Friday, March 16, 2012

Five neat old illustrations with no documentation

Within the Otto ephemera warehouse, there are many loose and detached papers that have long been separated from their original sources -- usually a book or magazine.

The papers were torn out or cut out and placed in drawers or boxes for decades, until they resurfaced. Most probably ended up in the trash after all those years. But some found their way into odd lots at flea markets, yard sales and auctions, waiting to be snatched up by someone whose friend or spouse would stand nearby and say, "You're going to buy that?"

Yep, that's what we do here at Papergreat. No piece of paper is a lost cause.

Submitted for you inspection today are five illustrations that come with no context or indication of their original source. Mystery illustrations. We can enjoy them for what they are, comment on them, or perhaps even find someone out there who can help us identify them.


No. 1 -- Boy hawking newspapers: I think my friends in journalism will like this old piece. It's actually a carefully done cut-out of a boy selling copies of The Morning Herald. At some point, he unfortunately lost his right foot.

No. 2 -- Crying woman and suspicious man: These next two illustrations are actually two sides of the same detached page. And they couldn't be more different. In this one, a woman is crying and leaning against her bed while a questionable individual peers in the window at her. Is he sad? Dangerous? Up to some shenanigans? Meanwhile, this is the only one of today's illustrations that offers some clue as to the artist's identity. The mark in the lower-left corner appears to be some sort of initials -- A.R.? F.R.?

No. 3 -- Dobbin's Bath: This colorful illustration, on the opposite side of the previous picture, shows a young girl diligently cleaning a wooden toy horse on wheels, while an unfortunately dressed young boy looks on from the doorway. Dobbin, presumably, is the name of the toy horse.1

No. 4 -- Woman and child: Here's a woman of great wealth holding her young daughter on her lap. The child has a lot of hair. That's all I have.

No. 5 -- Watching the boats: Here is another woman with her young daughter -- from a decidedly different social strata than the previous pair. They are sitting near the shore, watching the boats. Are the boats coming in or heading out? Is this shortly after sunrise or shortly before sunset? Sunset would be my guess, but is there anything that definitively tells us that?

When I was getting these five unsourced illustrations to post on the blog today, I had no plans or intention of finding a theme between any of them. But, now that I'm writing about, it's certainly interesting to compare and contrast these last two mother-and-child illustrations:

1. Here's an interesting etymological footnote regarding the name Dobbin, courtesy of Wikipedia's entry for hobby horse (toy):
The word hobby is glossed by the OED as "a small or middle-sized horse; an ambling or pacing horse; a pony." The word is attested in English from the 14th century, as Middle English hobyn. Old French had hobin or haubby, whence Modern French aubin and Italian ubino. But the Old French term is apparently adopted from English rather than vice versa. OED connects it to "the by-name Hobin, Hobby", a variant of Robin" (compare the abbreviation Hob for Robert). This appears to have been a name customarily given to a cart-horse, as attested by White Kennett in his Parochial Antiquities (1695), who stated that "Our ploughmen to some one of their cart-horses generally give the name of Hobin, the very word which Phil. Comines uses, Hist. VI. vii." Another familiar form of the same Christian name, Dobbin has also become a generic name for a cart-horse.


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  2. I have a piece, water-damaged, with the same initials in the bottom left hand corner.