Last week, while following some links from Things Magazine ["the spectre of roaming, near-feral children" ring a bell?], I came across a 2005 Japanese university library exhibition of the Opie Collection of Children's Literature, over 20,000 titles, works of art, and materials assembled by researchers Peter and Iona Opie and now housed at Oxford's Bodleian Library. [The Opies also wrote the highly influential 1969 book, Children's Games in Street and Playground. I suspect the lawyers have had every single activity documented in it banned or padded out of existence.]
One book caught my eye, this awesomely shaped version of The House That Jack Built. Long and skinny, it looks like it could fit in your pocket, like a cell phone or a remote control. And the illustrations look very clean, like a Golden Age comic, not the sweet pastel-y pictures of Victorian children's art. So I emailed the Bodleian to track it down.
Turns out it's from a turn-of-the-century series called, "The Stump Books for Children," and was by Montague St. Lo & Reginald Rigby. A writer/artist duo who somehow did not realize the awesomeness of their own names, they called themselves "The Pilgrims."
The Stump Books were published by Anthony Treherne in the early years of the 20th century. They were 2x6 inches long--a great form factor for little hands--and had a little bone tab to hold them closed. The House That Jack Built, 1905, was the seventh in the series. [Treherne also published a proto-boardbook series called Little Books for Children, which were 3x3 inches and were made of lithographs printed on very heavy pages.]
I've only been able to find a couple of mentions of The Stump Books online so far. AbeBooks has a House That Jack Built for $234 right now, and the The Rabbit Book above, which was illustrated by Mary Tourtel, is in a couple of shops, priced at between $550-600.
Oh, great. Here The Pilgrims are again, credited with The Stump Book, Ten Little Nigger Boys. I love how you can just cruise along the Internet, getting all warm and fuzzy for The Good Old Days, and then something like that slaps you across the face and reminds you that it wasn't all so good.
That's basically it for The Stump Books, but later, in 1925, Reginald Rigby made at least two great ads for the Underground. His poster, "If you want to pay some calls," would make a sweet book in itself [are you paying attention, Saks?]. I think Beaumont Rigby did the text:
If you want to pay some calls,The London Transport Museum will sell you an A4/A3 photo reproduction of the posters, which may or may not be big enough to rework into a nice boardbook.
Or to gaze upon St. Paul's,
you would go,
from Ealing, Clapham,
If you're asked by Smith to dine
Somewhere down the Hounslow Line,
Should you wish to know who's who
At the gardens of The Zoo,
If you make a rendezvous
With her at Waterloo,
At Hampstead or at
Edgware, at Kensington
To church or chapel, concert hall,
The pictures, theatre, or a ball,
In fact, wherever you are bound,
be sure you travel
If anyone has any more info on St. Lo, Rigby, or Stump Books, I'd love to hear it. Thanks to the Bodleian Special Collections Department for their assistance.