Conference on Soviet Illustrated Books for Young Readers Friday-Saturday May 1-2 at Princeton

Cotsen is delighted to help spread the word about an international conference about Soviet illustrated children’s books!

“The Pedagogy of Images: Depicting Communism for Children”

A Symposium at Princeton University, May 2015.

Friday May 1st, Bobst Hall Room 105,  9:00am – 6:00pm.

Saturday May 2nd, Chancellor Green Room 103, 10:00am – 7:00pm.

Keynote: Dmitry Bykov, “The Golden Key to Blind Beauty: Reading the Russian Revolution Through Soviet Children’s Literature”. Friday May 1st, Aaron Burr Hall 219, 6:30pm.

The symposium will convene an international and interdisciplinary group of 16 scholars who work on Soviet-era Russian illustrated books for young readers.

Socialism always had major pedagogical ambitions: building a new society was also about promoting new forms of social imaginary and a new vocabulary of images. Lenin’s plan of monumental propaganda is well known and well researched. This symposium’s project is collaborative scholarly investigation of a less monumental but no less important and pervasive visual language developed by the socialist state for its children. Specifically, the participants will examine the interplay of text and image in illustrated books for young Soviet readers.

As a part of the general desire to translate state socialism into idioms and images accessible to the illiterate, alternatively literate, and pre-literate, children’s books visualized ideological norms and goals in a way that guaranteed easy legibility and direct appeal, without sacrificing the political identity of the message.  Relying on a process of dual-media rendering, illustrated books presented the propagandistic content as a simple narrative or verse, while also casting it in images. A vehicle of ideology, an object of affection, and a product of labor, the illustrated book for the young Soviet reader became an important cultural phenomenon, despite its perceived simplicity and often minimalist techniques. Major Soviet artists and writers contributed to this genre, creating a unique assemblage of sophisticated visual formats for the propaedeutics of state socialism.


In preparation for the symposium a selection of 47 books from the Cotsen Children’s Library underwent digital imaging, and the digital surrogates were mounted as a publicly accessible collection in the Princeton University Digital Library (“Soviet Era Books for Children and Youth 1918-1938”). The 47 books were selected from the Cotsen’s holdings of approximately 1,500 Soviet-era Russian imprints, almost 1,000 of which were published between the 1917 Revolution and the beginning of WWII. All of the selected imprints are very rare; a third of the editions included are held in only one other collection in North America, and more than a third are not held in any other North American collections.

Organizing Committee:

Thomas Keenan, Serguei Oushakine. Katherine Hill Reischl

To learn more about this momentous project (including the schedule of symposium speakers and the collaborative annotated catalogue) see the main site for The Pedagogy of Images.

(Just in case this is your first time visiting, here are the links for the interactive campus map and printable campus map).

		         До свидания!



BIG Changes in the Gallery Entryway!


Can you guess what’s inside this 9′ X 4′ crate?

This behemoth box arrived just before the holidays and we were very excited to unpack what was inside (it almost felt like an early Christmas).

2standingup 3puttinginposition

After some very careful maneuvers and masterful positioning (where we just managed to fit the object past the wooden ceiling panel above the gallery entryway) our new installation was ready for unveiling. . .


Still can’t guess what it is?

This 104″ x 38″ polished maple and Plexiglas structure was designed and fabricated by Judson Beaumont and his company Straight Line Designs. Jud is a great friend of ours who also happens to have designed much of Bookscape (the current incarnation of the Cotsen Gallery).

But you’re probably still wondering what it is!

Well, it’s a display case of course! And what goes inside is just as unique and impressive as the case it is housed in. . .


what were you expecting?

A Maurice Sendak clock!

The clock is a 94″ x 30″ painted board, canvas, and wood stage prop from the Frank Corsaro production of Maurice Ravel’s “L’Heure espagnol” at the 1987 Glyndebourne Opera Festival in England. Maurice Sendak designed and supervised the creation of this prop (and one other similar clock), costumes, and stage set for this performance. Our clock includes a removable back panel so that an actor can slip into the clock itself. One can open not only the clock-face but the face on the clock as well (the one with the nose that is).

Slightly hidden in our conference room since the end of August, it was finally time for the clock to be united with its new permanent home in the front of the Cotsen gallery.

6installingclock 7final touches

After some more careful maneuvers and masterful positioning the clock and its case were set in place.



With the new installation ready we went about setting up the rest of the gallery entryway.

Since our display table no longer fits in its old place, we brought out another Beaumont original to serve as our new “table”:

The accompanying books are made of wood, with a few displaying comical spine titles.

The accompanying books are made of wood, with a few displaying comical spine titles, just like the “library” in the gallery.

Complementing our new Sendak clock are 2 massive graphics being displayed on our exhibition cases. With images from Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), these graphics softly announce our next exhibition coming this summer.


With the new and wonderful installation of the Sendak clock and case, along with the other accompanying objects, the entryway has never looked so good! Sendak and Beaumont are a perfect fit!


A special thanks to Jud and his daughter Shelby for visiting from Vancouver in order to oversee the installation our newest gallery item.