Gorey, Feiffer, and Stamaty Drew in William Cole’s Poetry-Drawing Book!

 This 2016 post describes a wonderful gift to the collection that came out of the blue.   There is something irresistible about this activity book designed to encourage creativity in children filled in by artists who didn’t need any help.   Perhaps this will inspire readers to discover their inner craftiness while waiting for spring to come and the pandemic to subside…

ninos-dibujando-actividades-artisticas-totenart-material-bellas-artesThe Poetry-Drawing Book (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960) was supposed to provide children with a substitute for coloring books, which co-editors William Cole and Julia Colmore believed were “insulting to their imagination and intelligence” with “the banal and badly drawn” pictures. Their volume was designed with a blank page facing each poem, space for a boy or girl to draw whatever ideas the reading of the poem prompted. To facilitate self-expression with pencil, crayons, or watercolors, the book was spiral-bound so that it would lay flat on a table (or the floor). Cole and Colmore argued that this concept would encourage “a child’s innate sense of color and design, and to give free rein to his imagination. At the same time our book functions as an introduction to the magical world of poetry.”

Bill Cole was not an educator, but a journalist, publicity director, publisher, board member of the Poetry Society of America and Poets and Writers, and connoisseur of light verse and knock-knock jokes. The Poetry-Drawing Book was just one of many anthologies he produced for children over his long career.

cole_ungererCotsen’s collection of manuscripts includes a very special copy of The Poetry-Drawing Book, whose purchase was underwritten several years ago by the Friends of the Princeton University Library. It belonged to Cole and his penciled initials are in the upper-left-hand corner just above the plates the clown is juggling. Cole and Colmore claimed that the book had been “tried out on hundreds of children” and perhaps a few of the “enriching, enlightening, and often hilarious” results were selected to go on the cover.ctsn_ms_unproc_item_4347646_coverCole’s son Rossa grew up to be a professional photographer, but the Cotsen copy of The Poetry-Activity Book does not happen to be filled with the little boy’s drawings. Cole intended it to be a showcase for somewhat older aspiring artists.

There is a drawing by the thirty-one-year old Jules Feiffer, political satirist and illustrator of Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth.

To deliver a message of good cheer satirist Jules Feiffer, photographed in New York City, March 3, 1976, has chosen theater rather than cartoons. The result is "Knock Knock," his hit Broadway farce. (AP Photo/Jerry Mosey)

Jules Feiffer in 1976 (AP Photo/Jerry Mosey).

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Feiffer was born in 1929. If he was thirty-one when he painted this rather ominous feline, then he must have done it in 1960.

And another by twenty-eight-year old cartoonist Mark Alan Stamaty, author/illustrator of Who Needs Doughnuts (1973) and Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq (2004).

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If Stamaty was born in 1947 and he drew the rootin’ tootin’ shootin’ television when he was twenty-eight, then his page was completed in 1975.

Another surprise is this elaborate color drawing by a master of the macabre in black and white, Edward Gorey, then thirty six.edward-gorey-3

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This enchanting vision of the snake in the garden would have been executed in 1961 by the thirty-six-year-old Gorey, who was born in 1929.

And that’s what happens when you give an artist a blank page…

There is an array of the famous Pere Castor activity books on the Cotsen virtual exhibitions page.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Beatrix Potter

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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.

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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!