Books On Books Collection – Corinne Ringel Bailey

Alphabet Book No. 2108 (1934)

Alphabet Book No. 2108 (1934)
Corinne Ringel Bailey
Linen book. Saddle-stitch, staples, H305 x w255 mm. 8 linen leaves including cover. Acquired 19 January 2023.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Known now primarily for its Raggedy Ann books, The Saalfield Publishing Company (1900-77) published a wide range of linen books for children, naturally including numerous alphabet books with different themes. This last of four editions over 1928-34 — an alphabet of games, toys and entertainments — is one of Corinne Ringel Bailey’s more popular illustrated works. Based on library holdings, the most popular was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer published in 1931.

Although spanning the Great Depression, this abecedary depicts a world untouched by hardship. The “Jack & Jill” who come down this hill have a pail overflowing with letters. While the illustrations range back to inexpensive childhood activities (playing catch, hoop rolling, ice sliding and leapfrog), they also include a toy airplane, an electric train set, and a large radio cabinet for bedtime tales. Albeit not technologically advanced, both the pony cart for children under P and the tricycle under V (paying attention?) would have been luxuries — as would the replica steam-driven fire engine as well.

The booklet contains other peculiar leaps. While many of the activities have rural or suburban settings, the organ grinder was and remains an urban phenomenon. Words such as “aeroplane” and “quoits” have a British or European flavor to them (as do some of the dolls’ clothing), but a “yard” is where American children play while British children play in the “back garden”. The children’s clothing looks more American, and although animal crackers (biscuits) originated in England, the box depicted under Z (still paying attention?) looks suspiciously like the one created by Nabisco for its version of animal crackers.

Given the simplicity of most words in the book, “velocipede” seems a rather large one to include — even though it had been used since the mid-19th century on both sides of the Atlantic to cover bicycles and tricycles. Since other alphabet books of the period selected velocipede for V, the choice does not set Bailey’s apart from the crowd pedagogically. The absence of a more considered treatment of uppercase vs lowercase letters, however, does. From hornbooks onwards, most abecedaries present the uppercase and lowercase. In this respect and others, Bailey’s work is more picture book than alphabet book.

Illustration choices seem to have the upper hand. Echoing the animals in the image for Noah’s ark, there’s the clever illustration for “zoo” presenting a box of animal crackers with cookies shaped like those of Nabisco’s “Barnum’s Animals” escaping the box. Although the string attached to the box copies Nabisco’s that it introduced in 1902 for hanging the box as a treat on Christmas trees, the box is labeled “Kiddie Krackers” and does not look like the Nabisco brand box — probably to avoid trademark issues.

In fact, the intensity of colors — in the letters themselves, the bamboo umbrella’s pattern, the children’s ruddy cheeks and knees, and every image — delivers the overriding effect of this abecedary and looks back to the chromolithography of the 19th century, the woodcuts and posters of C.B. Falls and forward to such later 20th century abecedarians as Marie Angel, Sonia Delaunay, Carol DuBosch, Jean Holabird and many others in this collection.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection.

Marie Angel“. 18 June 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Eulalie Minfred Banks“. 27 February 2023. Books On Books Collection.

Graeme Base“. [In progress]. Books On Books Collection.

Sonia Delaunay“. [In progress]. Books On Books Collection.

Carol DuBosch“. 6 January 2023. Books On Books Collection.

C.B. Falls“. 14 December 2022. Books On Books Collection.

David Hockney“. [In progress]. Books On Books Collection.

Jean Holabird“. 8 February 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Andrew White Tuer“. 26 December 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Arne Nixon Center. 2015. “The History of Cloth and ‘Cloth-like’ Books“. Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature. 2015. Accessed 6 February 2023.

Kirsch, Colin. n.d. “The Evolution of Children’s Tricycles: 1800s-1920s“. Online Bicycle Museum. Accessed 6 February 2023.

Books On Books Collection – C.B. Falls

ABC Book (1923)

ABC Book (1923)
C.B. Falls
Casebound, cloth over boards, sewn. H318 x W232 mm. 32 unnumbered pages. Acquired from Derringer Books, 28 August 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Charles Buckles Falls’ reputation as an illustrator working in woodcuts and poster design, especially WWI posters supporting book donations to the troops, led to Doubleday’s signing up the ABC Book in 1923. The influence of Art Nouveau appears in the lettering as well as the antelope’s pose (although the zebra’s pose seems based on an equestrian statue, naturally without a rider). A stronger influence from William Nicholson, England’s premiere wood-engraver at the time, shows through in the lettering and coloring. While both artists used color to emphasize their black lines, Falls made bolder, more eccentric choices, which may ultimately have led to a return transatlantic influence on the UK illustrator Chris Wormell and others (see Further Reading).

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection.

E.N. Ellis“. 30 October 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Enid Marx“. 1 August 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Nick Wonham“. 24 August 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Books On Books Collection – Nick Wonham

The Charm of Magpies (2018)

The Charm of Magpies (2018)
Nick Wonham
Casebound, cloth spine and paper over boards with specially printed flyleaves from Roger Grech at his Papercut Bindery. H370 x W260 mm. 27 pages unnumbered. Edition of 160 copies, of which this is #98. Acquired from Incline Press, 1 August 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

A long admiration for magpies has always threatened to crowd the Books On Books Collection beyond this beautiful work from Nick Wonham and Incline Press and the relief sculpture in paper by Calvin Nichols below. But one pair of works will have to be enough for joy.

Calvin Nicholls
Acquired from the artist, 1 September 2016. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

On the Incline Press website, Graham Moss and his team write:

Collective nouns A parliament of magpies has to be a favourite, especially if you’ve heard a group of them cackling together in the Springtime. But we prefer the alternative, a charm of magpies, which certainly suits this poem better. It is one version of a folk rhyme which has many local variants, all superstitiously foretelling the future through random occurrence.

Magpies are often known a thugs in the garden, stealing eggs and chasing off their more delicate rivals. As printers, though, we have a fondness for them because of their “ink on paper” plumage and their latin name pica pica, which recalls the printshop unit of measure.

In the interview under Further Reading, Wonham mentions Kurt Schwitters as a compositional influence, but in color and boldness, Joseph Crawhall‘s, William Nicholson‘s, C.B. Falls‘ and Christopher Wormell‘s alphabet books spring more to mind.

Left to right: Joseph Crawhall (1884), William Nicholson (1898), C.B. Falls (1930) and Christopher Wormell (1995).

As Moss and team point out on their site, the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes does not include the magpies among the counting rhymes, which is odd with so many versions to be had. Birdspot, formerly British Bird Lovers, favors Nick Wonham’s chosen version. For magpies interested in shiny trivia, the site also provides a link to a BBC television program whose theme song was based on the magpie rhyme. It was “composed and played by the Spencer Davis Group under the alias The Murgatroyd Band, just after Steve Winwood had left to join the supergroup Blind Faith with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Ric Grech”.

And to note just one touch of Nick Wonham’s subtlety, here is the page before the colophon. In all the other images, the magpies are roosting. This one in flight is also the only one in black and white. A brilliant “The End”.

Postscript: In correspondence, the artist has provided further insight on influences and his handling of color:

A note on the colour – the biggest influence on this was Rigby Graham, whose work Graham Moss introduced me to through the Old Stile Press book Kippers and Sawdust. Graham had just printed my first book, which had black and white linocuts, and was trying to inspire me to try colour. It worked; I was blown away by the majestic woodcuts and aspired to create books in a similar vein. Rigby liked an unusually coloured sky, he also liked to position his illustrations through the book so that the colours of prints on adjacent pages contrasted with each other to create dynamism and visual interest, something I have attempted in my book. Correspondence with Books On Books Collection, 9 September 2022.

Wonham also adopts and owns a compositional feature from Rigby Graham’s Kippers and Sawdust: the juxtaposition of the mechanical and the natural. His ownership is particularly apparent in his setting for the rhyme’s seventh verse.

Rigby Graham’s flight formation over a landscape (from 2022 Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association);
Wonham’s surveillance cameras for a perch.

Further Reading

Enid Marx“. 1 August 2022. Books On Books Collection.

One For Sorrow … Magpie Nursery Rhyme“. November 2020. Birdspot. Accessed 5 August 2022.

Campbell, Gordon. July 2008. “Rigby Graham – Doctor of Letters – Artist“. University of Leicester, News and Events. Accessed 10 September 2022.

Nicholls, Calvin. 2005. Paper sculptures, 1995-2005. McHenry, IL: Follett Library Resources.

Opie, Iona Archibald, and Peter Opie. 1951. The Oxford dictionary of nursery rhymes. Oxford: Oxford UP.

Young, Richard. 15 December 2016. “Meet artist Nick Wonham“. Great British Life. Accessed 1 August 2022.