Packaging Picture Books

Into every curator’s day some drudgery must fall and for the forseeable future, it’s going to be evaluating duplicates–which is actually more fun than it sounds.

Being an omnivorous kind of collector, Mr. Cotsen has always been prone to picking up multiple copies of books. When it had to be brought (very tactfully) to his attention that two (or more) copies of the same thing had been bought within months of each other, he would quip that at least he knew what he liked. Picture books from all over Europe between 1890 and 1950 are books he particularly likes. So looking through all these duplicate and variant copies means I get to be dazzled over and over again by the extraordinary creativity of artists during this period.

Part of the fun of not knowing what will be on the truck: it’s like being handed a box of chocolate truffles–you never know what you’ll bite into next.  A week ago there was a run of striking Art Nouveau picture books.  What caught my eye in the four examples here was the progression from front cover to title page.

Below is volume 3 of Jugendland (1903), a periodical for boys and girls edited by Heinrich Moser and Ulrich Kohlbrunner that was published by the Swiss firm Künzli.  Its binding design, the endpapers, and title page are all executed by illustrator and caricaturist Arpad Schmidhammer (1857-1921). He got his start contributing to annuals like Jugendland and Knecht Ruprecht, but is perhaps better known for his propagandistic picture books like Lieb Vaterland magst ruhig sein.

Front cover  Cotsen 18814

Front cover
Cotsen 18814

endpapers  Cotsen 18814

Endpapers
Cotsen 18814

Titlepage Cotsen 18814

Title page
Cotsen 18814

The illustrations for the binding, endpapers and title page of Gartenlaube-Bilderbuch der deutscher Jugend (1902), on the other hand, are more uniform in style and subject than those for Jugendland.  The picture on the front board is by Hermann Kaulbach (1846-1909), a well-known painter famous for idealized pictures of children.  No credits are given for the endpapers or title vignette, but someone made sure that the theme of books and reading was repeated on the title page.

Front cover  Cotsen 91566

Front cover
Cotsen 91566

Endpapers  Cotsen 91566

Endpapers
Cotsen 91566

Title page  Cotsen 91566

Title page
Cotsen 91566

Except for the goblin’s eyes peeking out of the “O,” the cloth boards of O Hastromanvi [The Goblin] (Prague: B. Koči, 1903) by Jožena Schwaigerová are conventional compared with the patterned endpapers.  Both the binding design and endpapers contrast sharply with the rather severe title page, with the bold type cutting deeply into the thick paper.  Whoever drew the repeat of frogs and pearls is not identified, so perhaps it was also the work of the Bohemian illustrator Hanus Schwaiger (1854-1909) who did the delightfully creepy pictures for the story.

Front cover Cotsen 44194

Front cover
Cotsen 44194

Endpapers Cotsen 44194

Endpapers
Cotsen 44194

Title page  Cotsen 44194

Title page
Cotsen 44194

There’s a frog prince on the front board of Ernst Dannheiser’s Miaulina: Ein Märchenbuch für kleine Kinder (Cologne: Schaffstein, 1902), but he hasn’t got any pearls on his crown. Illustrator Julius Diez (1870-1953) let his imagination run wild in this collection of fairy tales. In the book, the tales are told to an industrious little girl by the cat Miaulina, who is shown with a satchel over one shoulder. There is the repeat of the pine tree men and red squirrels on the endpapers, an added illustrated title page where Miaulina eyes little mice watering the garden, and title page dominated by the figure of a fantastically dressed Moorish slave boy, who bears Miaulina on a pillow amidst a riot of exotic birds.  And I left out the illustrated vignettes of the poor veteran mouse begging in the cold and the jaunty little fellow riding a rooster, not to mention the frame of mice, beetles and weird rootmen enclosing the table of contents!

Front cover Cotsen 150184

Front cover
Cotsen 150184

Endpapers Cotsen 150184

Endpapers
Cotsen 150184

Decorative title page  Cotsen 150184

Decorative title page
Cotsen 150184

Title page  Cotsen 150184

Title page
Cotsen 150184

These exuberant picture books may be over the top, but their packaging gives contemporary bindings of laminated boards, or sober cloth backstrip and boards covered in a contrasting color, a run for their money…

 

Curator’s Choice: Playing Old Maid with Hunca Munca and her Friends

When I was little, playing Old Maid with a specially designed set of cards beat a standard deck hands down.   The peculiar characters (caricatures, really) were much more satisfying than the bland flat faces of the kings, queens and jacks in the old Bicycle deck, with the cupids peddling for dear life on the red or blue backs…

It never occurred to me when my daughter was little to make her a unique deck of Old Maid cards, maybe because cards were not all that high on the list of fun things to do until Five Crowns came along.  Designing the twenty-odd pairs of characters would have a bit more than I was up to because repeated requests to draw the beautiful Chicken of the Sea mermaid strained by my artistic abilities were strained to the breaking point!

However, some children are lucky enough to know adults who draw well enough to craft toys and games for them.  Sometimes lucky curators are offered rare specimens that survived against the odds.  This little set of Schwarzer Peter cards is just one such find.  “Schwarzer Peter”—that is, “Black Peter”–is the name that Old Maid goes by in German, Danish, Swedish, Hungarian, and Finnish.  The card with Black Peter is the hot potato that all the players try to get rid of as quickly as possible so it won’t be in their hand at the end of the game.  In this particular set, the Black Peter is depicted offensively as a black rag doll instead of the more usual chimney sweep.

inprocess item 6541473

inprocess item 6541473

The set has twenty-seven, not fifty-two cards, and seems to be complete because it fits perfectly in the blue box with the illustrated title label that reads in translation: “This game of Black Peter was painted for her dear friends Ernst and Anneliese Grossenbacher in St. Gall.”  It is signed Gertrud Lendorff, who just might be the Swiss art historian from Basel (1900-1981). The title label depicts a black baby doll and Lendorff’s model might have been a Heubach bisque character doll.  She redrew the same doll on the card with the caption “Der Schwarze Peterli! Nicht der Schwarze Peter!” [The little Black Peter! Not the Black Peter!].  It is an opprobrious caricature with unnaturally bright red lips.  But unlike some Heubach black baby dolls, it wears what looks like a knitted onesie instead of some spurious form of “native dress.”

covertitle

The cards cannot be earlier than the 1930s: the pair with the Union Jack in the upper left hand corners consist of Pamela and “Margaret Rose aus England.”  Margaret Rose is a little girl in a blue coat and hat with a green scarf, who must be the late Princess Margaret (1930-2002), Queen Elizabeth II’s sister.

swiss_cards_brit

For the most part, the cards depict all kinds of toys made of porcelain, clay, celluloid, and wood, such as Hansli and the matryoshka doll Tatyiana and her five daughters shown below.

swiss_cards_babtanddolls

A famous character from children’s books also makes an appearance here: Beatrix Potter’s Hunca Munca from The Tale of Two Bad Mice, identified only as “nach einem Englischen Kinderbuch,” that is, “from an English children’s book.”  It’s amusing that the illustrations of Hunca Munca Lendorff redrew are the ones where this bad little mouse was behaving well relatively well.

Were the little Grossenbachers for whom Lendorff made the cards reading The Tale of Two Bad Mice in German translation?  Or was Lendorff introducing them to a childhood favorite of hers? The cards don’t provide any clues about the circumstances in which they were made or how they were received, but they are testimony to Potter’s appeal outside her homeland.

swiss cards_cover