Archive for the ‘Illustrations’ Category

"The Children's Store"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 StoreChildren'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.

 CharactersThe 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 beenWares sold in "The Children's Store" 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.

Doll's Play-HouseThe 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 periodWares sold in "The Children's Store" 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!

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We get many books of Shakespeare quotations here in the Tower Project but few are as entertaining as this recent find. 

Ay! There's the rub - Hamlet
Ay! There’s the rub – Hamlet

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!

Poor, poor dumb mouths - Julias Caesar
Poor, poor dumb mouths – Julius Caesar
Take, oh! Take those lips away - Measure for Measure
Take, oh! Take those lips away – Measure for Measure
Catherine Susan and Me

Catherine Susan and Me

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.

Getting arrested in "Votes for Catherine Susan and Me"
Getting arrested in “Votes for Catherine Susan and Me”
Some stories were surprisingly topical, such as “Votes for Catherine Susan and Me” which saw the main character and her friend joining a Suffragette march and ending up in jail! There were also some traditional stories featuring more everyday adventures and numerous calendars produced.
These books make me think of the story books that I used to have as a little girl where toys came magically to life, so it was really nice to find this small reminder of my childhood in the tower. I’m sure if I had been around one hundred years ago I would have been an avid reader of the ‘Catherine and Me’ books!
Catherine Susan’s Calendar 1911: 1911.6.63
Catherine Susan and Me in Hot Water: 1911.6.64
Votes for Catherine Susan and Me: 1911.6.65
Tut-tut: 1911.7.436




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Visitors to the UL tower most often admire the immaculate condition of the books there, particularly the children’s books. Sent straight from publisher to library, they are crisp and brightly coloured still. I find they trigger sharp memories of the books I read and loved as a child. There were a lot of them: some books were read to us in school, I borrowed others from the junior library, scavenged for them at jumble sales, got some as presents.  And seeing the books in the tower brought it all back …

Learning to read in the late 1960s inevitably involved the Ladybird reading books featuring Peter and Jane, and their impossibly bright and cleanly-coloured lives. The pictures of Peter putting on his party outfit (shorts, ironed shirt and tie) were far removed from our world of casual jeans. But other books felt close to home: Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet shoes, with its London setting, and above all the contrast between everyday home life and the thrill of going to the theatre and ballet. My mum used to read it to us when we were little, we used to act out bits and made my brother play the ballet dancing prodigy Posy because he had red hair. (I’m very sorry, honestly.)  And Eve Garnett’s The family from One End Street, was the one book I read as a child that seemed to be set in a familiar place (though it was in fact based on Lewes rather than London). One of the favourite places to play when I was little was the builder’s yard in our road, with its mountains of sand to climb up and slither down, and huge pipes that you could crawl inside. Joe of One End Street did so too and was carried away in the pipe:


In contrast, Arthur Ransome‘s Swallows and Amazons books were set in a landscape I could only imagine, with lakes big enough to sail across and islands you could  live on and be away from streets and people. I had the complete set, very pale blue Puffin paperbacks with a sharp beaked Puffin on the spine, but the library had the older hard backed editions with those distinctive dustjackets.


You couldn’t get Enid Blyton in the library or at school because she was banned in Hounslow Borough, so oddly enough getting hold of her books provided the sort of thrill that other people got from reading Nabokov’s Lolita. I was very attached to the Malory Towers series, set in a school packed with girls, horses, a swimming pool, cliffs overlooking the sea, plus a criminal element among the girls that livened things up. I had all six books in a bewildering mixture of editions with illustrations ranging from girls in gymslips and plaits to mini-skirted 1960s teens. Needless to say this didn’t bother me any more than any other children.

So stop coveting the perfection of the books in the tower: they haven’t been taken to bed by children who can’t wait to know the ending or covered in chocolate spread. They haven’t lived!

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Wedding publishing

With the royal wedding in full swing, I’ve been looking at wedding-related publishing  in Edwardian times. It seems that nothing much has changed …

Then, as now, weddings attracted dreamy idealists.  Harrison Fisher, author of “The Greatest moments in a girl’s life”  certainly chose the idealist version of marriage, as in this illustration entitled “The wedding”.

I took a dislike to Fisher at first because his idea of the first ‘great moment in a girl’s life’ was  a proposal of marriage! The idea of waiting for someone to come along and propose before your life could start sounds old-fashioned even for 1911. However, in real life Fisher was a surprisingly down-to-earth sort of chap who never married but settled down to live with his secretary without any of the spectacular wedding ceremonies he painted.

The other type of wedding-related publishing was the “guide to wedding etiquette”. These books tend to be far more businesslike. The etiquette of marriage adopts a brisk approach from the start: “marriage is a binding legal contract between two individuals, and both should observe such principles as would guide two cautious people entering into a business partnership”. There is an entire chapter on how to break an engagement, much advice on saving money (brown horses to draw the carriage are cheaper than grey, apparently) and a solemn warning that a wedding “entails a vast amount of fatigue on all concerned”.  In contrast “The etiquette of engagement and marriage”    is cheerfully encouraging about preparing for a wedding “All women love shopping. Surely no expedition can be so delightful as going to buy wedding clothes with a well-stocked purse!”     The wedding itself ought to be enjoyed even by the participants  – “Weeping brides are out of date”   –  and any crises managed with a sense of humour.

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I have loved Arthur Rackham’s illustrations ever since the first time my mother read The night before Christmas to me when I was about three years old. From this point on the reading of that book (and the examining of every detail of the wonderful illustrations) became a yearly Christmas Eve ritual. 

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!" - From The Night before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

Later, I discovered that the illustrations I so loved as a child were only a minute part of the complete work of Arthur Rackham. He began his career as a newspaper illustrator in a time before the improvement of photographic reproduction resulted in photographs taking the place of pen-and-ink sketches. As newspaper illustrators began to be less in demand and his own success grew, he was able to devote himself full-time to the whimsical, dream-like fantasy pictures at which he excelled. 

From Arthur Rackham's book of pictures

Rackham illustrated a wide variety of books from Rip van Winkle to The Wind in the Willows. My favourite illustrations have to be the ones from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for although his pictures are often grotesque and vaguely creepy, they show an understanding of the fairy folk that chimes with the tales told of them, in which they are often superficially beautiful but essentially other, unpredictable and often cruel. In the picture below, taken from Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, the goblins try and tempt a young girl to buy their wares, knowing that once a mortal has tasted fairy fruit, she is doomed to waste away and die as mortal food becomes like ashes in her mouth.

From Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market

For more information on Arthur Rackham’s life and his weirdly beautiful (and beautifully weird) illustrations, see the Tower Project web pages: http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/deptserv/towerproject/featuredbook.html

A truly malevolent cat - the alter ego of an evil witch from Grimm's Fairy tales

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We spend so much of this blog looking between the pages of the books that

Red Letter Library

 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.

English Authors for School Reading Series

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.

Examples the house style designed by Morris

Hans Brinker by Mary Mapes Dodge

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.

Aunt Hesba's Charge by Elizabeth J. Lysaght

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.

Hill House, Helensburgh (photo: el_jambere)

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!

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One of our very first blog posts was Helen’s tribute to Mabel Dearmer, “Mabel Dearmer: an unexpected gem“. Dearmer’s illustrations, with their bright, clear colours, were one of the most memorable things I found when I first started to explore the tower and its collections.

Now the library has produced some stunning greeting cards with Dearmer’s illustrations, taken from “The book of penny toys”. London: Macmillan, 1899. (UL classmark 1899.10.141) and from “The wonderful toymaker” In Evelyn Sharp “All the way to fairyland. London: John Lane, 1898 (UL classmark 1898.7.167) The cards have no text, so are suitable for a range of occasions, and are available from the University Library entrance hall during library opening hours

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