Outtakes from First Impressions: The Print Trade in Children’s Books

“Children, for this small book some thanks are due,

The Printer made it purposely for you.”

From William Darton, Little Jack of all Trades (1804).

The curatorial staff of the Cotsen Children’s Library is proud to announce the opening of the exhibition, First Impressions: The Print Trade in Children’s Books. This exhibition explores the representation of the print trade in children’s books and toys from the nineteenth to early twentieth centuries.

Our exhibition cases are filled with engaging illustrations of printing techniques, engravers, xylographers, bookbinders, and a wood-engraving block, electrotype plate, and even a child’s hobby printing press from the 1930s. However, not every book that we initially selected for this exhibition made it into our cases. Some weren’t selected simply because they didn’t fit the case or because another book had a better illustration depicting an aspect of the print trade.

George Dodd. Days at the Factories, 1843 [Ctsn Eng 19 95926]

Others, like George Dodd’s Days at the Factories, 1843 [Ctsn Eng 19 95926]) were excluded from the exhibition because the book is not stable enough to display. As you can see from the above photo, even closed you can see that the pages of the book are loose though the binding is relatively strong.

George Dodd. “Printing Machine.” Days at the Factories, 1843 [Ctsn Eng 19 95926]

Unfortunately, we were not able to display this detailed image of a Koenig “Printing Machine” because the foldout has completely detached from the binding. This image, like many others in this book, seems to have been pasted into the book after it was sewn. Normally when an image is “tilted in,” it is printed separate from the text, collated, and sewn directly into the book.

George Dodd. Days at the Factories, 1843 [Ctsn Eng 19 95926]

What appear to be dried paste can be seen on the printed image and the adjacent page, leading us to think that the image was pasted into the book after it was bound.

George Dodd. Days at the Factories, 1843 [Ctsn Eng 19 95926]

A book in this condition would never be able to handle a display cradle for very long. It would only exacerbate its delicate state and would cause more damage. It should be carefully handled and properly cradled with foam book cradles to prevent stress on the spine and binding, as shown above.

Kosai Miki. Eigaku dokansho makio no ichi (Learning English for children), vol. 1, 1873 [Ctsn Pams/NR/Japanese/Box 88 98383

Kosai Miki’s Eigaku dokansho makio no ichi (Learning English for children, vol. 1), 1873 [Ctsn Pams/NR/Japanese/Box 88 98383] was also removed from the final selections for the exhibition, but for an entirely different reason. This book is structurally sound and would have made a wonderful addition to the display, if only the images of the bookbinder, bookseller, and paper manufacturer were more prominent.

Kosai Miki. Eigaku dokansho makio no ichi (Learning English for children), vol. 1, 1873 [Ctsn Pams/NR/Japanese/Box 88 98383]

Meant to teach English to Japanese children, each page contains nine, colored illustrations of a tradesman performing his trade.  The images are accompanied by both, the English word and the Japanese characters for the name of the trade. When held in the hand, this book is easily understood as the reader slowly moves their eyes over each panel, connecting the word and characters to the picture. However, if this were displayed in one of our exhibition cases, the intended images of the bookbinder, bookseller, and paper manufacturer would be overwhelmed by the other objects.

Kosai Miki. Eigaku dokansho makio no ichi (Learning English for children), vol. 1, 1873 [Ctsn Pams/NR/Japanese/Box 88 98383]

Be sure to visit the Cotsen during our normal business hours to see the books and objects we’ve selected for our exhibition, First Impressions: The Print Trade in Children’s Books. The exhibition is open to the public until January 3, 2020. And make sure you visit this blog next week for more outtakes from our current exhibition.

How to Prepare Children for War

The current exhibition in the Cotsen gallery is a small but potent object lesson.  If we want to understand why so many young men volunteered to serve in the Great War, it is illuminating to look at the children’s books that glorified soldiering and demonized other nations from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries across Europe. Not all of them were written and illustrated by old military men (although one book in the show is)–four women author/artists are represented.

A surprising number of these picture books feature toy soldiers as the actors. Some come to life only when their owners fall asleep. Or like animals in fables, the figures stand-in for human beings, distancing the reader from the realities of war’s theater.   Native troops from Africa seemed to belong to another world dressed in their gorgeous, colorful uniforms.  Others performed completely fantastic feats of heroism.   Frequently the child was encouraged to see himself as the omniscient general with the power to move around the massed little bodies as he pleased.  Girls were not necessarily excluded from these fantasies, although they were more likely to assume the duties of men and their uniforms.  A completely naked female doll executed as a spy (male) or be converted to the side of peace after wounding an enemy soldier,

In the reader’s nook just outside the door to the curatorial offices, will be a copy of a recent exhibit catalogue on the subject of children’s books and war: Richard Cheek’s . Playing Soldier: The Books and Toys that Prepared Children for War 1871-1918.  Weighing in at six and a half pounds, Playing Soldier displays far more books, popular prints, board games, and paper toys from the collection than could be displayedin the Cotsen gallery cases.Marie Flatscher and Ludwig Morgenstern. Heil und Sieg!: Ein Bilderbuch. (Munich: J. B. Schreiber, 1916). Cotsen 94927. This illustration is featured on the back of the dustjacket of Playing Soldier. A different opening from this book is on display.

For anyone interested in how children’s book illustration served national destiny in the run-up to World War I, this is a must-see publication.  “Extravagantly illustrated” is no exaggeration: the majority of the double-page spreads feature four or five pictures, but eight or ten are not unusual.  It showcases four major Western European traditions–German, French, British, and American—which conveyed patriotic ideas in aesthetically distinct ways.  Every feature, from the palettes of the illustrations to the display types used on the covers contribute to recognizable national styles of book design.  The quantity and quality of the illustrations  for Playing Soldier makes it an invaluable  pictorial archive and anyone who would like to see more of the kind of books featured in “Steadfast  Toy Soldiers” should enjoy browsing in Cheek’s exhibition catalogue.

The illustration featured on the exhibition poster is by Job for Georges Montorgueil’s Jouons a l’histoire: la France mise en sceme avec les joujoux de deux petits francaisParis : Boivin & Cie, Éditeurs, [1933].  Cotsen10970.