Happy Valentine’s Day, Beatrix Potter!

Cotsen 33205

From the collection of Doris Frohnsdorff. Cotsen 33205

Contained within the unassuming binding above lies a secret treasure trove of Victorian ephemera. Compiled between 1872 and 1878 by none other than Helen Leech Potter, Beatrix Potter’s mother, this quarto volume is an album of cards for Valentine’s Day and Christmas given to young Beatrix, beginning when she was six years old.  The cards are mostly from family (especially “Mama” and “Papa” and “Grandmama Leech”) and family friends like the Gaskells, Nurse MacKenzie, Dora Hollins, and a certain Mr Goul. Perhaps few artifacts remain that can rival the perfection with which this album documents the ornate and frilly taste of the late 19th century English middle class.

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Located at the head of the front free endpaper, this inscription indicates that the album itself was an 1872 Valentine’s gift for Beatrix (full name Helen Beatrix Potter) from her affectionate mother.

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Card at top of leaf [3]

Interestingly, the cards contain no hand written messages or signatures. Either notes accompanying the cards were discarded when the cards were pasted into the album or the sentiments printed on the cards themselves (which as you will see, can sometimes be quite lengthy) were deemed sufficient. Helen Potter diligently recorded the name of the gifter and the year the card was given, either inside the card or immediately below it.

Helen Potter's inscription inside the card shown above.

“From MacKenzie 1872”, Helen Potter’s inscription inside the card shown above. “Mackenzie” was Beatrix’s nurse.

Bottom of leaf [3]

Card at bottom of leaf [3], “From Mama 1872”

Leaf [4], "Grandmama Leech 1872", perhaps the biggest fan of paper lace.

Card on leaf [4], “Grandmama Leech 1872,” perhaps the biggest fan of embossed paper lace.

Inside of the card on leaf [4], perhaps a later original drawing by Beatrix Potter?

Inside of the card on leaf [4].

Leaf [6]. This leaf is one of many with sections or cards cut away, perhaps by Beatrix for a later project.

Leaf [6]. This leaf is one of many with sections or cards cut away, perhaps by Beatrix for a later project.

Card at top of leaf [6], unfortunately, we might never know "What makes a husband like a little dog".

Card at top of leaf [6] from “Aunt Mary 1873.”. Unfortunately, we won’t ever know “Why is a husband like a little dog?”

Leaf [7], "Mama 1873" at top and "MacKenzie 1873" at bottom

Leaf [7], “Mama 1873” at top and “MacKenzie 1873” at bottom.

The cards were printed by various English, German, and French sources, many unidentified. The majority, however, bear the recognizable imprint of the publisher Marcus Ward, a British company known for publishing illustrated books and mass producing greeting cards since the 1860’s. Marcus Ward’s Art Director, Thomas Crane, employed popular artists like Kate Greenaway and his son Walter Crane to design and illustrate the company’s greeting cards.

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Card on leaf [8], unattributed.

Card on Leaf [11], "Grandmama Leech 1874", perhaps in a bid to win Beatrix's affections. . .

Card on leaf [11], “Grandmama Leech 1874,” perhaps in a bid to win Beatrix’s affections? This is by far the largest card. . .

Card at top of leaf [13]

Card at top of leaf [13], “Papa 1874”.

Card at bottom of leaf [13], "Mr. Goul 1874".

Card at bottom of leaf [13], “Mr. Goul 1874”.

Card on leaf [14], "MacKenzie 1874", including a

Card on leaf [14], “MacKenzie 1874”, includes altered lines from William Wordsworth’s To the Daisy (1807) reading: “When smitten by the morning ray,/ I see thee rise, alert and gay;/ Then, cheerful flower, my spirits play/ With kindred gladness.”

Card on leaf [26], "Mr. McLaren 1876"

Card on leaf [26], “Mr. McLaren 1876”.

Card at top of leaf [28], "Dora Hollins 1878".

Card at top of leaf [28], “Dora Hollins 1878.”

Card at bottom of leaf [28], "Papa 1878"

Card at bottom of leaf [28], “Papa 1878”.

Card at top of leaf [29], "Bertram 1878", Walter Bertram Potter's first card to his older sister Beatrix., when he was 4 years old.

Card at top of leaf [29], “Bertram 1878”, Walter Bertram Potter’s first card to his older sister Beatrix, when he was 4 years old.

Card at bottom of leaf [29], "Papa".

Card at bottom of leaf [29], “Papa”.

Card on leaf [30], "From Mama 1878".

Card on leaf [30], “From Mama 1878”.

The last Valentine’s Day card in the album is the real coup de grâce. This unattributed card has it all: bright colors, frills, real lace ties, printed flowers, an intricate daisy border, and inside, a sickeningly sentimental segment of poetry taken from Thomas Hood’s I love Thee! (also unattributed):

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Card at top of leaf [40]

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Though Valentine’s Day cards have changed a lot in style since the Victorians shared them with friends and family, we have them to thank for the perfecting the mass production of cards and promoting their distribution.

If you still haven’t gotten a card for your sweetie, I hope you can draw some inspiration here for a last-minute tribute.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Cotsen and Beatrix Potter!

 

Before Pooh and Piglet: Honor C. Appleton’s Dolls in the Josephine Series by Mrs. H. C. Cradock

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The trunk (if you look just under the lid, you can tell that the trunk was once a bright green), (Cotsen 61180)

This unassuming canvas trunk holds the inspiration for some of the early 20th century’s most recognizable children’s book illustrations. It belonged to Honor C. Appleton (1879 – 1951), whose delicate watercolors are perhaps best known for their appearances as full color plates in the work of her long-time collaborators.

A Photograph of Honor C. Appleton in round frame, ca. 1912-1914 (Cotsen 61179)

A photograph of Honor C. Appleton in round frame, ca. 1912-1914 (Cotsen 61179)

Appleton maintained long working relationships with two prolific authors, Mrs. H. C. Cradock (best known for her stories about a young girl named Josephine and her imaginative adventures with her dolls) and F. H. Lee (best known for the series “Children’s Bookshelf,” adaptations of classic literature for young readers).

Honor C. Appleton's initals

Honor C. Appleton’s initials at the top of the trunk; the C stands for Charlotte, just in case you were wondering. . .

The trunk allows us to gain special insight into the Appleton’s work with Mrs. Cradock. How can a trunk do that you wonder? Well, it’s what’s inside that counts:

DOLLS!

DOLLS!

When first purchased for Cotsen, along with other items from the Appleton estate, Appleton’s trunk was full of dolls (don’t worry, they have long since been rehoused). Totaling thirteen dolls (not all shown above, but all included in images following), they come in a variety of sizes and materials. We do not, unfortunately, know much about the origin or manufacture of the dolls, though many seem homemade.

If you are familiar with Appleton’s illustrations for Cradock Josephine books, it might be immediately apparent to you why these dolls are so relevant to her artwork. But if you’re not (and don’t worry, I wasn’t either until quite recently), many of the dolls found in Appleton’s trunk seem to have served as models for characters in her illustrations.

For example, the four dolls below make recurring appearances in the Josephine books:

Four of Josephine's dolls

Four of Josephine’s dolls, from left to right: Margaret, Christabel, Quacky Jack, and one of the “Korean Dolls.”

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Frontispiece to Josephine and Her Dolls (London: Blackie and Son Ltd., 1916), the first title in the Josephine series. (Cotsen 33806)

Appleton's proof and notes for page 17 of (Cotsen 34319)

Appleton’s proof and notes for page 16 of Josephine Goes Traveling (Cotsen 34319)

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Plate [44], Josephine Keeps School (London: Blackie and Son, [1930s]) (Cotsen 23698)

As you can tell, the dolls’ appearances in Appleton’s illustrations are not identical to the real dolls she used as models. Christabel, for example, (featured towards the back of the parade illustrated above), is missing her right arm and has black hair in the stories. The Margaret doll has a pink dress while her counterpart in the illustrations has a white dress (I was terrified to discover that both versions lose their wigs quite easily). But I think the similarities, for some of the dolls at least, are obvious.

Take the roguish Quacky Jack:

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Though time has not been kind to Josephine’s mischievous plaything, this real stuffed duck bears an undeniable likeness to his character in the books:

Vignette, page 35

Vignette, page 35, Josephine goes Traveling (London: Blackie and Son, 1940), Quacky’s better days. . . (Cotsen 23694)

Two of the other dolls might have served as models for another doll-centric collaboration between Cradock and Appleton, Peggy and Joan.

2 models for dolls found in Peggy and Joan

2 models for dolls found in Peggy and Joan

Plate [14], though not identical, the two horses in this illustation bear a resemblance to the stuffed horse above. (Cotsen 7332)

Plate [14], The two horses in this illustration bear a resemblance to the stuffed horse above. London: Blackie and Son Limited: [ca. 1920] (Cotsen 7332)

Plate [53], The doll above can clearly be seen sitting in the bottom left of this illustration. (Cotsen 7223)

Plate [53], The doll above can clearly be seen sitting in the bottom left of this illustration. (Cotsen 7223)

One more doll is an almost complete match for “Mrs. Smith” featured in the story Where the Dolls Lived:

Mrs. smith with plate 10 of (Cotsen 23702)

Mrs. Smith next to plate 10 of Where the Dolls Lived. (Cotsen 23702)

The rest of the dolls, though unique and interesting in their own right, don’t seem to resemble dolls in Appleton’s illustrations:

As you can tell, some dolls are in far better shape than others. The center of the image shows what remains of a doll's head and her dress.

As you can tell, some dolls are in far better shape than others. The bottom left of the image shows what remains of a doll’s head and her dress.

Though using play things as inspiration for children’s literature might be par for the course, few authors and illustrators create whole worlds and series based on actual toys. It is significant then, that Appleton’s approach of using doll models actually predates her more well known contemporaries: A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard.

Milne, of course, is best known for his stories centered around a certain bear named Winnie-the-Pooh, and Shepard was Milne’s original illustrator (as well as the original illustrator for Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows). What you may not know, however, is that most of Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh characters are modeled after actual toys as well:

Children's Center at 42nd St, The New York Public Library. "Kanga, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1925. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5e66b3e9-1aab-d471-e040-e00a180654d7

Children’s Center at 42nd St, The New York Public Library. “Kanga, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1925. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5e66b3e9-1aab-d471-e040-e00a180654d7

The shot above is provided by the New York Public Library. In their Children’s Center in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, Pooh and his friends remain on display. The dolls were originally bought for Milne’s son Christopher Robin Milne,  the real life inspiration for Christopher Robin in the Pooh series of course), starting with the gift of “Edward Bear” from a Harrod’s department store on August 21st, 1921, Christopher Robin’s first birthday.

Winnie-the-Pooh first appears by name in the London newspaper the Evening Post as the main character in Milne’s short story “The Wrong Sort of Bees” published on December 24th, 1925. Later, the bear appears in the first title in the Pooh series, the eponymous Winnie-the-Pooh (London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1926).

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Pages [3]-1, Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh make their début together in the opening lines of Winnie-the-Pooh. (Cotsen 3014)

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Pages 4-5, the clever formatting and Shepard’s endearing illustrations helped make the Pooh series an instant classic (Cotsen 3014)

But “Edward Bear,” the earlier incarnation of Pooh who shares the name with his model counterpart from Harrods, shows up in text a few years earlier in Milne’s best-selling collection of poetry: When We Were Very Young (London: Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1924), in the poem “Teddy Bear” (Teddy is a nickname for both Edward and Theodore):

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Pages 86-87 from the poem “Teddy Bear” (Cotsen 10411)

Interestingly, however, “Edward Bear” actually shows up a few pages earlier in Shepard’s illustration for a different poem “Halfway Down”:

Pages 80-81, "Edward Bear" can be seen at the top of the stairs; while a very familiar boy sits on the stairs. (Cotsen 10411)

Pages 80-81, “Edward Bear” can be seen at the top of the stairs; while another very familiar boy sits in the middle. (Cotsen 10411)

So even though Winnie-the-Pooh arguably first appeared in print as early as 1924, the process of building an imaginative world based around real dolls had already appeared eight years earlier in Cradock and Appleton’s Josephine and Her Dolls (1916). Our collection of Appleton’s dolls exists as the artifact for what might be the first transformative process of using children’s dolls as direct inspiration for a series of children’s fiction. Though sentient dolls have played rolls in children’s fiction since the beginning, Appleton and Cradock created a popular series that chronicled the adventures of Josephine and her dolls across numerous years and titles.  At least in America, Appleton, Cradock, Josephine and her dolls have not enjoyed the same kind of sustained familiarity and adoration as Shepard, Milne, Christopher Robin, Pooh and friends.

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In addition to Appleton’s dolls and suitcase (61180), her portrait (61179 above), the artists’ proof from Josephine Goes Travelling (34319 above), a run of the Josephine books and the “Children’s Series,” Cotsen is home to an Appleton sketch book (61177), and more of her finished artwork and artists’ proofs (61181, 61182, 61183, 5053062, 5641042, and 6527185).

If you are interested in more dolls in the Cotsen collection, check out this blog post as well:

Toys and Books from a Czech Fairy Tale: Dlouhý, Siroký a Bystrozraký (High, Wide, and Cleareyed)

To learn more about the NYPL collection of “Pooh and his friends” and the history of the dolls check out these links too:

http://exhibitions.nypl.org/treasures/items/show/28

http://www.nypl.org/about/locations/schwarzman/childrens-center-42nd-street/pooh