 1914. Its criticisms of Kaiser Wilhelm II were far-reaching and harsh. The emperor appears as the protagonist of each of the Struwwelpeter poems – behaving cruelly to those around him, biting (rather than sucking) his thumb as a sign of contempt, and – of course – playing with fire.Political use of the material reached its zenith with Struwwelhitler: A Nazi Story Book, published in 1941 by the British newspaper Daily Sketch. Funds raised by its sale were used to buy radios, games and “woollen comforts” for the troops and supplies for air-raid victims. Hitler takes the place of Cruel Frederick; Goering’s announcement of rationing cuts is mocked in a parody of Augustus Who would Not Have Any Soup; and Little Gobby Poison Pen has his thumbs cut off for writing lies. Switzerland’s armed neutrality was criticized in The Dreadful Story of Gretchen and the Gun. This book’s illustrations are densely packed with visual information, symbolism, and commentary: Gretchen’s dolly falling to the ground, arm still raised in the Hitlergruß, is characteristically poignant.

Times – inevitably – change, but I regret that in the intervening eighty years the book finally fell out of fashion. It is now a curiosity, rather than the rich compendium of shared experience and imagery that made it such a fruitful resource for parody and political commentary. Imagine what a modern cartoonist could do with these tales of cruelty, wilful disobedience, and disregard for human life.

To read the books mentioned:

The English Struwwelpeter. Our copy is on the Internet Archive.

Funny Books for Boys and Girls. Our copy is on the Internet Archive.

The Little Minxes. Our copy is on the Internet Archive.

Pauline and the Matches and Envious Minnie. Our copy is on the Internet Archive.

The Latin Struwwelpeter is still in copyright and not in the public domain.

The Egyptian StruwwelpeterAnother library’s copy is on the Internet Archive.

The Political Struwwelpeter. Other libraries’ copies are on the Internet Archive.

The Struwwelpeter Alphabet. The Getty Research Institute has added a copy to the Internet Archive.

Swollen-Headed William: Painful Stories and Funny Pictures After the German. Numerous copies are on the Internet Archive.

Struwwelhitler: A Nazi Story Book is still in copyright and not in the public domain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bookbinder’s thread – 1 yard

Beeswax to wax thread

A popsicle stick to use as a folder

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

Pages to copy (Alphabet_smaller, Running_Hand_recto, Running_Hand_verso)

You supply your own scissors

 

Off-campus participants will need the following items:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scissors

Pages to copy (Alphabet_smaller, Running_Hand_recto, Running_Hand_verso)

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

Indigenous Representation in Children’s Literature

I grew up knowing I wanted to write for kids because children’s literature is what made me fall in love with reading. I wanted to try to provide that experience for other people, but in particular I wanted to write the kind of books I wished I’d had as a kid—books about Indigenous characters who got to experience magic and adventure too.

That was one of my main goals in writing The Ghost Collector, which centers around a Cree girl, Shelly and her grandmother, who help lost souls transition to the next world by catching them in their hair. The version of the supernatural presented in The Ghost Collector is rooted to Cree culture. Shelly’s experience of the world around her is tied to and influenced by her Indigeneity. It is an attempt to address what was lacking in the novels I read as a kid.

Children’s literature is fraught territory for Indigenous people. Although many classic works in the genre include Indigenous characters, the ways in which we’re represented are often harmful and problematic. They frame Indigenous peoples as a vanishing race, or happy to assimilate to European ways as a means to justify settler colonialism. Settler colonialism is a form of colonialism that seeks to replace the original population of a colonized territory with a settler society. The United States is a settler colonial nation.

You see this harmful depiction of Indigenous characters in Little House on the Prairie, where Native Americans are portrayed as violent and stereotypically “savage” in comparison to the “civilized” settlers; in Peter Pan stories, which positions Native Americans alongside fairies and mermaids; and in the Leatherstocking Tales, in which the white protagonist surpasses his Native guides in mastery of their own culture. These stories frame Indigenous characters as little more than props or set dressing for white protagonists. These works present us as violent and less than human, as mythical creatures, and as inherently inferior to European settlers.

This 1953 Garth Williams illustration for the Little House series depicts two stereotypical, shirtless Native American men stealing food and furs from the Ingalls’ cabin.

Even in the 90s, when I was a kid, there weren’t a lot of children’s books out there with good Indigenous representation and even fewer by Indigenous authors. My mother, who is a teacher-librarian in addition to being Cree, did her best, but the pickings were slim. This was especially true when it came to fantasy and sci-fi—my genres of choice. Science fiction in particular is notable for an emphasis on colonization narratives. For example, James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) is essentially just The Last of the Mohicans in space. When books did include Indigenous representation, it was mostly misrepresentation. Sometimes we didn’t exist as people at all, but as non-human characters (like the Na’vi in Avatar).

Either way, it was obvious the authors didn’t consider an Indigenous audience when writing their books. The effects of this go beyond the pages of books to the real world. These portrayals normalize our absence and create a fictional tale of peaceful, inevitable settlement in North America that means settlers never need to confront their complicity in the violent colonial history of the Americas. More often than not, when we pick up a book, we encounter a world we are not present in.

I have hope that this is beginning to change. In publishing—particularly in YA publishing—we’ve seen a push for greater diversity and more #OwnVoices books. People are becoming more aware of the need for better representation in children’s books. Novels like Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves, Darcie Little Badger’s Elatsoe, and Eden Robinson’s Trickster Drift all present worlds in which Indigenous characters take center stage. Readers have access to criticism and scholarship by Indigenous academics and writers through social media and sites like American Indians in Children’s Literature.

We’re on the precipice of a potential sea change, but it requires a sustained investment in treating diversity as more than a trend from publishers and readers alike. Indigenous readers are here—we have always been here—and we’re invested in making children’s literature more representative. I hope, for the sake of future Indigenous kids, that non-Indigenous readers are turning up for more diverse voices too.

Allison Mills, College Archivist. Author of The Ghost Collector.

https://allisonmillswrites.com

The Girl’s Own Book – Now Open Online

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

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

Life in London and A London Doll

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

A low point in the life of the London doll.

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

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

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

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

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

Ellen and Nanny make clothes for Maria Poppet.

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

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

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

Lady Flora makes a serious mistake.

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

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

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

The London doll and the country doll exchange life stories

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

Marianne Hansen, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts

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

Read our copy on the Internet Archive.

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

Useful Gossip – About Book Illustration

Text for Golden Eagle and Titmouse; image of owl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Text for Ounce and Englishmen; image for Auctioneer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marianne Hansen, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts

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

Read our copy on the Internet Archive.

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

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.