A 15th Anniversary Spectacle of Skeletons

Fifteen years ago today Cotsen opened its gallery doors to the public.   Perhaps we should have drawn people into the space with a seasonal spooktacular, but the previous day’s ribbon-cutting took all the wind out of our sails.  So here to celebrate the occasion are some ghoulish pictures to chill the funny bone and to jolt the brain from Cotsen’s Skelt and Webb Toy Theater Collection.

skeletons and their friendly poisonous reptilesThese pictures of skeletons and their friendly poisonous reptiles come from prints that were part of a juvenile theatre play based on Blue Beard or Female Curiosity!, (1798) a “grand dramatic romance” with script by George Colman the younger and score by Michael Kelly.   Colman and Kelly’s dramatic take on Perrault’s celebrated but grisly fairy tale was inspired by French composer Gretry’s  opera Raoul Barbe Bleue (1789), but they turned it into an over-the-top  “Oriental” fanasy inspired by A Thousand and One Nights.  But why skeletons and not djinns? 

Think of Shakespeare set during the American Civil War or the Roaring Twenties.   It’s the concept, not historical accuracy, that counts.  If Colman and Kelly could reconceive  Bluebeard  as Abomelique, the Turkish tyrant or three-tailed bashaw who was preceded by a standard of horse tails (oh yes, there were live horses on stage), then it’s not such a leap of imagination to have the wife-killing villain stabbed to death by a skeleton and escorted down to hell by a platoon of his vengeful friends.   No wonder the critics hated Colman and Kelly’s alternative to the holiday pantomime and the audiences loved it.

battling skeletons

And if this comes knocking at your door tonight, throw away the healthy treats!

imp riding a bat

Thanks to Mr. Cotsen for making this blog, and everything else Team Cotsen does possible!

Cotsen Conference: Sept. 11-13, 2013

“Putting the Figure on the Map
Imagining Sameness and Difference for Children”

Co-organized by Andrea Immel and Emer O’Sullivan
Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University Sept. 11-13, 2013
Teaching Geography:   hand-colored wood engraving, "The Party," from The Little Traveller  (Dean & Monday, [ca. 1830])

Teaching Geography: hand-colored wood engraving, “The Party,” from The Little Traveller (Dean & Monday, [ca. 1830])

The world seemed to shrink during the nineteenth century, thanks to improved communications and transportation that facilitated travel, whether for commerce, conquest or leisure. Similarly the wonders of the world could be brought into the home via photography, maps, travel writing, and fiction. The representation of foreign lands inevitably required the illustration and description of their residents, which gave rise to a rich repository of colorful images of diversity.

Children’s books were important vehicles for the expression of senses of national identity that could confirm the superiority of one culture, marginalize others, instill a sense of international brotherhood or regional patriotism. Through a tangle of national types, stereotypes, and archetypes, children’s books shaped discourse as much as they reflected mainstream adult culture.

Cotsen Curator Andrea Immel welcomes attendees

Cotsen Curator Andrea Immel welcomes attendees

Emer O'Sullivan delivers the keynote talk: "Picturing the World for Children: Early 19th-c. Images of Foreign Nations"

Emer O’Sullivan delivers the keynote talk: “Picturing the World for Children: Early 19th-c. Images of Foreign Nations”

Exploring these themes, and others, this interdisciplinary Cotsen Library conference featured presentations that drew on the approaches of imagology, history, anthropology, psychology, and literary criticism, to discuss modes of expression arising that either targeted children, within or without the classroom, or appropriated discourses for them, to present competing, complimentary or contradictory images of foreign nations.

Presenting scholars represented institutions across the United States, Canada, and Europe, including: Princeton, University of Toronto, University of Innsbruck, University of Cologne, Leuphana University, Aarhus University, Roehampton University, Anglia Ruskin University, Ohio State University, and Wells College.  (A full listing of speaker, abstracts, and biographical profiles, as well as the conference program schedule is available on the Conference website.)

Jill Shefrin discussing travel illustrations, maps, and "dissected maps" for children

Jill Shefrin discussing travel illustrations, maps, and “dissected maps” for children

Setsuko Noguchi discussing Japanese Suguroku picture games at workshop

Setsuko Noguchi discussing Japanese Suguroku picture games at workshop

The conference program also included  two workshops focusing on materials from the Cotsen research collection  — Japanese Picture Sugoroku games and English “dissected maps” and geography games — with a selection of collection objects available for viewing by attendees.

 

Two of the Cotsen collection items on display for attendees to
see after the speakers’ presentations:

Detail showing Africa and the Mediterranean area from an English "dissected map" comprised of 40 pieces mounted on mahogany; it served as a jig-saw puzzle to both teach and entertain children learning about geography. "Africa in its Principal Divisions"  (London: J. Spilsbury, 1767).

Detail showing Africa and the Mediterranean area from an English “dissected map” comprised of 40 pieces mounted on mahogany; it served as a jig-saw puzzle to both teach and entertain children learning about geography.
“Africa in its Principal Divisions”
(London: J. Spilsbury, 1767).

Japanese Soguroku Game Board  コドモアソビスゴロク ("A game on children's play") (Tokyo: Hakubunkan, 1917).  Soguroku within sogoroku: the game board's theme is "children's play," with 12 panels of pictures are arranged by month. Each panel shows a children's leisure activity in that month; the panel for Jan. (bottom right) appropriately shows children playing sugoroku.

Japanese Soguroku Game Board
コドモアソビスゴロク
(“A game on children’s play”)
(Tokyo: Hakubunkan, 1917).
Soguroku within sogoroku: the game board’s theme is “children’s play,” with 12 panels of pictures are arranged by month. Each panel shows a children’s leisure activity in that month; the panel for Jan. (bottom right) appropriately shows children playing sugoroku.

Some Presenters & Discussion at the Conference
(click on any thumbnail image to view larger version)

Gillian Lathey: "Children's Encounters with Other Peoples at the 1851 Great Exhibition"

Gillian Lathey:
“Children’s Encounters with Other Peoples at the 1851 Great Exhibition”

Lara Saguisag:  "Foreign Yet Familiar: The Immigrant Child in Progressive Era Comic Strips, 1896-1912"

Lara Saguisag:
“Foreign Yet Familiar: The Immigrant Child in Progressive Era Comic Strips, 1896-1912″

Eric Johnson: "Politicizing Childhood: Oncle Hansi and Alsatian Nationalism, 1912-1919"

Eric Johnson:
“Politicizing Childhood: Oncle Hansi and Alsatian Nationalism, 1912-1919″

Cynthia Koepp:  "A World of Difference: Pedagogical Imagination of Louis-François Jauffret"

Cynthia Koepp:
“A World of Difference: Pedagogical Imagination of Louis-François Jauffret”

Nina Christensen: "Education to Tolerance: World Citizens in 18th C. Century Children's Literature"

Nina Christensen:
“Education to Tolerance: World Citizens in 18th C. Century Children’s Literature”

Minjie Chen:  "Foreigners Not (Yet) in One Box: Race & Foreign Nationals in Chinese Children's Materials, 1890-1920"

Minjie Chen:
“Foreigners Not (Yet) in One Box: Race & Foreign Nationals in Chinese Children’s Materials, 1890-1920″

Gabriele von Glasenapp: "Information or Exoticization? Constructing Religious Difference in Children's Non-Fiction"

Gabriele von Glasenapp:
“Information or Exoticization? Constructing Religious Difference in Children’s Non-Fiction”

One of the lively discussion after the presentations

One of the lively discussion after the presentations

Opening conference reception, held in the Cotson Library's Bookscape gallery

Opening conference reception, held in the Cotson Library’s Bookscape gallery