The last two volumes of the Catalogue of the Cotsen Children’s Library, a comprehensive index, have just been published, bringing this huge project to completion. This post will offer a survey of the pictures of children appearing in the preliminary pages of the eight volumes that illustrate the subject of teachers and pupils interacting in traditional and innovative classrooms.The frontispiece to vol. 1 of the pre-1800 imprints is a portrait of Margaret Bryan, a pioneering science educator for girls that appeared in her first such work, A Compendious System of Astronomy, in a Course of Familiar Lectures of 1797 (Cotsen 31780). The two young ladies are her daughters; this plate was engraved by William Nutter after a painting by Samuel Shelley. Bryan represents just one of many women writers for children whose works are described in the catalogue; she was unusual for attaching a likeness of herself in her book. Mothers are frequently portrayed in their role as their children’s first teacher. It is no surprise that the allegorical figures of instruction and grammar are also represented as females, as in this mezzotint print ca. 1720 engraved by J. Jacques Haid after a painting by Hans Rottenhammer (Cotsen 38458) used as the frontispiece to the second volume of the index. The rather masculine-featured woman solemnly shows a toddler a tablet of the letters of the alphabet, the first step towards literacy. The child seems engaged by the task he is being set.Children like the play the part of teacher. This little girl is too old for the alphabet blocks scattered on the floor, so perhaps she is preparing the doll in her lap for a lesson. This detail from a drawing in ink and gouache (Cotsen 18123) by British artist Helen Jacobs, possibly for Alice’s Alphabet.Jessie Wilcox Smith’s picture of a studious girl biting the end of her pencil from Carolyn Wells’s The Seven Ages of Childhood from 1902 (Cotsen 18997) was chosen as the frontispiece for the second volume of twentieth century imprints. We take for granted girls’ right to an education, but some illustrations in early modern school books are reminders that they were not welcome until comparatively recently, and if they were present, very much in the minority. The title page vignettes for the pre-1800 volumes, The Parents’ Best Gift: or, The School of Learning [between 1748 and 1776} (Cotsen 26265) and Edward Coote’s The English School-Master (1658) (Cotsen 34054).Documenting the history of visual learning was a subject very close to the donor Mr. Cotsen’s heart, so illustrations of learning spaces full of pictures were essential. If they really represent actual classrooms used for instruction, they were simply spectacular. This spacious room shown in the frontispiece to the second volume of the pre-1800 imprints comes from the picture dictionary Primitiva latinoe linguoe circa 1736 (Cotsen 1088).This one, which opens out into a formal garden,makes an extensive gallery and a collection of scientific instruments available to the pupils. It was taken from Sechzig eroefnete Wekstaette der gemeinnuezigstem kuenste und Handwerk fuer junge Leute of 1789 (Cotsen 91643). The illustration by Adrien-Emmanuel Marie of the father indulgently watching his son intent on assembling a jigsaw puzzle serving as the frontispiece to the L-Z volume of nineteenth-century imprints brings us back into the home, an important site for learning, especially in families that could afford novel aides to education. This came from Jules Jouy’s Le chanson de joujoux of 1892 (Cotsen 3253), as does the final picture in the post, a critical reminder that all work and no play makes Jacques a dull boy…Special thanks to Stephen Ferguson, Associate University Librarian for External Engagement and designer Mark Argetsinger, who together made Mr. Cotsen’s dream of a fabulously illustrated multi-volume catalogue of his collection a reality. As all of us who worked on this massive project can testify, along with the great children’s poet Kornei Chukovskii, “Ach! It’s no light task to pull a hippo from the marsh!” Thanks for persevering!
Among the earliest moveable books are harlequinades, whose illustrations metamorphose when the flaps at the upper and lower edges are opened up and down. The most familiar examples illustrated key scenes in popular pantomimes staged in the late 1760s and early 1770s and a list of these “turn-ups” appeared in the 1775 catalogue issued by print seller Bennett and Sayers, where they were described as “moral and instructive Emblems for the Entertainment of Children” rather than promoting them as the novelties they were.
Calling them “emblems” might have been a tactic to reassure prospective customers that turn-ups extracted morals from plays regarded as less than improving. This language may also alludes to their sober ancestor that had no connection with the stage, The Beginning, Progress and End of Man, a small illustrated collection of emblems or “speaking pictures” from the 1650s. The license of May 30 1650 called it “a small tract of several foulded pictures…in verse.” Probably written to fit the panels and flaps, neither the illustrations or verse was polished enough to get the attention of print curators or literary critics. Nevertheless, it has survived (see below), while the Sayers edition, “Adam and Eve,” the title presumably taken from the first panel’s subject has not.
Cotsen has acquired another early edition of The Beginning, Progress and End of Man at the Justin G. Schiller Ltd. Sale at Heritage Book Auctions in Dallas, Texas December 16 2020. It is the stated third edition of the text in five panels and the only one with contemporary hand-coloring. The five metamorphosing subjects are Adam (to Eve, to mermaid), Abel (to Abel, to Cain killing Abel), the lion (to griffin, to eagle and child) the youth (to heart, to money bags), and man (skeleton). The block of the rampant lion faces right and has the face of a man that could be Charles I.. Below is the back of sheet with all the flaps open, followed by a shot of the other side with center five images visible.Dating the Cotsen copy more precisely than between 1671 and 1704 is not possible, given the available information about the publisher. Two J. Deacons traded from the Angel in Gilt spur street. The publisher could be either Jonah Deacon, a broadside ballad monger, who teamed up with P. Brooksby, J. Blare, and and J. Back to undercut the five Ballad Partners, or John Deacon who also dealt in cheap print from the Angel as well as the “Rainbow, Holborn, a little above St. Andrews Church.” For now not possible to assign priority to this or the J. Deacon edition at the Bodleian Library
The Beginning, Progress and End of Man has only begun to attract attention within the last fifteen years. Malcolm Jones reproduced the British Library’s 1650 edition with flaps closed and a transcription of the text in The Print in Early Modern England: An Historical Oversight (2010) as an early example of “lift-the-flap” pictures. He correctly connected it to the better known genre of anatomical sheets, but passed over its ties with emblem literature for children. It seems to have been unknown to the authors of classic studies on 17th-century English children’s books like William Sloane’s 1955 bibliography, Warren W. Wooden’s Children’s Literature of the English Renaissance (1986), and C. John Sommerville’s The Discovery of Childhood in Puritan England (1992).
Jacqueline Reid-Walsh’s articles and monograph Interactive Books: Playful Media Before Pop-ups (2018) on the long history of genres like the harlequinade which are hybrids of books, toys, and games, has put Beginning, Progress, and End of Man on the map. The union catalogue on her website Learning as Play: An Animated, Interactive Archive of 17th– to 19th-Century Narrative Media by and for Children has the most complete census of surviving copies: the one in four panels published by B. Alsop and T. Dunster (1650) at the British Library in the Thomason Tracts and at Pennsylvania State University Library; the five-panel E. Alsop and T. Dunster edition of 1654 at Harvard; and the five-panel J. Deacon edition ca. 1688 purchased by antiquarian Anthony à Wood at the Bodleian Library. The details of the Cotsen copy will be sent along shortly.
Reid Walsh’s research also shows that The Beginning, Progress, and End is an intriguing but little understood text that must have been wider circulation than the census of printed editions can possibly would indicate. We know this because of the survival of manuscript copies made by boys and girls in England, North America, and Scotland, none of them labored copies, all of them individual as their creators, who might be considered outsider artists…
A Scottish boy’s handiwork from the 1820s. His lion’s eyes seem to glow. The bouquet is entirely his. The baby in the eagle’s claws in the detail below is particularly well-dressed. (Cotsen unprocessed manuscripts)