Students, Teachers, and Classrooms Illustrated in the Catalogue of the Cotsen Children’s Library

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!

The volume 1 team. Mr. Cotsen is to the far right. Stephen Ferguson second to the left.

Catalogue of the Cotsen Children’s Library: The Nineteenth Century Published!

From A, Apple Pie to Werkstätten von Handwerkern, with almost 6370 titles in between…

The History of the Apple Pie: Illustrative example for the letter X.   Before X-rays came along, the letter X often posed challenges for illustrated alphabet examples. Ever hear of a Xiphias?

Remember the old children’s riddle: “What’s black and white and read all over?”

The answer, of course, is “a newspaper,” and the riddle is based on the possible confusion between between the homophones, “read” and “red” when spoken, an ambiguity that’s completely lost in print (or online).

Children love riddles, and traditional oral culture is full of riddles and verbal puzzles.  That’s one reason why any number of Cotsen Library children’s books contain riddles, along with other word-games and puzzles.  A quick keyword search of Princeton’s library catalog for “riddle” and “Cotsen” turns up over 400 matches: from the 1690 Whetstone for Dull Wits: or, a New Collection of Riddles, for the Entertainment of Youth (Cotsen #35473), to the 1756 Food for the Mind, or, A New Riddle-book: Compiled for the Use of the Great and the Little Good Boys and Girls in England, Scotland, and Ireland (Cotsen #5374), to the 1955 Cai Mi Yu (Solving Riddles). (Cotsen #70304), with many other titles, from various eras, issued in a wide variety of countries.

The two-volume Catalogue of the Cotsen Children’s Library: The Nineteenth Century (Princeton, 2019), with its lavender, gilt-stamped cloth covers.

In the spirit of riddling, I’d like to pose one to you, the reader.

What published title lists and describes 6,370 nineteenth-century children’s book titles, comprises 1175 pages in two large, folio-sized volumes, and features over 270 brightly color-printed illustrations?  (Hint: it’s pictured at the right…)

The answer?  The recently published (January, 2019) two-volume: Catalogue of the Cotsen Children’s Library: The Nineteenth Century.  The books selected for inclusion in this descriptive catalog and the illustrations accompanying them seek to highlight nineteenth-century children’s books that have particularly-striking illustrations, books featuring work by especially renowned illustrators or engravers (John Tenniel, Kate Greenaway, Walter Crane, Randolph Caldicott, or Edmund Evans, to name but a few), or books exemplifying the range of illustration processes in this important period in terms of both graphical style and technological developments (from hand-colored woodblocks or engravings to chromolithography).

Page 1 of the Catalogue: A a B c d e f ff g, A Apple Pie, and off we go…

Arranged both topically and alphabetically, titles in the two catalog volumes run from, A, Apple Pie to 30 Werkstätten von Handwerkern: nebst ihren hauptsächlichsten werkzeugen und fabrikaten; mit erklärendem texte, with more than 6300 entries in between, each described in considerable bibliographic detail, using the catalog records in Princeton’s online library catalog as the basis.

With the publication of two Nineteenth Century volumes (A-K and L-Z), these volumes join the two previously-published Twentieth Century volumes (2000 and 2003) and the printed Cotsen Catalogue now provides coverage of publications held by the Library from both the 19th and 20th centuries.  A final, two-volume printed catalog of Cotsen’s holdings from the incunable era through 1799 is now in the works.

For more information about the printed Cotsen Catalog volumes, including information on how to order these magnificent books, please visit the Oak Knoll Books website.

Endpapers from the 19th Century Catalogue, designed by Mark Argetsinger using illustrative examples in Cotsen ABC books.