Friday, September 14, 2012

Thoroughly Modern Alice

A cover for "Alice in Wonderland" in which a flapper-like Alice stands next to a giant mushroom.Keeping children's stories up to date is a constant challenge for publishers. In order to sell a book, especially a children's book, it needs to appeal to contemporary tastes. A new set of illustrations is a common way to freshen a story. We have dozens of editions of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but this copy, which we call the Flapper Alice, is a favorite. Alice, who ought to be sporting a ponytail and wearing a pinafore over her dress, is transformed into a fashionable 1920s flapper.  Her hair is even in a bob!

An illustration of Alice standing next to a large mushroom and a large, anthropomorphized caterpillar with a hookah.
The marketing of this book by The Reader's Library Publishing Company in London did not stop with Hume Henderson's new illustrations. It was part of their Juvenile Series consisting "only of books that have made good." As a result, readers were "sure of a first-rate story." Not enough? Perhaps the story would be even better with some sweets: there is a full-page advertisement for Nestle's chocolate bars on the back cover as an added enticement.

An advertisement for Nestle's chocolate.
Enjoy this thoroughly modern Alice, by asking for Sine H464ali.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

End Notes

A printed apocalyptic illustration.Hartman Schedel's Liber Cronicarum (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1493) is one of the most beautiful and best known books from the incunabula period. Using the medieval concepts of ages of the world, it was designed to chronicle the history of the world from start to finish. As a genre, it was not new--chronicles of this sort had been around for a long time in manuscript form. But the printed book posed a problem. In 1493, the world was still in its Sixth Age that would not come to a close until the second coming of Christ, but the Nuremberg Chronicle (as it is commonly known) wanted to be complete and portray the final ages of the world as well.

The printer came up with a simple solution, blank pages between the end of the Sixth Age and the start of the Seventh Age which would usher in the Apocalypse. But how many pages?  If you were trying to predict how much history might transpire between now and the end of the world, how many blank pages, or volumes, would you leave? Tellingly, the printers left just six blank pages to take the book's buyers to the end--surely that would have been enough to carry history to 1500, a date widely touted as the beginning of the end.

An open book. The lefthand page is filled with printed text and handwritten notes. The righthand page is blank.
You can see one of our copies of the Nuremberg Chronicle on display in the Berry Main Street exhibition, On the Eve of Destruction (Again), now through November.  Or, ask for Incunabula 112 to see it in the Reading Room.