Friday, May 25, 2012

A Cut Above: Turn of the Century Shape Books

The Happy Hour Paint Book by A.J. Schaeffer
by Beth Carswell
As anyone who has ever read Pat the Bunny can attest, small children are stimulated by books not only in the sense of the story, but also by tactile and visual cues. Making a book fun and beautiful as well as engaging word-wise is a sure way to keep young minds interested. A classic example is the shape book.
A shape book is a product of a form of die-cutting, in which a book is cut into a specific shape - rather than your typical rectangle or even square, these books can be shaped into whatever figure the designer fancies - a fire engine, an artist's palette, or even a shoe. The imagination is the only limit.
Still common in children's books today, shape books came into fashion in the 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the first publishers to put out shape books was the McLoughlin Bros. firm of New York (1828-1920), made up of Scottish immigrant John McLoughlin and his younger brother Edmund.
The two were ahead of their time with their use of printing technology, particularly in regards to color, and were among the first to use chromolithographs (an early form of multiple-color printing) regularly. Their niche included all manner of children's books, including nonsense stories and silly verses, nursery rhymes, picture books, alphabet books and more.
Perhaps it was John's past involvement with wood engraving and printing techniques that led to the interest in shape books and die-cutting, but whatever the impetus, the McLoughlin Bros. put out a great number of them. After a time, the pair's scope expanded beyond books to include toys, such as dolls and board games and children's blocks. After the respective retirement and death of Edmund and John McLoughlin, the firm was sold to Milton Bradley.
Die-cutting books into specific shapes still popular, particularly in children's books, but also occasionally seen in poetry, art books and other genres as well. The Victorian-era shape books, many of which are featured here, have become highly sought-after by collectors and are generally quite scarce.

All Manner of Shapes:

Teddy by Karl Rohr
by Karl Rohr
Key to Nature's Lock
Key to Nature's Lock(sold) 
Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
Last of the Mohicans
by James Fenimore Cooper
The Tour of 1897 by James A. Bailey
The Tour of 1897 
by James A. Bailey

Stringed Melodies by Alice Price and F. Corbyn
Stringed Melodies 
by Alice Price and F. Corbyn
Sweet Nature by Helen Burnside
Sweet Nature 
by Helen Burnside

Year's Farewell by Jessie Chase
Year's Farewell(sold)
by Jessie Chase

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Guile and Mischief: Tricksters in Literature

Tricksters - so often featured in a wide variety of literature - are intriguing because they can be good or evil, or both.  In many tales, the trickster is cast as the hero who uses their wits and guile to out fox the stronger and faster foe.  A classic example would be Odysseus, the ancient Greek who used cunning and trickery to fool his enemies and conquer Troy with his wooden horse.  Another example comes in Watership Down where Richard Adams describes rabbit folklore centered on El-ahrairah – a clever rabbit devoted to trickery who infuriates his enemies but repeatedly saves his warren.

At other times, the trickster blurs the line between that of a childlike prankster and someone who happily causes malicious harm.  The German trickster Till Eulenspiegel does exactly this, he sees people as being no better than any animal and delights in revealing their follies and inadequacies.  The moral being we should realize our faults, but Till feels that humiliation is necessary to really teach the lesson.
Tricksters come from all walks of life and are found in ancient mythology, folk tales handed down by aural tradition, simple stories and modern literature like Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox and Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys. Every culture around the world has their own type of tricksters. They could be gods who meddle in the affairs of mortals, to the anthropomorphic Brer Rabbit who entertains our children with wit and guile.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Tintinology: The Ongoing Adventures of Tintin

Tintin au Tibet by Hergé
Tintin au Tibet
by Hergé
First published in French in 1958
I was about as big a Tintin fan as you could be, hiding in the back of my father's bookstore reading and rereading every book I could get my hands on. What a wonderful series for inquisitive, youthful minds. I just gave the first two to my 8 year old twin daughters!  -Sky
From ABE Books site:
Tintin was born, figuratively speaking, on January 10, 1929 when Georges Remi’s comic strip hero appeared in a children’s supplement of the Belgian newspaper, Le XXe Siecle. The strip has survived various political regimes, a world war, changing consumer tastes and accusations of racial stereotyping and colonialism.
The youthful Belgian reporter is still going strong. Movie, TV, radio and theatrical adaptations, exhibitions and books about Hergé – Remi’s pen-name – keep the cult of Tintin alive. It has been translated into dozens of languages and featured a series of characters that have become iconic in popular culture – for instance, there are few more famous fictional dogs than Snowy, or Milou as he is known to French readers. Tintin’s fame can also be measured by the good number of parodies that abound.
Remi (1907–1983) introduced Tintin in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and didn’t mince his artwork. The hero took on the evil Bolsheviks – the political villains of the day – whose leaders were portrayed as greedy and uncaring.
The plots used fictional countries and extensively researched real locations. Rip-roaring adventures contained political themes. In 1939, Hergé produced King Ottokar’s Sceptre where Tintin battled Fascists in the made-up country of Borduria.
Tintin: The Complete Companion
The study of Tintin is, of course, known as Tintinology. There are various books looking at Hergé’s work and the influence of his comic strip heroes. We recommend Tintin: The Complete Companion by Michael Farr as the ideal Tintin textbook.
The criticism of Tintin revolves around too much violence, racial stereotyping of non-Europeans and colonialism. Hergé’s stereotypical imagery of Africans in Tintin in the Congo is undeniable. The colonialist themes were a simple reflection of pre-World War II Europe.
Tintin did not appear in English until 1951 when the Eagle comic ran the strip. It was Methuen and Golden Books who realized that Tintin had potential in a book format for English speakers.
Some young readers grew up and became collectors. The most expensive Tintin ever sold by AbeBooks was a copy of Le Crab aux Pinces D’Or (The Crab with the Golden Claws where Captain Haddock is introduced) from 1941 for $1,950. A 1963 hardback copy of Le Bijoux De La Castafiore (The Castafiore Emerald, a 1963 experimental story with a much slower plot) signed by Hergé sold for $1,245. Of course, the most expensive Tintins offered for sale on AbeBooks are the early French editions.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Book News from Sheppard's Confidential

from issues 260 & 261

UK: E-reader ownership rises - readers of printed books decline
A new survey has revealed that a third of Brits now own an e-book reader, a figure that has risen by 21 per cent compared to 2011.
  By comparison, reading printed books as an activity has fallen by 4 per cent according to the digital entertainment survey commissioned by Wiggin, although it still rides high as an activity engaged in by 43 per cent of the survey's respondents.
  Add to that the fact that 38 per cent of people still have no plans to start reading e-books, and print might not be quite as dead in the water as people seem to think. The stats come by way of the 2012 Digital Entertainment Survey from Entertainment Media Research and media law firm Wiggin, which surveyed 2,500 British people aged between 15 and 64 in March this year. Read more


This week's limerick:

A landlord was the bookman from Kent
He sometimes sold books but he lent
Quite a lot to his good tenant, Joe
Who decided to sell them, so
He was able to pay the due rent 

Contributed by David Kelly, Carvid Books, Cranbrook, Kent UK.

It may be too soon to gloat over the fall of e-reader sales but as we have all witnessed over the past three decades, both hardware and software soon become obsolete. Remember DOS, laser discs, acoustic couplers for exchange of data via the telephone, and ISDN lines?  And more recently, the programmes that only operate on Windows XP?  Now it appears that 'tablets' are taking over from e-readers as a first choice for reading books.  Maybe it's a generalisation but the pace of progress and advancing technology will cost the owners of e-readers more than if they had stuck with printed books!


USA: Target takes a stand against Amazon over 'showrooming'
The New York Times headline says it all: 'Target, Unhappy With Being an Amazon Showroom, Will Stop Selling Kindles.' The story beneath that headline reports that Target - with 1800 stores, 'one of the bigger carriers of Kindles in the offline world' - was 'signaling its growing irritation with its rival Amazon'.
  Like other big retailers, Target has been trying to figure out how to stop Amazon shoppers from visiting Target stores to check out products, and then buy them online from Amazon. It is a practice encouraged by Amazon; over the Christmas holiday, for example, the company offered a promotion on its Price Check app that gave shoppers 5 percent off any item scanned at a store. Read more

UK: Is it too soon to cry 'the e-reader is dead'!
As consumers increasingly choose tablet computers over e-readers for e-book reading, the e-book business will be adversely affected, according to a new survey.
  Over the course of the past six months, consumers' preference for dedicated e-readers as a 'first choice' reading device declined from 72 per cent to 58%, according to the second installment of the Book Industry Study Group's Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading survey. At the same time, 24% of e-book buyers prefer to read on tablet devices, up from less than 13% in August 2011 when the first installment of the survey was conducted. Read more

International: Will e-books be obsolete within five years?
Crippled by territorial license restrictions, digital rights management, and single-purpose devices and file formats that are simultaneously immature and already obsolescent, they are at a hopeless competitive disadvantage compared to full-fledged websites and even the humble PDF. Read more

D&M Packaging has announced a new product, an ink eraser that removes inscriptions and library stamps. The Ink Eraser is a gum based eraser with silica grit added which if used very gently can remove inscriptions, light foxing and other marks from paper surfaces. It works by removing the outer surface of paper taking the ink with it and leaving minimal abrasion to the paper surface. More information, prices (single and discount for bulk), on-line ordering can be found on the company's website