On the Road with Cotsen Library…

or, Some Independent Bookstores are Alive & Well…

My father used to talk about taking a “busman’s holiday” — that is, doing pretty much the same thing on vacation that he did at work (and no, he wasn’t a busman himself, but rather someone who worked in an office). A great phrase, as I hope you’ll agree!

With that in mind, have you ever wondered what a bibliophile or a librarian who is interested in children’s books does while on vacation?  Well, some of us like to look at bookstores and libraries (along with doing other things too, I hasten to add!).

Thus, the recent ALA Annual Conference and Rare Books & Manuscripts “Preconference” in San Francisco and Oakland, respectively, provided a jumping-off point for later sight-seeing — and, in the process, happening upon some amazing small bookshops, run by real book-lovers, by pure serendipity.  (For all the great aspects of having the world of books accessible via online shopping, nothing quite compares to just stumbling upon a bookstore or catching a glimpse of an attractive book cover or dust-jacket you’ve never seen before, does it?)

First, there was Village Books, in Ukiah, California, about 100 miles North of San Francisco.  We spotted this small shop across the street from our lunchtime retreat from 100+ degree heat.  As soon as we entered, I knew we’d found a great bookstore!  Even the check-out counter was covered with books, as you can see:

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Village Books, Ukiah, California

That introductory “prologue” was certainly borne out by another look around:

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Books from floor-to-ceiling, convenient reading spaces throughout… a bibliophile’s delight… mostly used books, but some new ones too.

Of particular interest to me were the sections with children’s (and young adult) books, packed almost to the rafters:

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And especially eye-catching was a dedicated children’s reading area, clearly meant to welcome young readers into a comfortable setting and encourage them to sit and read books of all sorts:

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But this is a bookstore after all, not a library, so what did we buy?

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Upper cover of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, with color-printed paper onlay (Harper & Bros., 1911) author’s collection

To name just a few, some nice French-language children’s books (for a YA reader learning French), a vintage copy of Lord of the Flies (bought by an adult for aforementioned YA reader, since Lord of the Flies seems to have fallen off the assigned list of books for middle schoolers), and a very nicely illustrated 1911 edition of Tom Brown’s School Days, with artwork by Louis Rhead, and a paper onlay on the upper cover that reminds us reminded me just how much work went into late 19th- and early 20th-century publisher’s bindings.

Tom Brown’s School Days (1857) is one of those “children’s classics,” hugely-influential and once widely read, but seldom read by child readers any more.  (Actually, a surprising number of “children’s classics” fall into the category of well-known but not much read now.)  It’s a landmark example of a “school story,” fiction focusing on children or adolescents within a school context (usually a boarding school), a genre especially popular in England from the mid- to late-1700s through the mid-1940s.  Some other prominent examples include: Sarah Fielding’s The Governess (1749) and Kipling’s Stalky & Co. (1899).

Think school stories are utterly passé?  Well, think again… J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels drew heavily on the genre — Hogwarts, focal point of the action, is, after all, a school, and most of the main characters are students or masters there — and many critics have discussed how Rowling both made use of and extended the school story genre.  Like Tom Brown, Harry Potter comes somewhat timidly to a new school, has to learn the ropes, and undergoes various trials and bullying in the course of making moral choices, learning about himself, and growing up.

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As that venerable and learned poet…says

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Poor old Benjy!

Although Tom Brown is set in Thomas Arnold’s reform-oriented Rugby School of the 1840s, the story details quite a bit of unruly hijinks by the boys, as well as a lot of fighting and some harrowing bullying — all of which no doubt fascinated boy readers, at whom the book seems clearly aimed. Rhead’s full-page illustrations in  this edition compellingly depicted many of these events, and in addition, he provided small historiated letters at the beginning of chapters, which I particularly like. A real window onto another era.

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But time to move on… How about continuing our bibliographic travelogue and moving from Northern California to Seattle … and from school stories to Wonderland?

Again, serendipity plays a major role in the story — sometimes you find bookstores where you would least expect to find them, as was the case for us in Seattle.  Seattle’s Pike Place Market is famous: the usual tourist souvenirs, fresh fruit and veggies, and lots and lots of fresh fish, including “flying fish,” tossed around by energetic fishmongers! (This fish-tossing is so renowned that it serves as the subject of a movie titled “FISH!,” which is about improving customer service, workplace morale, and motivating workers. If you don’t believe me, do a quick online search!)

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SeattleFish

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A fun place to visit — but hardly a place you’d expect to find a bookstore…  But tucked away in a downstairs corridor, around the corner from a cookie shop, a coffee bar, and a take-out food place, we happened to see a brightly-colored bookstore wedged into a space not much more than ten or fifteen feet wide: Lamplight Books.

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A glimpse inside the shop…

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Lamplight Books, Seattle Market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cover of Through the Looking-Glass (Dodge & Co., 1909?) author’s collection

 

Sightseeing again took a back-seat to book-browsing, as we went through the hidden garden gate or down the rabbit hole into another magical world of books…

Among the books we discovered was a hard-cover second printing of one of Durrell’s Alexandra Quartet novels, well-read but still with its original dust-jacket — and still cheaper than a new paperback edition elsewhere — and an even more well-read 1909 edition of Through the Looking Glass by American publisher Dodge & Co., which interested me for several reasons.

First, the illustrations by Bessie Pease Guttmann present Alice as a dark-haired girl — quite unlike Tenniel’s depiction, but much like Carroll’s own artwork in his original manuscript edition — with the Queen of Hearts as the blondie — and one looking very much like a chess piece, not a playing card or Queen Victoria parody.

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But even more arresting were the unique markings and colorings in this copy of the book, presumably made by a child-reader. As we see on the pictorial endpapers, printed in a blue-outlined pattern, an apparently quite young reader has “embellished” things!  (I’d say she/he was young, based on the roughness of the coloring.)

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Blue-printed patterned endpapers colored by child reader.

And this embellishment continues throughout the book, whose blue-printed outline borders were apparently irresistible to the reader.  Sometimes, the child embellisher fully colored the illustrations on an entire page, and sometimes he/she has focused in only on details apparently of particular interest to him or her, as we can see in the instances below:

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Instances of selective coloring by child reader

This is pattern of varied “levels” of markings in children’s books is something I’ve observed before and discussed here on the Cotsen blog.  Was the reader of this book simply focusing on things of particular interest to her/him, or responding to the story and somehow trying to foreground characters and aspects discussed on particular pages by coloring them in there — in effect providing a reader’s commentary of sorts?  Of course, there’s no way to be sure. But since identifying agency by child-readers and making sense of reader-response is certainly a topic of considerable interest to those analyzing child readership today, I wonder if patterns of marking like those found in this book might conceivably shed some light on these areas of inquiry?

This copy of Through the Looking Glass also manifests evidence of another possible  sort of reader “appetite” on quite a number of pages, as we can see on the example below:

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It’s a little hard to tell what these are? Bite-marks?  If so, made by a child?  By several different children?  By the family dog?  Or just marks of rough handling?  They certainly look like bite marks to me!  And if so, what might this suggest to us about the reader(s) of this book or child readers, in general?  Along with the markings, this definitely suggests that this copy of Through the Looking Glass did indeed “find its reader” who extensively handled and “interacted with” the book in several ways, even if we can’t be sure that he/she necessarily read the text on the pages.

I think the signs of book use here also underscore an important aspect of children’s use of books; it’s frequently unpredictable — often spontaneous and unplanned — and thus it can be hard to “interpret” what this “evidence” means, as well as dangerous to read too much into this by adults who are coming along later and trying to investigate child reading.  Child readers leave a lot of clues, but how can we be sure that we’re “reading” them accurately from our adult critical vantage-point?  There’s always an element of speculation in this critical approach, isn’t there?

Apart from an opportunity to think about children’s marks in books and talk about a couple of interesting editions of children’s “classics,” I guess the broader “moral” of my story here is really to highlight that independent bookstores — and great ones too! — can still be found out there, sometimes when and where you least expect them.  There’s real pleasure to be had in browsing them with no particular book or aim in sight, especially if you’re a book-lover. Sometimes you find amazing things that you had no idea you were looking for! There can be real serendipitous pleasure in simple serendipity…

Traveling the World via a Board Game…

Imagine getting paid to play with children’s books and sometimes even with children’s games.  As a cataloger, I get to “play with” them, in a sense — but it’s not quite the same as “playing” games, I assure you — and I usually learn something and almost always enjoy doing it too: “instruction with delight,” as John Newbery famously phrased it.

This all ran though my mind while cataloging a new Cotsen acquisition: a French board-game adaptation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, titled: Le Voyage Autour du Monde en 80 Jours: d’apres le Roman de Jules Verne: Jeu de Société. 

Game Board for "Le Voyage Autour du Monde en 80 jours : D’apres le Roman de Jules Verne : Jeu de Société"

Game Board for “Le Voyage Autour du Monde en 80 jours : D’apres le Roman de Jules Verne : Jeu de Société” by Roches Frères  (Paris, ca. 1880?)  – Cotsen new acquisition.

Cotsen’s version of the game-board isn’t itself titled, but the caption title I used to catalog the item comes from the accompanying four-page printed instruction and rule booklet. Roches Frères has added the imprint of their Paris printing house on the bottom left of the board, in the white margin, but it’s a little hard to see in the above photo (a better view is in a photo below).  I’m still looking for information about the Paris firm Roches Frères, but the they seem to have been active in Paris from the 1880s through 1900, based on the dates of other of their publications cataloged by other libraries.  After 1900, another Roches Frères published in Avignon until 1911 or so — maybe the firm moved? (Research also turned up a third, earlier firm named “Roches Frères,” this one publishing in New Orleans from about 1813 into the early 1820s, presumably a different entity altogether, but so far I can’t say so definitely).

"tres Amusant"... Rules of the game

“Très amusant”… Description and rules of the game.

Cotsen’s game-board seems to be one of at least 8 different versions of the game issued by various publishers between 1874 and 1928, an apparent testament to successful sales  and ongoing popularity with children and/or grown-ups.  (Verne’s novel first appeared in print in 1872.) With children’s books and games, it’s always hard to know how much items’ sales connote their actual appeal to children themselves, since adults were generally the ones making the purchases.  But I think a 50+ year run of publication and re-publication certainly suggests a popular item!  Cotsen’s game board seems to be a relatively early version, based on the form of the title, the printer’s dates, and particularly a chronology of versions posted online.1

Unfortunately, the Cotsen copy of the the game arrived without the illustrated box it originally came in, six little hand-painted lead playing pieces (modeled on characters in the novel: Phileas Fogg, his servant Passepartout, etc.), currency tokens, dice, and dice cup. (Dice thus make a somewhat unusual appearance in a children’s game of this era, in lieu of a teetotum spinner — dice generally being shunned in children’s activities games for being associated with gambling and the unsavory world of vice.  Perhaps this is because the mainspring of book’s plot is a bet?)  But Princeton’s Graphic Arts Collection has a later (ca. 1915) version of the game that’s essentially complete, accompanied by an advertising flyer, which curator Julie Melby has blogged about.  Both versions of the game board are the same size: fully opening out to 49 x 58 cm.

The games afoot... The game board first spaces, showing Fogg in London.

The game’s afoot!
The game board’s first spaces, showing Fogg in London (with Roche Frères’ imprint below).

But let’s get back to the game itself!  True to Jules Verne’s original story, the players begin in London, appropriately enough with space number 1 depicting Phileas Fogg (here called “Phogg”) and space 3 the scene where Fogg bets £20,000 (a colossal sum then!) with fellow-members of the Reform Club that he can completely travel around the world within 80 days.  With that, he’s off on his trip leaving the familiar world of London and fashionable Saville Row (space 4) behind…

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Through the Alps and a view of Mt. Vesuvius

In the game, players of the game race to be first to complete Fogg’s journey, the places and people encountered shown here in illustrations, within the numbered spaces and accompanying graphics, all brightly chromolithographed.  First, it’s through France and Italy and onto a steamer across the Mediterranean, depicted by the nineteenth-century steam locomotive racing through a tunnel under the Alps (both new technological marvels then), a contemporary steam-ship, and a depiction of the Bay of Naples, with a smoking Mt. Vesuvius in the background.  Vesuvius, whose spectacular volcanic eruption in 79 AD buried Pompeii and Herculaneum, also erupted some 14 times during the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, and it often figures prominently in children’s literature of this period.  This is due to a combination of factors, I think: the pure visual appeal of depicting an erupting volcano in hand-colored or color-processed illustrations, then relatively cutting-edge book technologies, the fascination that such volatile forces of nature hold for a child (or adult!) reader, the frequent attention paid to natural history in educational children’s materials during this period (and we’ll see another instance of this in another recently-cataloged work to be discussed in the following blog posting), as well as the way that volcanoes and natural disasters displayed the power of fate, human frailty, and the power of God or supernatural forces to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century readers.

Into Egypt

Suez Canal, Port Said, and Aden

Middle Eastern people

Middle Eastern people

Next, it’s through the Suez Canal — then, having recently opened in 1869 — via a canal steamer and on to the ports of Port Said, Egypt, and Aden, in what’s now Yemen, via what look like smaller and smaller sail-powered craft. Things are getting a little more adventurous… Along with scenery, the people Fogg encountered on the journey are also presented on game spaces in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the terrifically-popular illustrated European travel literature of this period, such as David Roberts’ Travels in Egypt & the Holy Land.  The emphasis on visual artistic depictions of “exotic” places and people in the game — and in children’s literature generally — reminds us just how new and exciting such depictions were to Europeans at this time, something it’s easy to forget in our era of visual-media-on-demand in a world that seems to have “shrunk” in many ways.

Traveling through India...

Traveling through India…

On to Singapore and Hong Kong...

On to Singapore and Hong Kong…

As the players move along the board, they see more of the sights that Verne had Fogg encounter: India, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Indian rajahs, magicians… Modes of transportation also reflect the vicissitudes of journey described by Verne, for instance, the travelers must leave an Indian railroad (not fully completed, despite what Fogg had read in a London newspaper, which had prompted his bet!) and buy an elephant to proceed along the 50-mile gap in the railroad; the “iron horse” — wonderfully evoked by the French term “chemin de fer” (literally “road of iron”) — literally yields to traditional animal-powered locomotion.

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Central game-board view of the globe, centering on the Pacific Ocean, unlike most European views

To win the bet, Fogg had to make it all the way around the world and back to London!  So he and Passpartout begin the return leg of their trip across the Pacific Ocean.  This provides the illustrator with an opportunity to show their dotted-line route on a slightly unusual view of the globe — at least for Europeans — one centered on the Pacific, not Atlantic, Ocean.  Think of all the Mercator Projection cutaway views of the globe that you’ve seen with Europe and the Atlantic Ocean at the “center of the world” with the map “split” so the Pacific is an the “edges” of the earth.  There’s no strictly logical, map-making reason for this presentation, other than cultural orientation — cultures just typically present themselves at the center of the world!  (A British Library exhibition, “Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art,” presented examples of this orientation in a variety of maps, produced by a wide variety of cultures and eras.) And don’t miss the purely illustrative “exotic” animals positioned around the globe —  a visual rendition of “nature red in tooth and claw”

San Francisco and across Great Plains, via "chemin de fer"

San Francisco and Great Plains, via “chemin de fer”

New York & and Statue of Liberty (dedicated, 1886)

New York & and Statue of Liberty (dedicated, 1886)

Having crossed the Pacific from East to West, the travelers’ next leg in the journey takes them across the entire United States, also something of a mystifying wilderness expanse of land to Englishmen and Europeans at the time.  Accordingly, the board spaces in the “inner loop” of the game-board depict San Francisco (and one of its legendary cable cars), the recently-completed Transcontinental railroad across the Great Plains (where distinctive American bison then ran free), a side-wheel paddle steamer, Chicago (whose Loop looks suspiciously like San Francisco!), and finally New York with its distinctive Statue of Liberty (dedicated only in place on Liberty Island in 1886, so this view may be an artistic imagining of the actual scene), before setting sail across the Atlantic.

Eventually, back in England after drama involving a missed ship, a mutinous crew, and a Scotland Yard detective detective who mistakenly arrests him for being a robber — all depicted on the ten or so last spaces on the game-board — Fogg is able to collect his bet, marry the girl (an Indian princess no less, Aouda, whom he had rescued during the journey), and enjoy the quintessential London vista of the River Thames, Tower Bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

The River Thames at London Bridge

Back to London in time to win the bet!

To find out more about such plot escapades, you’ll have to read the book for yourself — I have to say that I’m curious myself now to reread the story! — but I hope this blog posting has shown you something about how the world and some of its peoples were depicted on this nineteenth-century game-board.  It really is remarkable how what’s essentially a backdrop for a game portrays so many facets of world geography and ethnography using a purely visual “vocabulary” with no language, (other than brief text labels): instruction with delight, indeed!


1. Marie-Helene Huet, “Re: Le Tour du Monde, game from 1915,” Jules Verne Forum (Thu, 10 Mar 2011), accessed 4/16/2015.