French Childhood Illustrated in Le Bon Genie (1824-1829):

The rather prim illustrated masthead for the French children’s periodical, Le bon genie, gives little indication that nearly every number contained a luminous lithographic plate by Jean-Henri Marlet (1774-1847 during its run between 1824 and 1829.  In 1824, Marlet was famous for having demonstrated the artistic potential of lithography in an ambitious suite of seventy-two hand-colored plates about all aspects of life in Paris.  He likewise documented French childhood high and low of the late 1820s as the house artist for Le bon genie.

Harlequin, Polichinel, a prince out of the Arabian Nights and more frolic at a fancy dress ball for little ladies and gentlemen. Plate for volume 1, number 39 (January 30 1825). Cotsen 11897

Papa shows his family a magic lantern slide illustrating a fable of La Fontaine. Plate for volume 1, number 30 (November 21, 1824). Cotsen 11897.

The fencing lesson. Plate for volume 5, number 39 (January 23, 1829). Cotsen 11897.

Hunting for butterflies. The boy in the lower left is pinning specimens on a board. Plate for volume two, number 5 (May 29, 1825) Cotsen 11897.

A familiy of Savoyards entertain passersby. Plate for volume 2, no. 14 (July 31, 1825) Cotsen 11897.

The dancing master beats time for his graceful pupils. Plate for volume 5, number 26 (October 26, 1828) Cotsen 11897.

A troop of elegant dancing dogs. Plate for volume 5, number 45 (March 8, 1829) Cotsen 11897.

Dance of the marionettes. Plate for volume 2, number 52 (April 23, 1825) Cotsen 11897.

Curator’s Choice: Pen Flourish Figures in a Dutch Boy’s Copybook ca. 1733

This week when I was retrieving some manuscripts, I got distracted and made a discovery.   I didn’t remember ever having looked at the materials on the shelf where the one manuscript lived and stopped to see what a few of the archive boxes near it contained.

One of the treasures was a eighteenth-century copybook that had been filled in between January and August 1733 by Jan Haverman, who lived in Amersfoort, a Dutch city on the river Een in Utrecht.

Jan Haverman’s signature on the leaf pasted down on the front marbled paper cover. Cotsen 91631.

Cotsen has quite a few American and British copybooks, but I wasn’t aware there were Dutch examples too, so I was eager to peek inside the marbled paper wrappers.  The pages are not ruled with carefully spaced lines that make it easy for the student to write the practice text across the page.  The margins of the odd numbered pages are decorated with highly stylized decorations composed of swirling lines and whoever calligraphed these beautiful figures was something of  an artist.

The woman with a cap and curls down her back on leaf 1. Cotsen 91631.

Jan Haverman signed the bottom of every page he copied out, but did he have the control of the pen to have drawn the figures in the margins as well?

The man in the feathered hat on page 3. Cotsen 91631.

The hissing snake on page 5. Cotsen 91631.

The dancing dog on page 19. Cotsen 91631.

The sly fox on page 21. Cotsen 91631.

The clever ape on page 67. Cotsen 91631.

The bird eating cherries on page 35. Cotsen 91631.

Maybe the fantastic people and creatures be the work of Jan’s writing teacher.  Scholars who study the history of writing instruction often call attention to the parts in an exercise that the student executed and the parts his instructor corrected.  Could the writing master done the drawings as Jan’s reward for having finished his lesson?

A sprig of flowers on page 27. Cotsen 91631.

There ARE some blots, misformed letters, and wobbly lines on this page, so perhaps the figure in the margin here was intended as an incentive to do better at the next lesson!