Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The mother lode: sumptuous nursery rhymes

I'm the first to admit that I'm shameless when it comes to asking for old paper for my collages. Signs dot the studio urging visitors to let me take old stuff - "the grungier, the better" - off their hands. I'll even pay for it if I really, really want something.

But people seem happy to find a new home for their paper and often donate it. That's what happened last week when a woman walked into my studio holding a postcard from an open studio back in the spring. She told me she had seen the signs and had a bag of stuff for me. Did I want it? Sure. Turns out that it included a box of about 40 sewing patterns for children's and teen clothing from the early 1960s, which couldn't have come at a better time; I was just about to start shopping for some.

Also in the bag, the 1915 Volland Popular Edition of Mother Goose. I've made it clear before that I am a huge fan of all things Volland. The Chicago publisher's publications were stylish and often avant-garde. This compilation of Mother Goose nursery rhymes was put together by Eulalie Osgood Grover and illustrated by Frederick Richardson (1862-1937) with full-page paintings so lush and colorful that a reader gets lost in them. As Grover says in her foreword "children, as well as interested parents, will eagerly welcome this beautiful edition of the great nursery classic, just as a worthy edition of Shakespeare is welcomed by discriminating adult readers."

My copy is grungy. The outer spine is missing, along with a few of the illustrations. Aged, yellowed cellophane tape holds many pages together. Pencil and crayon drawings can be found throughout the book. I like that; it shows that the book was used - not just sitting on a shelf. Overall, the central images are in terrific condition. Plenty of the images are available online, as is the entire book, but I'm scanning a high-res version into my digital library anyway. Then, we'll see what kind of new collages come out of the originals from this wonderful gift!

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