Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Phoebe's Traveling Head
Phoebe, the cottage maid follows its eponymous title character through her daily routines. It could be any other children's book from 1811. But the second half of the title -- Exemplified in A SERIES OF RURAL FIGURES -- makes Phoebe unforgettable.
Each chapter of Phoebe comes with a "figure" that illustrates what Phoebe does in that chapter. Unlike today's paper dolls, only Phoebe's head is removable. After taking Phoebe's head from one figure, you can gently push it into a paper pocket in the next figure. She reads in her bower, goes to market to sell things (and gets extra money just because she's beautiful...), and makes lace.
She also sings some songs that were clearly written by an adult: "How pleasant my labor, to wander away, / The treasures of Nature to gain; to support a poor mother, to toil thro' the day, / And a poor little sister to maintain. / How sweet is the task, for the parent we love ..."
We wish we had some of the other titles advertised on the back: HUBERT, The COTTAGE BOY (the sequel to Phoebe); LUCINDA the ORPHAN, or the COSTUMES; The History of LITTLE ELLEN, Or the Naughty Girl Reclaimed; and especially Frank Feignwell's Attempts to Amuse his Friends (which you just know will go poorly for Frank).
Our copy of Phoebe was clearly well-loved over the past two hundred years -- her face is a bit smudged, and there are some doodles in the text. To play with Phoebe, ask for Rare Book PR3991.A1 P4 1812.