I won’t lie and say that every book that we come across in the Tower is really exciting. Many of them are school textbooks or religious pamphlets that are less than exciting to look at. Once in a while though, we get something really pretty that we want to share (hence this blog!)
This week we found two books that fit this description. “The Children’s Store“ and “The Doll’s Play-House” are books and toys rolled into one. When I was little I remember having similar books were you had to cut clothes for the doll out of paper and then dress her up. These books follow the same theme but take it to another level. As well as folding out into either a model home or a shop, they also come with paper accessories for the setting. As well as being a fun and nostalgic trip down memory lane, the books also give us some important information about the time period they come from.
The clothes the characters are wearing in the picture on the left tells us a lot about fashions in the Edwardian period. It’s easy to recognise the sophisticated lady customer and her daughter, the grocer or the butcher just from their costumes. They don’t seem to have changed much in the last hundred years but the pictures still provide us with a nice visual resource of what people were wearing in their everyday lives back in 1911.
The next few inserts show us the kinds of goods that would have been available in a general store in 1911. These include general household goods, basic food provisions, clothes and dressmaking supplies. I always pictured people having to visit multiple shops in order to get everything they needed, unlike the convenience of the supermarkets which we have today. Based on “The Children’s Store” this isn’t true. These shops sold a wide range of goods and were likely to have been the hub of the community.
The second book is a more traditional doll’s house. Whereas the Store could be played with by all children, the doll’s house is very much geared towards little girls. This was a time when, although things were beginning to change, little girls were still expected to be able to run a household as their primary duty when they grew up. Toys like a doll’s house would have been a good way for them to practice basic skills. This books includes a sitting-room, bathroom and bedroom as well as the more traditional cut-out-and-dress doll.
This kind of focus on the day-to-day lives of people in the Edwardian period is one of the things which makes books like these so interesting to read, and to catalogue. Books like this were made to be used and cut up, which would have destroyed them for future generations. Although these books weren’t designed as anything more than a child’s plaything, they provide valuable insights into social history. This is the type of history not often recorded in books of the time and this makes the work of that the Tower Project does so important. The books also provide information to those interested in children’s books and the history of childhood which makes it even more fortunate that the library has preserved them for all these years!
As the long winter evenings loom ahead, I thought that it might be fun to share some ideas on amusements to keep people busy. Recently I came across a book on shadow puppets which looked like it could inspire hours of fun!
Hand Shadows : the Complete Art of Shadowgraphy by magician Louis Nikola outlines the principles of shadowgraphy, an art that was popular in the early twentieth century. Most people have an idea of how to make basic shapes such as a bird or a butterfly, but with a little practice people can make some really creative shadows.
The art of shadow puppets died out due to the rise in popularity of entertainments such as the cinema. People were also more readily able to afford nights out, meaning that they didn’t need so many home entertainments. The invention of the electric lightbulb also didn’t help since electric lights don’t cast the same depth of shadow as candles. But never fear, there’s still plenty of fun to be had by those willing to try!
Each shadow in the book is accompanied by step-by-step instructions on how to make it. The book starts off with quite simple animals such as a rabbit or an elephant:
The book then moves on to people in preparation for putting on a shadow pantomime. Some of the characters need props to make them work which could be considered cheating, but it would be impossible to create some of these figures any other way!
Hand Shadows : the Complete Art of Shadowgraphy: 1913.7.1578
The nose is the most prominent feature of the face, and the art of reading character by the nose is one of the most interesting of human studies
Noses and What They Indicate is one of many books that were published on physiognomy, or the art of understanding personalities based on facial features. This blog has already covered books on moles and moustaches but this work obviously concentrates just on the nose.
The author claims that the nose is the one facial feature which can’t be hidden (by either a large hat or facial hair) and is always on show for the world to see. Therefore it is one of the most important indicators of character and its study should not be taken lightly.
The Roman nose is described as being “the nose of a conqueror” and people who have this type of nose often make natural leaders, with examples such as Queen Elizabeth and Gladstone. The cognitive nose is found “among men of all pursuits” but especially those who “gain the highest kind of excellence in every department”. Famous theologians Luther and Wesley are prime examples of this type of nose. Celestial noses, which are often slightly upturned at the end, are admired in the fairer sex but not very popular in men due to their somewhat feminine appearance.
The book also points out the importance of nose breathing in order to prevent disease. It talks about the small hairs inside the nose which help to trap germs and can be particularly useful in preventing consumption. Proper and full breathing is advocated as is drawing water up the nostril, although to be honest I’m not sure that last one is very healthy…!
Although volunteers were sought from the Tower Project office to have their noses analysed, sadly there were no takers. Instead we’ve decided to look at some famous noses, based on the principles laid out in the book:
Barry Manilow: his slightly hooked nose indicates that he’s a talkative individual whilst the rounded tip equals a good character
Barbra Streisand: her famous nose indicates tenderness and shows that she’s a sensitive soul
Stephen Fry: the shape of his nostrils show that he has a high I.Q. whilst the wings of his nose show that he’s a curious individual
So far I would like to think that these books seem pretty accurate. Next time you are sizing someone up (for whatever reason!) maybe you should pay more attention to the shape of their nose. It could be telling you more than you think…
Noses and What They Indicate: 1912.7.3037
Image credits: ladybugbkt, JCT(loves)Streisand, lewishamdreamer on Flickr
Since Halloween will soon be upon us and all manner of things will be going bump in the night, we’ve decided to showcase one of our more macabre finds.
“Premature Burial and It’s Prevention” is a title that immediately catches the eye. The pamphlet reports the efforts of the London Association for the Prevention of Premature Burial to make sure that those who are buried are in fact dead. It seems that this happened quite often, or so the stories would have you believe. Even one of the authors is listed as “the late Col. E.P. Vollum”, himself having been mistaken for dead but living to tell the tale!
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century there were many doubts about the competency of doctors who couldn’t tell the difference between death and conditions which just mimicked it. Common cases which were mistaken for death included hysteria, being struck by lightning, sunstroke and cases of hypnotism. The pamphlet then goes on to list several documented cases of people being either buried alive or discovered to be alive on the mortuary slab.
Premature burial was a widespread fear. Special vaults like the one below were designed to allow people to escape should they meet this unfortunate fate:
This fear was also featured quite heavily in the popular culture of the time. Edgar Allen Poe was one notable author who featured the theme of being buried alive in some of his plots.
The London Association for the Prevention of Premature Burial was established in 1896. The main aims of the association included:
the scientific investigation of trance, the diffusion of knowledge regarding the causes and consequences of suspended animation, safeguarding members and associates … against premature burial and the promotion of effective legislation for the compulsory verification of death
Whether the cases documented actually happened or were urban legends is anyone’s guess. I’m not sure that many people who were buried alive would have managed to escape, so how did these stories get out? There are many tales about people who were buried with bells attached to strings on their toes to alert people if they woke up so just be sure that if you hear a bell this Halloween night that you’re not lurking next to a graveyard…..
Premature Burial and It’s Prevention: 1911.7.432
We get many books of Shakespeare quotations here in the Tower Project but few are as entertaining as this recent find.
The book “Tut-tut” by Kathleen Ainslie features famous quotes from many of Shakespeare’s plays accompanied by humorous illustrations. I’m not sure that I’ll ever look at some of these plays the same way again!
After a bit of investigation I found out that the author, Katherine Ainslie, was quite a well-known illustrator in the early Twentieth century. She was most famous for producing a series of books about a little Dutch peg doll called Catherine Susan. Over the years she wrote and illustrated many adventures for the plucky little doll which became a firm favourite.
One of the most interesting things about the library’s collection of Mills and Boon books is the fact that they have survived over one hundred years. Today, Mills and Boon titles are only available for one month in bookshops and three months online before they are withdrawn and pulped. Maybe in another hundred years people will want to study what we so easily dismiss as cheesy reads today? This makes it a great example of the benefits of the Legal Deposit system.
‘Peter Pan’ is one of those stories with an enduring appeal. Everyone loves to hear stories about the ‘boy who never grew up’ and his battles with Captain Hook. There is something special about the story that has captured the imagination of children throughout the ages.
Today I came across the book “Peter Pan’s Postbag : Letters to Pauline Chase”. Born Ellen Pauline Matthew Bliss, Chase was an American actress who was best known for playing Peter Pan on stage from 1906-1913. The book contains a sample of the letters that were written to her as Peter throughout her run.
A worrying number ask for tips on how to fly like Peter, whilst others comment that “Tinkerbell was very rude sometimes!”. There are also many letters asking for an “ortograf”. Finally the book includes a map of Never Never Land so that any lucky children who make it there could find their way to tell Peter in person how much they love him.
Below is a selection of the best (possibly cutest!) letters in the book (spellings reproduced):
I am frightfully anxious. I am still quite young & don’t ever want to grow up. I always want to be a little boy (I mean girl) and have fun. Please don’t show this letter to Tinkerbell or she might call me a silly ass! Love and thimbles from Lesley.
I should love to be you. I like you better than Wendy but don’t tell her because it might make her jealous & I like her nearlly as much as you. Madge
Dear Peter Pan
You said that every time somebody said “I dont believe in fairys”, a fairy dies, so would you please tell me if every time somebody says “I believe in fairys”, a fairy comes. Love from Mabel
We spend so much of this blog looking between the pages of the books that
we catalogue, but often neglect the bindings. Book bindings are very important, as anyone who has spent their weekends browsing in bookshops will know, since they are what draws many people to the book in the first place.
Several of the books that are currently being catalogued reflect the Art Deco movement of the early twentieth century. Talwin Morris was one designer who made his name with this sort of work.
Born in 1865, Morris started his professional life in the office of architectural firm Martin Brooks. It was here that he developed the interest in architectural drawing which was to heavily influence his work. In 1891 he became the sub-editor and designer for a weekly publication called “Black and White”. His main duties included designing initial letters and decorative panels for the magazine.
In 1893 he took a job that was to define his career. As well as working as a freelance designer, Morris took the position of Arts Director for the publishing firm Blackie and Sons in Glasgow. The firm wanted designs which could be used on each different publication but still tie them together with a unifying theme – a sort of ‘house style’. Morris used his knowledge of architectural drawing and the Art Nouveau movement to design images and covers which set Blackie and Sons books apart from the rest.
At the time this was a new way of doing things, since previously publishers had been more focused on what was inside the book. Bookbinding technology had advanced to such a degree that bindings could become evermore colourful and elaborate and Morris took full advantage of this. Some of the designs, illustrated throughout this post, are truly beautiful. He also designed end papers and motifs for many of the books that he worked on.
Another of Morris’ claims to fame is that he introduced his friend Charles Rennie Mackintosh to publisher Walter Blackie. Blackie was looking for a designer for his new home and Morris recommended Mackintosh. The end result was Hill House in Helensburgh, Scotland. This is still open as a heritage site today and is regarded as Mackintosh’s ‘finest domestic creation’.
One lucky architecture student appreciated the beauty of Morris’ work when he found a copper plate and two plaques in a skip in Glasgow. After rescuing them he held on to them and recently sold them for £6,000. This proves that the Art Nouveau period is still in favour with many collectors today and hopefully will continue to be for some time yet!
Julius and Agnes Zancig were Danish stage magicians who were billed as “Two minds with but a single thought”. Born Julius Jorgenson and Agnes Claussen, they were childhood sweethearts who were reunited and married later in life. They took their mind reading act on the road and toured the world before eventually settling in America.
Agnes would roam the audience blindfolded whilst her husband would stare at an object, number or word in a book. She was seemingly able to read his mind and tell the audience exactly what he was looking at any given time.
The act led to a minor scientific controversy and so in 1906 the Daily Mail set the couple a series of tests. The reporters became convinced that what they were witnessing was true telepathy and the couples fame spread. The couple were further tested by the Society for Psychical Research and the British College of Psychic Science who both proclaimed them the real deal. The Zancigs went on to publish several books under the names Prof. and Mdme. Zancig. The stage act continued until Agnes died in 1916. Julius tried to continue the act with various others, including the fantastically named Syko the Psychic, but never managed to achieve the same level of success that he had with Agnes.
The secret to their act was revealed by fellow magician ‘Alexander the Crystal Seer’ in 1921. The Zancigs had devised an extremely complex verbal code which allowed them to communicate what Julius was seeing whilst leaving the audience clueless. It had taken them many years of practice to perfect the code and this perhaps explains why Julius was never able to replicate his success with another partner. The code was considered by many mentalists to be one of the most complex two-person code systems ever used and books are still published today which describe the method.
Although this does somewhat ruin the fun of the act, there is something interesting about finding out how the seemingly impossible was pulled off!