The Mystery of Eleanor Schanck –was she British or American?

By Colette Slagle and Jacqui Reid-Walsh

Because we devoted the last blog to the interconnections between marking samplers and metamorphoric books we decided to examine more closely two handmade metamorphic books made by girls.  While our next blog will examine the connections between stitchery literacy and a 19th century artifact made by a American girl Betsy Lewis, in this blog we examine a late 18th century artifact made by Eleanor Schanck and we hypothesize her nationality.

In 1777 Eleanor Schanck created and dated a four-part turn-up book now held at the Cotsen Library at Princeton University. This is one of the few known homemade turn-up books that can be confidently identified as girl-made, as most handmade versions are anonymous, making it difficult to determine their provenance. It is unknown if it was created in England or the United States. In this blog in order to answer this question, we compare Eleanor’s turn-up book to known published British and American editions.

The Cotsen catalog entry describes it as 1 sheet folded into 4 panels with flaps, written and drawn with pen and ink, measuring 27 x 37 cm.  When you interact with the object since there are no individual movable flaps, you can only lift the entire top part or the entire lower part.  Looking at photos, it is hard to determine whether it had been cut and then later reattached, or if it was always uncut.

The early date of this handmade text raises question about which versions of The Beginning, Progress and End of Man and Metamorphosis could have served as a model for Eleanor.  While the 17th century British religious turn-up book was published on occasion throughout the 18th century, the American Metamorphosis is believed to have been first published after 1775 (Hamilton, illustration 26).  We therefore compare Eleanor Schanck’s handmade manuscript with the 1650 British 4-part turn-up book printed by Bernard Alsop, the 1654 British 5-part turn-up book printed by his widow, Elizabeth Alsop, and a facsimile of the earliest known American Metamorphosis, printed circa 1775 in Philadelphia (Hamilton 25).  Important to note is that the 4-part American Metamorphosis is itself closely based on the 1650 edition, with the exception of one stanza, which we discuss below.

For the most part, Eleanor’s version is similar to the 1650 version, however one substantial difference is the mermaid verse included in each.

The mermaid verse in the 1650 edition is as follows:

“The Mermaids voice is sharp and shril

As womens voices be ;

For if you crosse them in their will,

You anger two or three.”

1650 The Beginning, Progress, and End of Man. Photo courtesy of the British Library.

 

Eleanor’s version is as follows:

“Eyes look not on the mairmaids fase

Nor ears forbear her songs

Her face hath an alluring grace

More charming is her tongue”

1777Adam first comes first upon the stage [manuscript harlequinade]. Photo Courtesy of the Cotsen Library, Princeton University.

 

Eleanor’s version seems closest to the mermaid verse in the 1654 edition:

“Eys, look not on this Mermaids face,

And Ears, forbear her song :

Her face hath an alluring grace,

More charming is her tongue.”

1654 The Beginning, Progress, and End of Man. Photo courtesy of the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

 

The mermaid verse in the 1775 American Metamorphosis version is also similar to the 1654 edition:

“Eyes look not on the Mermaid’s Face,

Let Ears forbid her Song ;

Her Features have an alluring Grace

More charming than her Tongue.”

Facsimile of c. 1775 [Metamorphosis] in 1958 Hamilton, Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers, 1670-1870, figure 26.

 

While the mermaid verses are quite similar in both the 1654 edition and the 1775 American Metamorphosis, Eleanor’s is most similar to the earlier British edition.  For example, she uses “forbear” rather than “forbid” in the second line, “face hath” rather than “features have” in the third line, and “More charming is her tongue,” rather than “More charming than her tongue.”  For these reasons, we speculate that Eleanor was working from the British editions, not the American.

Another significant difference we noticed between Eleanor’s handmade text and the 1650 British edition was the spelling of the word “lyon.”  The only known printed versions of the text that also uses this spelling is a 1688/9 version owned by Anthony Wood and published by Dunster, held at the Bodleian Library, an undated 17th century version, held at Penn State, and an undated British edition, owned by a private collector.  Based on this circumstantial evidence, we think Eleanor was likely British.

Facsimile of 16XX The Beginning, Progress, and End of Man. Photo Courtesy of Penn State Special Collections.

1777Adam first comes first upon the stage [manuscript harlequinade]. Photo Courtesy of the Cotsen Library, Princeton University.

 

*For a discussion of Eleanor Schanck’s artistic style, please see 2017 Reid-Walsh, Interactive Books pg. 218-219.

Marking Alphabets in Samplers and Metamorphosis Books

By Jacqui Reid-Walsh and Colette Slagle

In our last blog, we observed that the alphabet border of the Metamorphosis text (particularly those written by Sands and illustrated by Poupard), resembled that of a sampler, noting that “the letter style is also ornate and appears ‘stitched’ rather than printed in the standardized letterpress style.”  Since then, we have been exploring this connection further, researching information on the history of samplers, marking, and—as Jacqui calls it—stitchery literacy (Reid-Walsh, Interactive Books 40).

Cynthia Cooper, the curator of textiles at the McCord Museum in Montreal, directed us towards The Workwoman’s Guide, an early nineteenth century needlewoman’s guide “for the inexperienced.”  It was written “By a Lady” and published in London in 1838.  Notably, figure 1 of the first plate depicts a model sampler used to exemplify different types of stitches that are used in marking linen.  The author states that “the sampler drawn gives an accurate idea of the canvass, and the shape of all the letters in the different alphabets” (5).

The Workwoman’s Guide, containing instructions to the inexperienced in cutting out and completing those articles of wearing apparel, &c., which are usually made at home; also, explanations on upholstery, straw-platting, bonnet-making, knitting, &c., By a Lady, London, 1838. Photo courtesy of Penn State Special Collections.

The various letter styles shown in the sampler are used for different kinds of marking from simple to ornate.  She notes, “The first alphabet is that in most general use; the second contains the small letters; the third is a correct representation of the Italian characters, which are much used for marking pocket handkerchiefs and other fine articles of dress; the fourth and last is quite a fancy stitch, and rarely employed” (5). Intriguing to our minds is the link between this Workwoman’s Guide and the 1814 Metamorphosis book published by Robert Porter with the subtitle, “also, an alphabet of large and small letters to aid females in marking linen.”  The Sands/Poupard versions only include “the first alphabet,” which has only uppercase letters, is the most commonly used for marking, and made of the simplest stitches (5).  By contrast, Porter’s 1814 version includes both this alphabet and the second alphabet The Workwoman’s Guide refers to, which “contains the small letters” (5).  Interestingly, the placement of each type of alphabet in the borders reinforces their function: the uppercase alphabet in the upper border and the lowercase alphabet in the lower border.  Although we have not seen every version of the Metamorphosis book, we are struck by how the lowercase alphabet only seems to appear in Porter’s version, where the specific aim is to teach girls how to mark linen.

The Workwoman’s Guide, containing instructions to the inexperienced in cutting out and completing those articles of wearing apparel, &c., which are usually made at home; also, explanations on upholstery, straw-platting, bonnet-making, knitting, &c., By a Lady, London, 1838. Photo courtesy of Penn State Special Collections.

The frontispiece of The Workwoman’s Guide provides an excellent example of this type of stitchery literacy being taught in the classroom.  The room is full of girls of varying ages and a young woman teacher sitting in the center, modelling how to measure and cut fabric.  The children are all busy working as well: sewing, cutting, and measuring fabric.  On the wall there is a prominently featured alphabet of capital letters.  This alphabet is immediately adjacent to the woman and girls who are modelling the sewing activity.  Higher up on the wall there are also several sheets with animals and accompanying text underneath, reminiscent of a bestiary.  These animals include a goat, camel, swan, dog, and owl.  The combination of the alphabet, the informational animal sheets, and the cutting and sewing of fabric emphasizes the pragmatic educational nature of the scene.

The Case of the Elusive “J”

By Colette Slagle and Jacqui Reid-Walsh1817 Metamorphosis; or, a Transformation of Pictures, with Poetical Explanations, for the Amusement of Young Persons. Photo courtesy of Penn State Special Collections.

This week we began engaging with the Metamorphosis texts differently—not as a set of narrative episodes directed by the panels, but as a literacy abecedary.  Instead of following the directives in the text to turn-up and turn-down the flaps, attending to the alphabet requires opening and laying out all of the flaps at once.  The alphabet is displayed horizontally across the length of the open artifact.  Interestingly, if you follow the directions in the text and turn the flaps up and down in the intended manner, the order of the alphabet is disrupted.  For example, in the first panel the letters revealed when opening the flaps read “A B C C D D” across the top, followed by “U V W X Y” across the bottom.

The letters are printed in the upper and lower border of the central images, but bear no obvious relation to the images or the accompanying verse. Although an alphabet is textual, in this case it is not printed by the metal type, but is part of the woodblock illustrations.  We ascertained this by comparing Sands and Poupard’s editions to G.S. Peters’ editions.  The images and alphabet remain the same across the Sands and Poupard editions, but when Peters changes the images in his editions, the alphabet also changes.

1831 (1960 facsimile) Metamorphosis; or, a Transformation of Pictures, with Poetical Explanations, for the Amusement of Young Persons. Photo courtesy of Penn State Special Collections.

We also noticed that the alphabet border resembles the style of a sampler.  For example, the letters are all capitalized and are on a faintly lined background.  The letter style is also ornate and appears “stitched” rather than printed in the standardized letterpress style.

1853 Sampler by Anna Timmis. M974.119.2.  Photo Courtesy of McCord Museum.

Some of the letters appear twice—one in a more basic style, and one in a more ornate style.  Curiously, not all of the letters appear this way, only C, D, I, and T have duplicates.  This partly seems to follow the sampler style which would sometimes duplicate the whole alphabet in capital letters.  We are still puzzled as to why only certain letters are duplicated in the Metamorphosis.  Perhaps it is only due to the allotment of space and the chosen letters are arbitrary.

Moreover, while there is a double “I”—one simple and one ornate—there is no “J” present.  The history of the English alphabet is complex and the development is not perfectly linear. According to E. Jennifer Monaghan in Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America (2005), the authors of spellers “differed about the treatment of the consonantal i and u (which eventually became the j and v of the modern alphabet)” (216).  Interestingly, the Metamorphosis has both the letters “U” and “V” but no “J”.  While no “J” is listed in the alphabet, it is used in the text: “There nothing could their joys controul” (emphasis added)—even more interesting is that it is used in the same panel that the double I (and absent J) appears.

1817 Metamorphosis; or, a Transformation of Pictures, with Poetical Explanations, for the Amusement of Young Persons. Photo courtesy of Penn State Special Collections.

The inclusion of a secret alphabet hidden inside the flaps may have been intended for utilitarian purposes, indeed, an 1814 edition of the text printed by Robert Porter makes this clear through the subtitle: “also, an alphabet of large and small letters to aid females in marking linen.”  At the same time, however, there could be a more playful option.  One possible educational game that could emerge from the object would be matching some of the letters to the images in the text when all of the flaps are open.  For example, “A for Adam or Apple,” “E for Eve, Eden, or Eagle,” “L for Lion,” “G for Griffin,” “S for Serpent,” etc.

We then began to question if there were any possible image connections with the missing letter “J.”  We did not find many, but one possibility is that the empty scales featured in the third panel with the wealthy merchant could be read as an allusion to the “scales of justice,” particularly as the verses in the fourth panel condemn his greed.

1817 Metamorphosis; or, a Transformation of Pictures, with Poetical Explanations, for the Amusement of Young Persons. Photo courtesy of Penn State Special Collections.

Guest Blog of “Books that Pop!” Display

By Jacqueline Reid-Walsh

In December when I went home for the holiday, the first thing I did was go to rare books at McGill because I wanted to see the display that had accompanied my talk from the previous month.  McGill University Libraries Special Collections invited me to write the following blog, which describes my self-guided tour of the display.

A Walk Through “Books that Pop!”

Encountering a Talking Picture Book

By Jacqueline Reid-Walsh and Margarita Rivera Santiago

“The Speaking Picture Book,” courtesy of Penn State Special Collections

(Jacqui)

Recently I gave a talk in Montreal at the main reading room of McGill University’s special collections library. It concerned a collection of some 2300 historical children’s books collected by Mrs. Sheila Bourke and donated to McGill University. Given the strength of the collection and my passion for interactive and movable books the organizers ingeniously entitled the event –it consisted of a library display, a film and a talk- “books that pop.” Itook the phrase to mean books that are spectacular or unusual in some way. They may be important historically since they are illustrated by a ground-breaking illustrator or produced by a key early printer of children’s books. Or they may literally “pop” : They may have pop-up illustrations that jump toward you when you open the covers, or they may be designed to be interactive in other ways, such having sets of accordion folds that you can stretch out to create a panorama, or movable flaps that you can lift up or down to cause the pictures or tabs that you can pull to cause the figures to move. In all cases, the books look ordinary but reveal secrets or surprises when a reader-viewer-player engages with them and brings them to life.  One most unusual book has strings attached so when you pull them voices “talk” at you.

I first encountered the book in the summer at McGill special collections where a kind librarian put it on my book trolley. It looks like a large, lavishly illustrated 19th century picture book quite thick –31.8 x 24.2 x 5.8 cms.  When I looked closer I saw that that three edges were decorated with orate wooden designs painted gold. On the one hand they reminded me a bit of fore edge paintings but touching them shows that they are asymmetrical holes with three -dimensional carvings set across the spaces. I tried to look through but could see nothing. I was intrigued.  Spying little cords emerging from the fore edge I tentatively pulled one—it baaed, I jumped and the entire reading room looked up startled. (thankfully it was not a busy time).

“The Speaking Picture Book,” courtesy of Penn State Special Collections

Since I had to return to school the next day to Penn State, to my joy I learned that their special collections has not only one but editions of the book decorated differently and produced in two countries: the 19th century German one and a possibly 20th century American one for the famous toy store FAO Schwarz.  One day in October Margarita and I met with curator Jose Crus Guerrero and he gave us a private “show” of the books.

Link to event at McGill with videos of some of the books and of the lecture: https://www.mcgill.ca/library/branches/roaar/events/past-roaar-events-and-exhibitions/past-event-lecture-books-pop-historical-childrens-books-sheila-bourke-collection

(Margarita)

As Jacqui mentioned earlier in her portion of this blog entry, during our visit to the Special Collections library at Penn State we were able to observe two editions of different speaking picture books. The books were thematically similar, focusing on pastoral life and farm animals. Looking at The Speaking Picture Book: A New Picture Book with Characteristical Voices was a real treat for us. Originally made in Nuremberg, Germany (c.1893) and distributed by a mysterious “TB” the book’s innovative design (for the 19th century) propelled my curiosity to do more research to find to other details about its production and who the initials belonged to. At Special Collections the name of the distributor was not yet catalogued as these were recent acquisitions. However, after doing some research online, I stumbled upon a blog post written by one of the assistant curators at the Brighton Museum, Alexia Lazou. Lazou had worked with an earlier edition of the book some years ago and even had a link to a video that showed the inner-workings of the book’s sound mechanism. This was such an exciting find and a testament to the powerful contribution of blogs and new media in book history.

We were able to know the name of the publisher and get more information on the books themselves. The inventor of this ingenuous proto-media book was Theodore Brand (TB). As Lazou’s details in her blog: “Brand obtained a German patent for the book in 1878, and a British patent followed a year later. In addition to the German edition, English, French and Spanish translations were published.” The book at Penn State is seemingly a newer edition published in English and was fully functioning. As we were pulling on the book’s sound strings we were amused by the unfamiliar sounds attributed to each animal. This brought up an interesting discussion about a possible phonetic discrepancy between the language of print and the sounds for the animals.

If the original language of print was German, it would be safe to assume that the sounds might represent how animal noises are replicated in the German language, not English or any publication language that followed. An example of this phonetic discrepancy could be how in English a sound colloquially used to replicate the noise a rooster makes is “cock-a-doodle-do” whereas in Spanish the same animal would be known to make the sound “Qui-quiri-quí”. This was interesting to me as the mechanism used to create the noise were bellows, small air pipes inside of the book, and it is doubtful that the animal sounds would have been changed which each new language published. Admittedly, these are perhaps far-reaching assumptions without having access to the other editions, the original German as well as French and Spanish. That said, because of the little information on them there are engaging discussions still to be had about their contributions to children’s literature through the incorporation of sound.

Link to Alexia Lazou’s lovely blog on Brighton Museum’s edition of the book: https://brightonmuseums.org.uk/discover/2012/01/11/the-speaking-picture-book-a-new-picture-book-with-characteristic-voices/