steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Two Victorian Children's Books...

... that is to say, two books made by Victorian children.

Visiting my aunt on Saturday I was given the run of her family papers again, and came across a number of intriguing items. One was a Bible Album created by Fanny Jane Butler, doctor and missionary, presumably as a child (I'd estimate around 1860). I'd never seen such a thing before. Were they common? Each page (and there are many) takes a Bible verse and decorates it with fancy lettering, pictures cut from books or magazines, pressed flowers, locks of hair, etc. I took photographs, but they're all rather out of focus, unfortunately. Still, these examples will give you the idea:





The decoration is imaginative but not especially accomplished - that is, until Fanny decides to draw a freehand memento mori in the form of a skeleton - at which point the future medical student takes over. This, surely, is the work of someone who keeps Grey's Anatomy on her bedtable, next to the Bible?


Fanny Jane's elaborate album, for all its interest, seems quintessentially Victorian with its hair locks and pressed flowers. My second exhibit astonished me rather, because it looked in some ways so familiar - just the kind of infant production I might have made myself, or been presented by my own children. In fact, it's a little book written by my grandfather in about 1890 (I'm guessing - he was born in 1884), in praise of his mother. I suppose children who had the facilities and the literacy have always done this kind of thing, but in families less memory-minded than mine they get shunted into the bin after a decent interval. They don't usually last 120 years, at any rate.

We begin by announcing our theme...

Mama's Kindness 1

Two pages of closely-argued prose...

Mama's Kindness 2

Now leavened by illustrations of visits to the theatre and the nursery (for healing purposes):

Mama's Kindness 3

The last refuge of the child who's running out of ideas? Make a list! Note the subtle legerdemain of "4. Feeding me; 5. Reading to me; 25. Twenty other things."

Mama's Kindness 4

We are now beginning to wish we hadn't made the book quite so long...

Mama's Kindness 5

Oh, what a perfunctory postcript for Papa!

Mama's Kindness 6

And so, we close the book on filial gratitude for another century and more...

Mama's Kindness
Tags: family history
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