Puss in Boots and Friends on the Cat Walk

Charles Perrault, Contes: Edition du Tricentenaire. Head piece by Joseph Hecht (Paris: Rene Hilsum & Cie, 1928) Cotsen 60396.

What cat in children’s literature approaches the style of Dore’s Puss in Boots?  The turn-out of the extravagantly booted paws, the plumed hat, the tail floating in the air like a dancer’s arm all contribute to the air of effortless grace.

Charles Perrault, Contes. Illustrated by Gustav Dore (Paris: J. Hetzel, 1862) Cotsen 32595.

The equally fine ensemble by Harrison Weir for Puss is set off by a confident feline bearing.  No wonder the ladies find him irresistible.

“The History of Puss in Boots. With twenty-two pictures by Harrison Weir” in The Child’s Wonder Picture Book (London: Ward, Lock and Co., not after 1885). Cotsen 95124.

The doe has eyes only for the noble lion, splendid in lace and velvet.  The pig in the admiral’s costume knows that he hasn’t got a chance.

Eduard Ille, “Der Maskenball der Thiere” in Munchener Bilderbucher nr. 36 (Munchen: Braun & Schneider, ca. 1878) From the collection of Kurt Szafranski. Cotsen 44329.

Tabbies are as alluring as the toms with the right hat and accessories.

My Grandmother’s Cat, or Puss in Boots (London: W. Darton jun., 1811) Cotsen 20048.

“Tittums and Fido” in The Poll-Parrot Picture Book … with twenty-four pages of illustrations printed in colour by Kronheim (London: George Routledge and Sons, ca. 1878) Cotsen 153481.

Of course, cats don’t need clothes to bring out their natural elegance (or ferocity), but illustrators love to dress them up anyway.

Nora Chesson, With Louis Wain in Fairyland. Illustrated by Louis Wain (London, Paris, New York: Raphael Tuck & Sons, not after 1905) Cotsen 28339.

Good grooming is serious business for cats.

“The Cats’ Tea-Party,” illustrated by Harrison Weir in The Poll-Parrot Picture Book … with twenty-four pages of illustrations, printed in colours by Kronheim (London: George Routledge and Sons, ca. 1878) Cotsen 153481.

Or ought to be…

Cover design by Harry B. Neilson for The Jolly Fisher (John F. Shaw & Co. Ltd, not after 1913) Cotsen in process 6163286.

For an awesome gallery of tigers, visit our virtual exhibition…  If you think dogs rule, we’ve got a post for you…

Dressing FLOTUS: A 1939 Maybelle Mercer Paper Doll Book

Long before the Smithsonian mounted its popular exhibition about the First Ladies of the United States, which includes actual gowns that were worn at their husbands’ inaugural balls, there was a paper doll book.  Designed by Maybelle Mercer, it’s a  parade of gorgeous dresses worn by the female residents of the White House from Martha Washington to Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. Four smartly coiffed paper dolls are printed on the back cover   Tall and slim, the lengths of their torsos and limbs indicate that they must be as tall as professional basketball players.  Their alluring undergarments are entirely modern–forerunners of Spanx, perhaps?  Not a token corset for historical accuracy in sight, but none of these lovelies would need that foundation garment to fit into a dress with a wasp waist.  Long skirts will conceal their sleek high-heeled pumps.

To stage a fashion show of the First Ladies’ finery, the dolls must be punched out and mounted on the stands provided. Then the gowns must be curated.   Each dress includes a biographical sketch of the original owner and information about the fabrics, styling, and occasion when it was worn.  Notice that paper facsimiles of these late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century gowns have two unwieldy tabs to secure them to the dolls’ shoulders.The fun facts about the dresses may have taken from some other source, perhaps some between wars Smithsonian publication or exhibition.

This plate pits Mrs. Woodrow Wilson against Martha Jefferson Randolph.  Choosing between these two visions in black and white is difficult, unless your loyalty to Princeton is unconditional…

Maybelle Mercer’s paper doll book seems to be relatively common on the collectibles market, so perhaps many of the original purchasers never could bear to take out  scissors and cut the dresses away from the copy, leaving an untidy pile of irregularly shaped bits and pieces.  Or perhaps Saalfield the publisher kept it in print for some time.

Discovering this paper doll book in the stacks  on a quest for tigers to be displayed in the “Welcome Back, Tigers” exhibition for Reunions was a pleasant surprise.   Cotsen’s collection of paper doll books does not have all that many of the “famous faces” type, except for  ones about Twiggy and Shirley Temple, which were recent acquistions.  A future post for the sets featuring twins, children of different ethnicities, etc. is clearly in order.  Until then, if you’d like to see more paper dolls in Cotsen, take a look at the post about the ones designed by Elizabeth Voss