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

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.


Were There Picky Child Eaters Before 1850?

According to Jennifer Traig, author of Act Natural: A Cultural History of Misadventures in Parenting, there is very little evidence in the historical record for “concerns over children refusing what they were given” to eat much before the 1880s.  That makes Betty MacDonald a seeress when she invented “The Picky-Eater Cure” in Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (1957). This cautionary tale zeroed in the sin of Will Pemberton,which was eating nothing but boiled noodles.  His distraught parents consulted Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and came home with magic crystals, which when sprinkled on Will’s dinner, turned everything on the plate into his favorite (only) food.  In time Will grew tired of nothing but boiled noodles and was forced to dig into other dishes. Before Will, there was Heinrich Hoffmann’s Suppenkaspar, who would not eat his good soup and wasted away for lack of nourishment.  The marker on his grave was a  tureen, naturally.Picky eateritis is surely a disease of affluence, but the condition’s psychological aspects must be of equal importance.   Casual observation suggests that the child who turns down what’s on the plate is a child who knows full well that there are plenty of options in the refrigerator that are more to his liking.  So begins a battle of wills between child and parent, the child reasonably confident that his mother-combatant will throw down her lance rather than let her baby go hungry.

Let’s suppose that abundance of choice is at the heart of picky eateritis.  Then there ought to be evidence in the literature of parenting before 1880s that elite parents were tussling with children at mealtimes.  I didn’t find a Will or Kaspar in my quick and unscientific survey of late eighteenth-century sources, partly because the experts were concerned chiefly with the diet of infants and toddlers.  Among the problems that did preoccupy them were the prevention of letting children consume too much sugar or drinking wine and spirits.

There being no fast foot industry to point the finger at, the blame for getting children off on the wrong foot fell squarely on the shoulders of adults. In 16th edition of Domestic Medicine (1798), Dr. William Buchan thought the practice of sweetening babies’ food with sugar encouraged them to overeat: “Their excesses are entirely owing to nurses.  If the child be gorged with food at all hours, and enticed to take it, by making it sweet and agreeable to the patate, is in any wonder that such a child should in time be induced to crave more food than it ought to have?”   Some parents, he observed disapprovingly, “teach their children to guzzle ale, and other fermented liquors, at every meal.”  Buchan’s advice was considered sufficiently authoritative to have been regularly repeated or plagiarized.

The good news was that sensible mealtime management was possible to establish and maintain, even before children could comprehend why restraining their appetites for certain things was good for their health.  Richard Edgeworth and his co-author/daughter Maria discussed this topic in Practical Education (1798-9), an late eighteenth-century forerunner to Dr. Spock, based on their experience raising a brood of twenty-two: “if they [children] partake of the usual family meals, and if there are no whimsical distinctions between wholesome and unwholesome dishes, or epicurean distinctions between rarities and plain food, the imagination and pride of children will not be roused about eating.  Their pride is piqued if they perceive, that they are prohibited from touching what grown up people are privileged to eat….  In families where a regularly good table is kept, children accustomed to the sight and taste of all kinds of food, are seldom delicate, capricious, or disposed to exceed.”  The thrust of the passage is that children observe the food preferences of adults and are likely to imitate them.  Picky children pick it up from picky adults.

A mother of twelve, Mrs. Trimmer weighed in how to get children to eat in An Essay on Christian Education, which was published in installments in her children’s book review journal, The Guardian of Education (1802-1806).   She made a couple of observations which sound as if they were based on long experience with little people: “Children are generally averse to food which they have never tasted; and, in this case, the difficulty is to get them to taste everything.”   Another interesting remark she made was that “it is next to an impossibility, except in a very secluded situation, to keep a child in ignorance of the taste of rich cakes, &c. &c. and when these are placed before him in profusion, and set out too in the most inviting manner, they are real temptations.”   True words, indeed,

Did children’s book authors portray children who were bad eaters as negative examples?  Yes, indeed.  Here is the opening of “The Boy with the Sweet Tooth” from Profitable Amusement for Children (1802):   “Luke Lickerish was so very fond of sweet things, that, whenver his father or mother gave him a few pence, he immediately ran to the grocer’s or confectioner’s, and bought barley-sugar, licorice, sugar-candy, or something else of the sweet kind.  Besides, at breakfast and tea-time he always watched the sugar-basin; and, whenever he was his mother’s back turned, he slily filched three or four lumps of sugar, thrust them into his pocket, and afterwards ate them in private.  By continuing every day to eat such quantities of sweets, he injured hi health very much and spoiled his appetite, so that he seldom relished his meals, ate very little of wholesome food, and was growing very thin, weak and puny.”

Luke sounds a lot like children today who crave heavily sweetened cereal, marshmallows, and Swedish fish.  Perhaps children haven’t changed as much in certain respects as popular historians suppose…