A Spotlight On Our Handmade Books

SELCIE’s exhibition at the Museum of Childhood is opening in less than four months, therefore today I would like to spotlight one of the many types of books that will be included in the exhibition’s collection: the rare handmade books.

We have found only a handful of these touching and beautiful pieces of history, whose pages teach and tell stories meant for someone special. These three following books in particular will be available to view at our exhibition opening on June 1st, 2018.

One of the handmade books that I personally found in a box full of French and German novels is titled Nénette et Rintintin. This is a love story, written in French and illustrated in watercolours. It tells the tale of two dolls that were very famous during World War I named Nénette and Rintintin.

These dolls were widely produced in France around the year 1913, and were considered good luck charm dolls, as long as they were continually kept together. The dolls’ story tells how they met, both having been displaced because of the war, but how they both found love and happiness together, until the day when Rintintin was forced to leave for the front. He is injured, and this particularly lovely illustration shows how he is ‘sewn up’ and healed so that he can return to his dear Nénette.

We do not know much about this small, lovely book, but we can imagine that it was possibly made for someone who owned the dolls, or perhaps it was even given with the dolls themselves during a time of hardship and heartache.

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The ‘Pink Books’ as the SELCIE Team likes to refer to them, are handmade books that seem to have been made by a mother for her daughters, Sibella and little Mary. They are handwritten, and the script is broken up syllabically, perhaps in order to help the young girls learn to read. They were both made in 1811, and both have their pages separated by small pieces of wax paper, which has left the drawings and script in excellent condition.

One of the books is titled: ‘The Rhy-ming Al-ph-bet and the History of Mary Anne’

and the other book is titled: ‘Two Times Two Make Four, Lucy and Her Mamma, or the Pink Book’.

These books provide an interesting glimpse into an early 19th-century home, where is seems the mother of these two young girls was especially integral to their education: the lessons within the books teach everything from mathematics to morality to reading and rhyming.

While many of the books in the SELCIE collection are able to tell a story about their owners, their users, or the person that gifted them, these handmade books are entirely about their makers. They bring us closer to understanding the importance of both giving and receiving books, whether they provide narrative or education, we can find a great deal of love and devotion in each pen and brush stroke.

This post written by Morgan Boharski

Simon Sommerville Laurie: Edinburgh Educationist

One of the more interesting recent finds from the Edinburgh Museum of Childhood’s book store is, perhaps surprisingly, a school book – The Sixth English Reading Book (fig. 1).

Figure 1

The book, which used to belong to Euphemia M. Millar, contains a timetable of various classes attended by the girl at school (fig. 2), as well as some cut out characters, objects and animals (fig. 3), possibly used as educational aids. All of this most wonderfully shows the owner’s use of the school book and suggests her interactive approach to learning.

Figure 2

Figure 3

Euphemia’s ownership, however, is not the only interesting story hidden within The Sixth English Reading Book. The book’s author, Simon S. Laurie, A.M., F.R.S.E., Professor of Theory, History, and Art of Education in the University of Edinburgh (fig. 4), may seem like one of many similar educational writers of the time, currently all but forgotten, if not entirely forgotten, but in his day he was an vigorous campaigner for various educational reforms.

Figure 4: Simon Somerville Laurie (1829–1909), by George Fiddes Watt, 1904
© reserved / courtesy of the University of Edinburgh’s Collections. See https://goo.gl/7tNH6B.

Edinburgh born and raised, Laurie eventually became secretary of the Church of Scotland’s education committee in 1855, and a year later a visitor and inspector in rural parish schools in the counties of Banff, Moray and Aberdeen. At the same time he began his writing career, which, along with his work as an inspector, made him Scotland’s leading expert on education by 1870, and in 1876 he was appointed to the university chair of education in Edinburgh.

Figure 5: 22 George Square – the house that used to belong to Simon S. Laurie. Currently University of Edinburgh School of Social and Political Science.

Perhaps through his work as an inspector, Laurie came to believe that teachers should be able to receive a university education, equal to other professions, such as doctors or lawyers, and he campaigned for it as the president of the Teachers’ Guild of Great Britain and Ireland (since 1891). As a secretary of the royal commission on Scottish endowed schools he worked towards the creation of a chain of secondary schools, and his project partially succeeded in 1878, with the newly-passed legislation. He also proposed a reform of educational ‘hospitals’, where a limited number of children could be enrolled on a charitable basis, which later influenced the foundation of large day schools. Last, but not least, in the 1860s, Laurie advocated the creation of higher education courses for Edinburgh women.

All of the above presents a portrait of a man thoroughly engaged in the betterment of both Scottish and national education system, who understood the importance of providing teachers with the best possible education, and the importance of higher education for all, including women. It seems fitting that one of Simon S. Laurie’s books used to belong to a young woman, whose education might have benefited through the reforms he proposed, and the changes his campaigning influenced.

Simon S. Laurie’s grave at the Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh.

Bibliography 

Anderson, R. (2004-09-23). Laurie, Simon Somerville (1829–1909), educationist. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved Jan. 2018, from https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/34422.

You can see this copy of The Sixth English Reading Book in our Growing Up With Books exhibition, opening June 1st, 2018!

This post written by Joanna Witkowska

Happy New Year 2018

Happy New Year to all of our followers! 2018 is the Year of Young People in Scotland and our team is excited to celebrate. First up will be our exhibition, Growing Up With Books, which will open on Children’s Day (June 1st) 2018 at Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood.

We have been busy planning this exhibition for the last few months, with each team member taking responsibility for one case. We have shortlisted the books we want to be in the exhibition, and have been trying to decide how to best display them.

Exhibition Planning

Books laid out to plan display shelves

As part of the exhibition, we will also be publishing a catalogue that will be available at the Museum of Childhood. A few months ago we took some of our favourite books on an excursion to Edinburgh University Library to have some photographs taken. Soon we will be finalising the text that will accompany these beautiful photographs and we are very excited to get the catalogue printed.

The team is also delighted to announce that we will be organising a series of events alongside Growing Up With Books. There will be something for everyone, from storytelling to crafts to a conference. The conference, which will take place in November 2018, will feature representatives from the museum sector and academia to bring together these two areas in innovative ways.

All in all, it is set to be a fantastic year, and we hope you will join us and become involved in the Year of Young People and Growing Up With Books! All the best and – again – Happy New Year from the SELCIE team!

This post written by Danielle

Dear Mrs Shillabeer

While working in the book archives of Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood, we sometimes find books that hold traces of their authors. This usually takes the form of an authorial inscription, as is the case with the charming Mr Barnacles and His Boat book that appeared in a previous blog post. It is also always very exciting when we find traces of illustrators, as was the case recently when we found this 1960 copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses: 

Child's Garden of Verses Cover

This edition is illustrated by Mary Shillabeer, who was based in Edinburgh. She was known both for her children’s book illustrations and for her beautiful marionette puppets, which you can see here and here, for example. Our own Museum of Childhood here in Edinburgh even holds some of her puppets! She also sketched and painted Edinburgh’s Rehearsal Orchestra for many years; you can see some of those paintings here. The book we found certainly shows how skilled she was:

Shillabeer illustrations

However, the most interesting thing about this book is that it was owned by Mary Shillabeer herself. Tucked into the front cover is a letter from Martin Dent, the publisher. It is addressed to “Mrs Shillabeer” at her address in Edinburgh:

Letter to Mrs Shillabeer

The letter contains the publisher’s opinion about a “question of colour”; he states that he “will happily leave it for you to put it right in whatever way you wish after Christmas”. This is a lovely little glimpse into the life and work of this talented illustrator that we were very happy to find. As the season approaches for us to start wishing each other “a very happy Christmas”, we hope that you find this as interesting as we do!

Shillabeer illustrations

This post written by Danielle

Muriel Spark, The Very Fine Clock (London, 1969)

Only four months away from the centenary of Muriel Spark’s birth, SELCIE celebrates her little-known children’s novel.

Gerard Carruthers guides us through its thoughtful quirkiness, complete with illustrations by Edward Gorey…
Illustration from A Very Fine Clock

Less well-known than Muriel Spark, the writer of novels or the short-story writer, is Spark the poet, Spark the writer of drama. Least well-known of all is Spark the children’s writer: she produced only one short book for children in the late 1960s, The Very Fine Clock. The text has the feel of the 1960s film industry’s take on the Victorian or Edwardian period. Think, for instance, George Pal’s The Time Machine (1960) or Lionel Jeffries’s The Railway Children (1970) for the general vibe. It is a genteel, moral tale written for the clever eight year-old who can get his or her reading-head (and tongue) round names like ‘Professor Sturge Baldwin Parker’ or ‘Professor Maximilian Rosmini’. These are two of four professors who visit the home of the central protagonist, Ticky, every week to confer with the Swiss clock’s owner Professor John on a range of profound matters. Out of goodness and in appreciation of his precise time-keeping, the professors come up with a proposal for elevating Ticky’s status and out of goodness Ticky refuses. Indubitably, he is a very fine clock.

Illustration from A Very Fine Clock

With rather gorgeous black and white illustrations by Edward Gorey (1925-2000), which are sometimes intriguingly arch, The Very Fine Clock is to be savoured by thoughtful kids. The only real places the text is dated is in the stereotypical depiction of the kitchen clock who ‘always lets her tongue run away with her’ and of academic life where ‘Professor John goes off in the morning to sit all day in his professor’s chair at the university.’

Illustration from A Very Fine Clock

This post written by Gerard Carruthers, University of Glasgow

Gerard Carruthers FRSE is Francis Hutcheson Professor of Scottish Literature at the University of Glasgow. He is one of the organisers of the Muriel Spark Centenary Symposium,  1st & 2nd February 2018, a joint venture between the National Library of Scotland and the University of Glasgow. 

 

Gerard Carruthers

Dùsgadh agus Mosgladh: Catrìona NicGhille-Bhàin Ghrannd, Dùsgadh na Féinne (1908) & Calum Mac Phàrlain, Am Mosgladh Mòr (1914-15)

This post written by Dr Sìm Innes, Oilthigh Ghlaschu

[English translation follows below]

Is iomadh uair ri linn an Athbheothachaidh Cheiltich a chualas gun robh na Gàidheil, neo na h-Albannaich gu lèir, air dùsgadh, no an impis dùsgadh, air neo gun robh an t-àm aca dùsgadh. Thug Lachlann MacBheathain (1853-1931) òraid do Chomunn Gàidhlig Inbhir Nis ann an 1896 air an robh ‘The Mission of the Celt’. Bha MacBheathain, a thogadh ann an Cill Taraglain, na fhear-deasachaidh air a’ phàipear The Fifeshire Advertister. Bha e ri eadar-theangachadh agus sgrìobhadh na Gàidhlig cuideachd.[1] Na òraid, thòisich e le bhith a’ toirt sùil air eachdraidh an Athbheothachaidh is thuirt e:

The Gael suddenly awoke to the alarming fact that his native tongue, which more than anything else was the distinguishing mark of his tribe, was dying out before the tongue of the Southron. The thought touched his sensitive and melancholy nature as nothing else could…. Having now glanced over this heaving tide of new Celtic life which has overflowed the fields of literature, music, customs, and social progress, it remains for us to ask, What of the future? The Gael are awakening to consciousness, and as a man when he becomes conscious, first asks, What am I? Whence am I? What am I here for? So the Gael must ask, What are we? What are our capabilities? What is our destiny? … Well, now, we have looked at these three curents of our times – the rising tide of Celtic revival among ourselves, the flow of Celtic sentiment and ideas in English life and literature, and the stream of Celtic blood into city life – and we should now be in a position to guess what is the mission and destiny of the Celt. It is surely by infusion of ideas and transfusion of blood to leaven modern civilization with its own awakening spirit.[2]

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From the Library of Mr. D.A.W.

At times it is clear in our archives that a group of books was donated by the same person or institution, and often they have a paper trail of some sort – a letter included in the book or a note made by the librarian who received them as a donation. Many children sign their name or even their addresses at times, and these inscriptions give us a sense of the memories of their childhood preserved within the book. One book ‘collector’ in particular has come to our attention in bits and pieces throughout the two years that we have been uncovering and cataloguing the books in the archives, a mysterious man by the name of David, who signs his books with his initials: D.A.W.

The first book of D.A.W. that caught my attention is a beautiful copy of Hans Andersen’s fairy tales, and though the cover is elegant, the treasure of this item is truly found within. Inside of the front cover there are various newspaper clippings about Hans Andersen’s fairy tales and their reception in England, and glued carefully onto the first few blank pages are postcards from Copenhagen with scribbles of dates and thoughts about them in the hand of D.A.W. Carefully tucked under the front cover is our first clue as to who the owner of this book might have been, a small note written from a loving aunt to her ‘darling David’:

‘June 2: 36
Darling David
Many happy (underlined 7 times!) returns of your birthday.  It is lovely to be five.  Presently you will get a lovely Fairy Book called Hans Anderson.  It is from me. And I do hope you will like it especially the pictures which are drawn by a friend of mine.  I hope Mummy will bring you to stay here. We must arrange it.  Many x x x from Auntie Gwen.’

Hans Andersen Newspaper & Letter

I immediately fell in love with this book, and imagined the story of the 5-year-old boy David as his eyes were opened to the magic of fairy stories, and later, the 18-year-old David who ventured to Copenhagen, saw the statue of den lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid) of whom he had read about from a young age, and bought a postcard which he then pasted into this book. Even now, I like to imagine the way in which this book would have shaped the life of David, and how he may have even read it to his own children or grandchildren.

Hans Anderson Mermaid Postcard

Recently, David’s scrawled ‘D.A.W. 1937’ popped up again in one of the many copies of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame that we have in the collection, which, if we follow the pattern laid out by the first book, may have been a gift for his sixth birthday.

DAW Inscription

While it was thrilling to find another book from D.A.W.’s library, a final book fell into our hands, from the same box as The Wind in the Willows, which provided us with a further glimpse into the life of David: Grahame’s The Golden Age. This book did not have ‘D.A.W.’ written in it, but rather, on facing blank pages were written two inscriptions. On the left page is written: ‘From Auntie Gwen and Uncle Jim, for Edna’, and on the right page: ‘To David, With love from Mummy, June 3rd, 1944’. As this date (presumably David’s birthday) is the day after the letter found in the Hans Andersen book, I am sure this book would have belonged to D.A.W. Auntie Gwen must have gifted this book to David’s mother, Edna, who then, for David’s 13th birthday, gifted it to him, adding to his growing collection of beloved books.

The two inscriptions

The discovery of these three books provides a special lens through which we can glimpse the life of one man and the profound impact that these two women, his Auntie Gwen and his mother Edna, would have had on his childhood and his education. How many of us have books like these, books that were gifted and then influenced the trajectory of our lives through their stories, their illustrations, and their messages of magic, love, and friendship? Though David’s books were long forgotten in storage, his childhood is preserved in their pages, and as my finger traces his initials and unfolds the carefully pasted newspaper clippings, I will remember him and cherish his life and the gift he has given to SELCIE: an appreciation for nostalgia and the importance of growing up with books.

‘All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.’ – The Wind in the Willows

Wind in the Willows

The ‘Wind in the Willows’ book owned by David

This post written by Morgan

Time for a close up

Today it was time for some of our favourite finds to have a little photoshoot! For our exhibition, Growing Up With Books, which will open at Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood on June 1st (International Children’s Day) 2018, we are producing an exhibition catalogue. Over the last few weeks, our team members have been choosing some of their favourite items to feature in this catalogue.

Favourite books

These are a few of our favourite things!

Today we took these items on a little trip down the road to the Centre for Research Collections in Edinburgh University’s Main Library.

In the CRC

Lyn Wall, Museum of Childhood curator, in the CRC

There we had them photographed for the catalogue, which involved some heavy duty equipment! Some of these books haven’t seen light like this in a long time!

Lights, camera, action!

Lights, camera, action!

We are very excited to be moving forward with the catalogue and the exhibition, which will feature these special items, and even more! Keep your eyes peeled for more sneak peaks as we continue planning! For now, here is one of the big books that will feature in Growing Up With Books: 

Morgan and A Day in Fairyland photoshoot

SELCIE Research Assistant Morgan helping to photograph “A Day in Fairyland”

 

This post written by Danielle

The Love Song of Mr Barnacles

Many of the books in the Museum of Childhood’s stores contain more than we expect. In our last blog post, Morgan explored how books themselves can tell a narrative. Sometimes they are inscribed or annotated, and we often find things – such as flowers, bus tickets, and comic strips – contained within them. This week, however, we found a book that was itself contained, and which tells a beautiful love story.

enveople

An envelope addressed to Miss Heischmann

Sorting through a box of colourful picture books, this worn brown paper immediately stood out. Upon closer inspection, it became clear that the paper was an envelope, which contained a book entitled Mr Barnacles and His Boat. This lovely book, published in 1858, is full of beautiful illustrations. It tells the story of a man who visits Wales to go fishing, but ends up meeting – and marrying – an old acquaintance.

Mr Barnacles illustration

An illustration from ‘Mr Barnacles’: ‘He encounters the object of a former attachment, and discovers that his affections are involved’

We love finding charming stories like these, but this find was made even more exciting by an inscription before the title page, which says ‘Pauline Auguste Johanne Heischmann, with the author’s kind regards’. The author of this book was a William Ayrton, who also wrote a book called The Adventures of a Salmon in the River Dee in 1853 – you can find it online here. It is always great to find books signed by their authors, and in this case it seems that the author sent the book in the very same envelope in which it still rests – a remarkable thing.

The author's inscription

The author’s inscription

However, the most remarkable thing about this book involves another inscription, written in a different hand on the page before the author’s message. It says ‘The author is William Francis Ayrton who later married Pauline Heischmann’.

The second inscription

The second inscription

It seems so romantic that almost exactly 160 years ago William Ayrton wrote this book about a gentleman finding a wife, and then sent it to the woman he would later marry. Their relationship remains a mystery, but to hold this book – still in its envelope – is a humbling and emotional experience: a little of their love remains, even if they are long gone. We can only hope that Pauline was more understanding of William’s hobbies than her fictional counterpart!  

Mr Barnacles hangs up his paddle

The end of the story: ‘Overpowered by the entreaties of his wife, Mr Barnacles consents to hang up his paddle and abandon his dangerous pastime’

This post written by Danielle

Judging Books by Their Covers: A Reflection on Peritext in Children’s Books

An old adage learned at a young age: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, and yet unavoidable cover-judging happens each time the SELCIE team attends to the archives.  Some covers hint at the year in which the book was published, some are hand drawn, and others are beautifully illustrated, and we categorize the book in our minds even before flipping to the title page.  As we have been often surprised by the secrets these books hold, we need to ask ourselves a series of questions each time we catalogue a new book.  Thus, a great deal of conversation on this project has been dedicated to how children would have interacted with a certain book found in our archives, just in the way that we too interact with the books.  Would some of the images of animals have frightened or amazed them? Would they have moved the parts of the few mechanical books as they read them?  Would the weight of the book itself have made them place it on the floor or in their laps as they read?  As we ask ourselves these types of questions, it all comes down to our interpretation of a child’s interpretation of peritext.

Hand-made book cover

An example of an interesting hand-made book cover the team found recently

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