Traveling the World via a Board Game…

Imagine getting paid to play with children’s books and sometimes even with children’s games.  As a cataloger, I get to “play with” them, in a sense — but it’s not quite the same as “playing” games, I assure you — and I usually learn something and almost always enjoy doing it too: “instruction with delight,” as John Newbery famously phrased it.

This all ran though my mind while cataloging a new Cotsen acquisition: a French board-game adaptation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, titled: Le Voyage Autour du Monde en 80 Jours: d’apres le Roman de Jules Verne: Jeu de Société. 

Game Board for "Le Voyage Autour du Monde en 80 jours : D’apres le Roman de Jules Verne : Jeu de Société"

Game Board for “Le Voyage Autour du Monde en 80 jours : D’apres le Roman de Jules Verne : Jeu de Société” by Roches Frères  (Paris, ca. 1880?)  – Cotsen new acquisition.

Cotsen’s version of the game-board isn’t itself titled, but the caption title I used to catalog the item comes from the accompanying four-page printed instruction and rule booklet. Roches Frères has added the imprint of their Paris printing house on the bottom left of the board, in the white margin, but it’s a little hard to see in the above photo (a better view is in a photo below).  I’m still looking for information about the Paris firm Roches Frères, but the they seem to have been active in Paris from the 1880s through 1900, based on the dates of other of their publications cataloged by other libraries.  After 1900, another Roches Frères published in Avignon until 1911 or so — maybe the firm moved? (Research also turned up a third, earlier firm named “Roches Frères,” this one publishing in New Orleans from about 1813 into the early 1820s, presumably a different entity altogether, but so far I can’t say so definitely).

"tres Amusant"... Rules of the game

“Très amusant”… Description and rules of the game.

Cotsen’s game-board seems to be one of at least 8 different versions of the game issued by various publishers between 1874 and 1928, an apparent testament to successful sales  and ongoing popularity with children and/or grown-ups.  (Verne’s novel first appeared in print in 1872.) With children’s books and games, it’s always hard to know how much items’ sales connote their actual appeal to children themselves, since adults were generally the ones making the purchases.  But I think a 50+ year run of publication and re-publication certainly suggests a popular item!  Cotsen’s game board seems to be a relatively early version, based on the form of the title, the printer’s dates, and particularly a chronology of versions posted online.1

Unfortunately, the Cotsen copy of the the game arrived without the illustrated box it originally came in, six little hand-painted lead playing pieces (modeled on characters in the novel: Phileas Fogg, his servant Passepartout, etc.), currency tokens, dice, and dice cup. (Dice thus make a somewhat unusual appearance in a children’s game of this era, in lieu of a teetotum spinner — dice generally being shunned in children’s activities games for being associated with gambling and the unsavory world of vice.  Perhaps this is because the mainspring of book’s plot is a bet?)  But Princeton’s Graphic Arts Collection has a later (ca. 1915) version of the game that’s essentially complete, accompanied by an advertising flyer, which curator Julie Melby has blogged about.  Both versions of the game board are the same size: fully opening out to 49 x 58 cm.

The games afoot... The game board first spaces, showing Fogg in London.

The game’s afoot!
The game board’s first spaces, showing Fogg in London (with Roche Frères’ imprint below).

But let’s get back to the game itself!  True to Jules Verne’s original story, the players begin in London, appropriately enough with space number 1 depicting Phileas Fogg (here called “Phogg”) and space 3 the scene where Fogg bets £20,000 (a colossal sum then!) with fellow-members of the Reform Club that he can completely travel around the world within 80 days.  With that, he’s off on his trip leaving the familiar world of London and fashionable Saville Row (space 4) behind…

France

Through the Alps and a view of Mt. Vesuvius

In the game, players of the game race to be first to complete Fogg’s journey, the places and people encountered shown here in illustrations, within the numbered spaces and accompanying graphics, all brightly chromolithographed.  First, it’s through France and Italy and onto a steamer across the Mediterranean, depicted by the nineteenth-century steam locomotive racing through a tunnel under the Alps (both new technological marvels then), a contemporary steam-ship, and a depiction of the Bay of Naples, with a smoking Mt. Vesuvius in the background.  Vesuvius, whose spectacular volcanic eruption in 79 AD buried Pompeii and Herculaneum, also erupted some 14 times during the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, and it often figures prominently in children’s literature of this period.  This is due to a combination of factors, I think: the pure visual appeal of depicting an erupting volcano in hand-colored or color-processed illustrations, then relatively cutting-edge book technologies, the fascination that such volatile forces of nature hold for a child (or adult!) reader, the frequent attention paid to natural history in educational children’s materials during this period (and we’ll see another instance of this in another recently-cataloged work to be discussed in the following blog posting), as well as the way that volcanoes and natural disasters displayed the power of fate, human frailty, and the power of God or supernatural forces to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century readers.

Into Egypt

Suez Canal, Port Said, and Aden

Middle Eastern people

Middle Eastern people

Next, it’s through the Suez Canal — then, having recently opened in 1869 — via a canal steamer and on to the ports of Port Said, Egypt, and Aden, in what’s now Yemen, via what look like smaller and smaller sail-powered craft. Things are getting a little more adventurous… Along with scenery, the people Fogg encountered on the journey are also presented on game spaces in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the terrifically-popular illustrated European travel literature of this period, such as David Roberts’ Travels in Egypt & the Holy Land.  The emphasis on visual artistic depictions of “exotic” places and people in the game — and in children’s literature generally — reminds us just how new and exciting such depictions were to Europeans at this time, something it’s easy to forget in our era of visual-media-on-demand in a world that seems to have “shrunk” in many ways.

Traveling through India...

Traveling through India…

On to Singapore and Hong Kong...

On to Singapore and Hong Kong…

As the players move along the board, they see more of the sights that Verne had Fogg encounter: India, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Indian rajahs, magicians… Modes of transportation also reflect the vicissitudes of journey described by Verne, for instance, the travelers must leave an Indian railroad (not fully completed, despite what Fogg had read in a London newspaper, which had prompted his bet!) and buy an elephant to proceed along the 50-mile gap in the railroad; the “iron horse” — wonderfully evoked by the French term “chemin de fer” (literally “road of iron”) — literally yields to traditional animal-powered locomotion.

Globe

Central game-board view of the globe, centering on the Pacific Ocean, unlike most European views

To win the bet, Fogg had to make it all the way around the world and back to London!  So he and Passpartout begin the return leg of their trip across the Pacific Ocean.  This provides the illustrator with an opportunity to show their dotted-line route on a slightly unusual view of the globe — at least for Europeans — one centered on the Pacific, not Atlantic, Ocean.  Think of all the Mercator Projection cutaway views of the globe that you’ve seen with Europe and the Atlantic Ocean at the “center of the world” with the map “split” so the Pacific is an the “edges” of the earth.  There’s no strictly logical, map-making reason for this presentation, other than cultural orientation — cultures just typically present themselves at the center of the world!  (A British Library exhibition, “Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art,” presented examples of this orientation in a variety of maps, produced by a wide variety of cultures and eras.) And don’t miss the purely illustrative “exotic” animals positioned around the globe —  a visual rendition of “nature red in tooth and claw”

San Francisco and across Great Plains, via "chemin de fer"

San Francisco and Great Plains, via “chemin de fer”

New York & and Statue of Liberty (dedicated, 1886)

New York & and Statue of Liberty (dedicated, 1886)

Having crossed the Pacific from East to West, the travelers’ next leg in the journey takes them across the entire United States, also something of a mystifying wilderness expanse of land to Englishmen and Europeans at the time.  Accordingly, the board spaces in the “inner loop” of the game-board depict San Francisco (and one of its legendary cable cars), the recently-completed Transcontinental railroad across the Great Plains (where distinctive American bison then ran free), a side-wheel paddle steamer, Chicago (whose Loop looks suspiciously like San Francisco!), and finally New York with its distinctive Statue of Liberty (dedicated only in place on Liberty Island in 1886, so this view may be an artistic imagining of the actual scene), before setting sail across the Atlantic.

Eventually, back in England after drama involving a missed ship, a mutinous crew, and a Scotland Yard detective detective who mistakenly arrests him for being a robber — all depicted on the ten or so last spaces on the game-board — Fogg is able to collect his bet, marry the girl (an Indian princess no less, Aouda, whom he had rescued during the journey), and enjoy the quintessential London vista of the River Thames, Tower Bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The River Thames at London Bridge

Back to London in time to win the bet!

To find out more about such plot escapades, you’ll have to read the book for yourself — I have to say that I’m curious myself now to reread the story! — but I hope this blog posting has shown you something about how the world and some of its peoples were depicted on this nineteenth-century game-board.  It really is remarkable how what’s essentially a backdrop for a game portrays so many facets of world geography and ethnography using a purely visual “vocabulary” with no language, (other than brief text labels): instruction with delight, indeed!


1. Marie-Helene Huet, “Re: Le Tour du Monde, game from 1915,” Jules Verne Forum (Thu, 10 Mar 2011), accessed 4/16/2015.

 

Here’s a Ball for Baby

Cotsen 31857

Cotsen 31857

I’ve been working on processing collections material that needs to be moved out of a space that will be demolished during the renovation. Much of this material is unprocessed, otherwise under-described, or not accessioned. It’s been tedious work, but I’ve managed to blow the dust off some great items and uncover some diamonds in the rough.

One such surprisingly delightful item has been Baby’s Ball (pictured above), which I came across the other day. It’s a stuffed textile ball which includes a nursery rhyme accompanying 6 lithographed illustrations. The initial record for the item didn’t have much information. But after some careful sleuthing, Andrea and I were able to discover a lot about this Victorian baby toy.

Each illustration is accompanied by 2 descriptive lines of verse, one above and one below the image. We started our investigation when Andrea noticed that this nursery rhyme was vaguely familiar:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Here’s a ball for baby, nice and soft and round / here’s the baby’s hammer, hear the baby pound / here’s the baby’s soldiers, standing in a row / here’s the baby’s trumpet, hear the baby blow / don’t take the ball away, to make baby cry / here’s the baby’s cradle, to rock baby by”

At first, we found several versions of the rhyme on the web, but no attribution or history. It was most commonly referenced as a finger play, a nursery rhyme or other simple song that one also performs with hand motions. Itsy Bitsy Spider is probably the most familiar example. Frustratingly, though the song appears so well known, we couldn’t locate it in any of our reference books on early nursery rhymes.

But then we finally hit pay dirt! Andrea found that the original version of the nursery rhyme is attributed to Emilie Poulsson in her book, Finger plays for nursery and kindergarten (Boston : Lothrop Publishing Company, c1893) under the title “All For Baby”. This book, it just so happens, is in the Cotsen collection:

finger plays cover

Front cover, 86551

page38

page 38

page39

Page 39

page40

Page 40

Though we were able to learn more about the ball’s verse by locating a related item from Cotsen’s own collection; this didn’t help use discover any information about the toy’s manufacture. That information came from a much less likely source: eBay.

While looking for information on our Baby’s Ball, I stumbled across an auction listing for: Antique Dated 1900 Art Fabric Mills Cloth Rag Doll BABY’S BALL Rare Uncut NR yqz. At first it didn’t look pertinent. But after scrolling down the page I realized that the item for sale was an original uncut cloth pattern sheet for the very same ball now in our collection. From this eBay listing, we were not only able to learn about the manufacturer and dates of the item, but that it was probably stitched together and stuffed at home, after the purchase of the uncut sheet.

Below, I’ve Included 2 pictures from that eBay listing for reference. But you can click on the link above to see the original listing which includes more pictures of the uncut sheet.

Uncut sheet for Baby's Ball

Uncut sheet for Baby’s Ball

Patent and manufacturer

Patent and manufacturer

We started with no information on a cute Victorian cloth ball and a vaguely familiar nursery rhyme.  We ended up with a fully described Baby’s Ball (New York : Art Fabric Mills, 1900) which borrows (liberally) from a well-known finger play originally written by Emilie Poulsson in her book Finger plays for nursery and kindergarten, just 7 years before the pattern for the ball was patented. In short, it was a fun day at Cotsen doing research on collections material.

Purely for your edification, I’ve embedded a video performance of the finger play as well:

This video comes from the YouTube channel WCCLS Birth2Six, where a few more finger plays have also been acted out.