Bad Children of History #34: French Rascals

Today’s gallic ungovernables come from a 1930 edition of the classic Les Malheurs de Sophie, with color illustrations by Jacques Touchet.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Sophie is an adventurous little girl who lives in a castle in the French countryside. She spends her days wandering through flowery glades, capturing squirrels, hosting tea parties, bickering with her beloved and well-behaved cousin, getting underfoot in the kitchen, and generally participating in wholesome mischief.

Here you can see one of Sophie’s great passions: scaling furniture in order to put her hands into unsanctioned containers.

When she isn’t stealing bon bons, Sophie likes to join cousin Paul in fun and completely normal children’s activities such as catching flies in a paper box. Of course, being bad children of history, Sophie and Paul get in a fight over the paper box, resulting in a series of unfortunate events culminating in the release of a great swarm of flies and a single interloping bee.

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“My eyes!!!!”

Apian mishaps aside, Sophie and Paul are great companions. They go for walks, they fall off a cart, they have arts and crafts time. Here’s an illustration of their creative endeavors, right after some watercolor painting and an argument wherein Sophie threw water in Paul’s face:

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Yes, hello, despite their teeny waistcoasts and extravagant domicile, Sophie and Paul are just like children everywhere: sometimes sweet, sometimes curious, often plain old naughty.

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Real Pen Work and Exercises for Flourishing

We recently acquired a lovely volume entitled Real Pen Work: Self Instructor in Penmanship, published in 1884 by Knowles & Maxim.

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This book includes step-by-step instructions on everything from how to sit properly at your writing desk to the proper degree to which to slant letters. It features samples of script, promissory notes, verses for autograph albums, and these elegant business letters.

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There are handwriting exercises as well as exercises for flourishing, the latter of which sounds suspiciously like something one would find on a clean eating and wellness blog.

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The bulk of the book consists of illustrations made entirely through offhand flourishing, such as this graceful swan and this squiggly family (complete with curlicue guardian angel).

There’s even a small section of ornamental lettering, including some lovely color alphabets.

If you’d like to take a look at this or any of our other books on handwriting and hand-lettering, get in touch!

Bad Children of History #33: Struwwelpeter in Russia

Today we were deep in a pile of uncataloged Russian children’s books and found… another version of Struwwelpeter, published in Moscow and illustrated by Boris Zvorykin!

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So slovenly! Look at that droopy sock!

Here’s Struwwelpeter refusing to let his grandmother sponge off his shirt cuffs…

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…leading him to weep silently alongside some semi-domesticated boars.

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This book doesn’t contain all of the stories from the original, although it does have a few select favorites, including the sad story of the thumb-sucker accompanied by a thumb-removal illustration so ghastly that we will not include it here.

Instead, look at these sweet before-and-after vignettes from The Dreadful Story of the Matches:

Library Comics, or, Research as Hot Pursuit

We have big news:

Special Collections at the Providence Public Library is publishing a comic book!

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Lizard Ramone in Hot Pursuit: A Guide to Archives for Artists and Makers is a comic book conceived of and printed by the Providence Public Library in Providence, RI, working in collaboration with artist Jeremy Ferris, who created the storyline, illustrations, and text. It’s being distributed locally with a bonus insert illustrated by O. Horvath.

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Providence describes itself as the “Creative Capital”, and we work with a great number of artists and designers in our Special Collections. These creative researchers often have a different approach than the students, scholars, and genealogists whom many tend to think of as “typical” archival researchers.

After asking ourselves, “How can we better meet the needs of creative researchers?” and “How can we make our collections more accessible to artists and other non-traditional researchers?”, we decided to team up with a local illustrator and library student to make a fun-to-read guide demystifying archival research. (It’s also hilarious!) We wanted it to be specific enough that it could help our users, but general enough to be applicable to collections across the country.

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We’re having a comic book release party this coming Wednesday, June 21st, from 6:30-8 on the 3rd floor of the library. (Facebook event for the party here.) Artist Jeremy Ferris will give a short presentation and answer questions; we’ll also have a bevy of interactive stations, like a mini research consultation booth, a comics-drawing station, and a table where you can have your portrait drawn by a librarian. (We’ll also have snacks.)

For local blog readers, we hope to see you at the release party! For all blog readers, stay tuned for online-readable and printable versions of the comic book!

 

Magician of the Week #48: Rabbits!

This week’s featured magician isn’t technically a magician, but rather a magician’s most classic, well-loved, time-honored sidekick: the rabbit.

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There’s a bit of debate about the first magician to pull a rabbit from a hat–some say it was Louis Comte, in 1814, while others claim it was John Henry Anderson, “The Great Wizard of the North”. Either way, rabbits in hats have become synonymous with stage magic, as evidenced by the expressively-eyebrowed fellow above.

Today’s featured rabbits span decades, but all are taken from various covers of Ireland’s Magic Company Yearbook. We made a rabbit-y collage to showcase some of these soft sidekicks!

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You can find issues of Ireland’s Magic Company Yearbook, along with innumerable other rabbit illustrations, in our John H. Percival Collection on Magic.

Keri King: Collaborative Research, Collage, and Creativity

 

In conjunction with our annual Exhibition & Program Series, PPL offers a Creative Fellowship for a Rhode Island artist who creates new work incorporating imagery from or inspired by the library’s Special Collections. Our 2017 Creative Fellow, Keri King, is a fantastic Providence-based artist who creates collage and illustration-based work. Keri has been researching in Special Collections and in our historical magazine collections for several months; below is the first of two guest blog posts showcasing Keri’s creative process!

In my work, I like to blend drawing and collage. I incorporate a lot of source imagery from magazines, newspaper clippings, vintage posters, and such, into each piece. I enjoy how each cut-out element has its own history and adds to an overall narrative with tonal/ textural results.

Research is an essential part of my work flow! For most projects, my process is as follows:

  1. I sketch.
  2. I draft what I like to call my “grocery list” (figuring out what source images I need) & site “shopping centers” (where I can find those images).
  3. I research (I look, I tab, I get a little off track while exploring, I check things out from the library…)
  4. I play with a xerox machine.
  5. I collage.
  6. And I’m back to drawing, synthesizing the varied materials within a collage into one cohesive image.

My process is slightly different for the Creative Fellowship at the library, where I’m creating an 8 foot x 8 foot mural that will be displayed inside the Empire Street entrance to the library. I’ve proposed a collage illustration of a dinner party, with families from a handful of time periods in America coming around a table to eat.

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One distinction from my usual research process is that I can’t just pull things off the shelves in Special Collections. Instead, I use the library’s “human Google”: I tell Angela, the Curatorial Assistant, what I’m looking for, and she pulls books and magazines from the stacks for me, which I then look at in the Reading Room. (I got a tour of Special Collections at the beginning of my fellowship, so I have some idea of the frankly magical wealth of resources that are available to me.)

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The stuff that Angela finds is always much more than what I bargained for. She thinks of sources I wouldn’t ever have on my radar, and these unexpected shares lead to new, playful connections in my work. My process is energized by our collaborative research.

Since the summer, I’ve looked at all kinds of things, including:

-images of food and characters

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-images of locations that could provide a backdrop

Sunken gardens, Roger Williams Park, Providence, R.I.

I’m leaning towards an alfresco backdrop, and I’ve been focusing on outdoor locations in Rhode Island.

-furniture

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One day I went picnic table shopping.

-advertising from old home magazines

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I’m fascinated with food advertising from the 1940s into the 1950s, much of which is not very appetizing. I particularly love this savory tomato aspic gelatin. I’m exploring the possibility of a savory aspic hostess.

Because Special Collections materials are often fragile, I can’t Xerox them, so I’ve been working with high-resolution scans and photographs. Right now I’m in my collage and drawing phase.

Keri’s mural will be unveiled on March 1st at the opening event for our 2017 Exhibition and Program Series. Stop by any time between then and June 30th to see the final results of Keri’s work. She’ll also be giving an artist’s talk at the library on April 30th–mark your calendars!

Bad Children of History #31: Audacious Andrew

Today’s tale, the unsubtly-titled “Don’t Blow Out the Gas,” comes from the June 1870 issue of The Nursery: A Monthly Magazine for Youngest Readers (Boston: John L. Shorey).

The first sentence lets the reader know right off the bat that this story is 100% likely to feature a bad child of history:

There was a little boy named Andrew, who thought that he knew better than older folks what ought to be done.

Classic!

Know-it-all Andrew was visiting his uncle in the city, whereupon his uncle’s maid instructed Andrew to extinguish the gas flame “in a way that she explained” upon retiring, rather than blowing out the flame. You get one guess what Andrew did the moment that she left the room.

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The room filled with terrible fumes, and Andrew’s uncle rushed in at the last possible moment to turn down the gas and scold his nephew. You’ll be relieved to learn that Andrew learned his lesson well, in the course of less than a page and a half:

Andrew was much mortified, and felt that he did not know as much as he thought he did. He is now willing to learn from others; and in this way he does not blunder as he once did. He will never blow out the gas again.

Postscript: can we make a collective New Year’s resolution to start using the phrase “much mortified” as often as possible in 2017?