October 11, 2008

A Peaceable Kingdom, The Shaker Abecedarius By The Provensens

I backed into this beautiful, old-timey alphabet book from Yale's wonderful Beinecke Library collection of children's books and illustrations. The Beinecke has a painting by Alice and Martin Provensen of an early version of the cover of the alphabet book they published in 1978.

From the title to their faithfully historical style, the Provensens give major shoutouts to Edward Hicks, the 19th century Quaker artist who is best remembered for his series of Peaceable Kingdom paintings.

The alphabet rhyme itself was published as "Rhymes of Animals" in July 1882 edition of the The Shaker Manifesto, the group's monthly periodical. Here's the intro. Turns out it was created by a dad:

A correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette writes, "I strung the following rhymes together to ticke the ears of my little boys, four and six years old. They tease their mamma to read it over and over again, and they fetch the big illustrated dictionary to have her point out the funny animals with such strange names and tell what she can about them. This fancy for rhyme and rhythm is, I suppose, a characteristic of nearly all children, and perhaps the publication of this will amuse a wider circle than my little household. The aim has been, after euphony, to have the most incongruous animals in juxtaposition"
Also, Abecedarius would be an awesome name and would tee the kid up to be the first combination Heisman Trophy winner/Rhodes Scholar--I mean, the first since Peter Dawkins, Army '58 [note to self: it pays to look stuff up *before* publishing it].

Read the original "Rhymes of Animals," by an anonymous Cincinnati Gazette correspondent/dad in The Shaker Manifesto, Jul 1882 [google books]
Buy a copy of Alice and Martin Provensen's A Peaceable Kingdom: A Shaker Abecedarius at Amazon, starting at $2.25 [amazon]

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