Alice’s Adventures in a Fore-edge Painting

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Frontispiece (signed by Dalziel) and title page of Cotsen 30998 (protective tissue not shown).

One of Cotsen’s numerous editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has an especially attractive feature. Our copy of an 1877 reprint (London: Macmillan and Co.) of the 1866 first edition contains a particularly attractive fore-edge painting:

When this gilded fore-edge is fanned in a downward direction, a painting is revealed

When this gilded fore-edge is fanned in a downward direction, a painting is revealed:

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Contemporary bookbinders, publishers, and printers, Maclaren & Macniven’s (Edinburgh) binder’s stamp can still be made out on the front free endpaper verso. Since we know they are responsible for the excellent ruled and gilt-stamped red morocco binding, gilt-tooled dentelles and marbled endpapers, it’s reasonable to assume that they are responsible for the fore-edge painting as well; especially because gilt is typically applied to edges after such a treatment in order to protect and conceal it.

Though not exactly alike (and obviously in color), the painting resembles Tenniel’s original illustration found on page 97:

Vignette, page 97

Vignette, page 97

Though fore-edge marking and devices have been found in manuscripts as early as the 10th Century, disappearing fore-edge paintings (like the one above) seem to have been developed some time in the mid 17th Century. Most surviving examples are English and were produced in the late 19th Century. Exceedingly rare, this is Cotsen’s only example in the collection.

If you want even more Alice (and who doesn’t?) join us in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with our newest exhibition curated by our Rare Books Cataloger, Jeff Barton:

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An Anti-imperialist Soviet Flip Book: Little Chon and Long John

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Cotsen in-process

Malenkiĭ Chon i Dlinnyĭ Dzhon [Little Chon and Long John] is a most unusual flip book. Credited on the cover to N. Lapshin (probably Nikolaĭ Fedorovich Lapshin 1891-1942), it was published by the Soviet state publishing house, Gosudarstvennoe Izdatel’stvo (GIZ), in Leningrad around 1928.  Cotsen has five other titles illustrated by Lapshin, but this is the only novelty book. The wordless flip book contains a cartoon in 55 leaves and it features a small Chinese girl who tries to get the attention of a tall British man. After she angers him, a chase ensues. Finally she trips him into a river and takes his hat as he floats downstream.

The minimalist pair in printed in four colors are obviously stereotypes, but the choice of characters might be more significant than it first appears. Given the time period of the book’s production in the Soviet Union, I don’t think it’s unfair to see undertones of anti-imperialist and anti-British sentiment in this charming cartoon about a girl finding a new hat.

Painstakingly reproduced below for your entertainment is a gif of the flip book in full:

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