Friday, June 19, 2015

Robin Jacques illustrations for "Some Adventures of a Brownie"

This is Robin Jacques' lead illustration for "Some Adventures of a Brownie," which appears in Volume 14 of Nelson Doubleday's mid-century "Best in Children's Books" series.1

In all, Jacques — well-known for his distinctive stippling-technique artwork and his long period of collaboration with Ruth Manning-Sanders — contributed 19 illustrations to "Some Adventures of a Brownie." Not all of them are in full color like the one above, which is probably the most beautiful of the bunch.

The tale was written by Dinah Maria Mulock (1826-1887), who was known for her novels and poetry. Mulock had an extensive bibliography, but her career had its ups and downs. According to Wikipedia, several of her books were "of inferior merit," "inferior in every respect," and "of no great account." Ouch.

Still, Mulock shows a nice touch in "Some Adventures of a Brownie." Further, her style with this kind of children's written, with its read-aloud quality, reminds me of Manning-Sanders' work, almost to the extent that I wonder if Manning-Sanders (1886-1988) was influenced by Mulock's writing during her youth. The timing would have been right, as Mulock would have still been widely read and in print.

Here's the opening passage of "Some Adventures of a Brownie":
"There was once a little Brownie who lived — where do you think he lived? — in a coal cellar.

"Now a coal cellar may seem a most curious place to live in, but then a Brownie is a curious creature — a fairy, an yet not one of that sort of fairies who fly about on gossamer wings, and dance in the moonlight, and so on. He never dances, and as to wings, what use would they be to him in a coal cellar? He is a sober, stay-at-home, household elf — nothing much to look at, even if you did see him, which you are not likely to do — only a little old man, about a foot high, all dressed in brown, with a brown face and hands, and brown peaked cap. He is just the color of a brown mouse, and like a mouse, he hides in corners — especially kitchen corners. He usually comes out after dark when nobody is about, so sometimes people call him Mr. Nobody.

"I may as well tell you the adventures of a particular Brownie, who belonged to a family in Devonshire, a family he had followed from house to house most faithfully for years and years."

Read the full adventures of Mr. Nobody, if you wish, at (Warning: The illustrations of the Brownie in that earlier edition are much creepier.)

Long footnote
1. "Best in Children's Books" was a 42-volume series published by Nelson Doubleday Inc. between 1957 and 1961, according to an in-depth post on Rare Books Digest. While spanning a wide range of historically important children's literature, the series is most collectible now because of the illustrators it employed to do original artwork for the various volumes. The artists included Richard Scarry, Andy Warhol, Leonard Kessler and Maurice Sendak. It appears that Robin Jacques provided illustrations for at least two other books in the series, too. According to Rare Books Digest:
"Several of the books are now considered collector’s items and have become hard to find, especially if quality is desirable. They are indeed rare books. Most of the volumes available are either missing their attractive dust jacket or have some other significant limitation such as stains, tears or writing, so the drive to complete a full set has now become a popular undertaking for a great deal of collectors, who have exhausted the easy picks from the market."
I come across the books regularly at book sales, but never in better than fair condition and I have yet to see one with its original dust jacket. They probably wouldn't have piqued my interest at all, if I hadn't leafed through one and happened upon the Jacques illustrations. The other selections in this Volume 14 include:
  • "Robert E. Lee," by Smith Burnham
  • "Wait for William," by Marjorie Flack
  • "The Old Woman and Her Pig"
  • "The True Book of Dinosaurs," by Mary Lou Clark
  • "Tell Me Why," by Ellen Wales Walpole
  • "Let's Visit Scotland"

Monday, June 15, 2015

From the readers: Rover Boys, stamps, school memories and more

It's time for another "mailbag" from the home office in York, Pennsylvania. As always, these are actual comments from actual readers of Papergreat. (If I was making them up, that would be just about the saddest thing ever, don't you think?)

Selections from the 1967 Top Value Stamps catalog: There were two new comments on this post:
  • Sharon writes: "Has anyone found where to redeem their stamp books? Really interested. Would love to know. I ended up on this site because I was researching an ancient looking Cynthia Mills mending thread pack I found in my Aunt Margie's sewing stuff. It dates back to the '30s or 40s. I am amazed at how old this stuff has gotten in my lifetime. About 30 years ago, I would have thrown things like this away. Now I treasure them."
  • Anonymous writes: "I just acquired 15 books of Top Value stamps and I cant find where to redeem them. Green stamps wont accept them. Any ideas?"
There are probably people out there with more information and, if so, please add a note in the Comments below or email me at Here's what I know. The most popular kind of trading stamps, S&H Green Stamps, can still be redeemed, for greenpoints. For a time, S&H also gave out greenpoints for Top Value stamps, but ceased that practice in 2010.

I am not aware of any current company that redeems Top Value stamps. If you want a make a few bucks (literally) off them, however, one suggestion would be to sell them on eBay, as some people collect them. (People collecting old paper — imagine that!)

The Rover Boys at Big Horn Ranch: Angela Kenney writes: "I have a hardback copy of The Rover Boys at Big Horn Ranch. Do you know how I can find out the value of this book?"

We would need to know the book's condition and whether the dust jacket is still intact and what condition it's in. This is not, however, considered a rare volume. If there's no dust jacket, I'm guessing the most the book is worth is about $5. If it has an original dust jacket that's in nice condition, my guess is that it could increase the value to $20 to $30, but you might want to take it to a dealer who specializes in these kind of books.

1953 envelope from the Around-The-World Shoppers Club: Anonymous writes: "My mother belonged to that club. She got some AMAZING gifts, some of which I still have! One was a little perfume bottle, blue glass with silver overlay and a small funnel — perfume was inside. I often see it on eBay or in antique stores. I also remember a small blue Delft lamp from Holland. I wondered what had happened to the club. Thanks for the info!"

Peeking inside a circa-1940 Shippensburg High gradebook: An anonymous commenter wrote: "Just found this totally randomly while looking for a picture of the now-demolished school, which is where I went to JHS (a new high school had been built by then). Some 17 years after this gradebook was in use, Dr. Jack Hargleroad delivered me at Chambersburg Hospital. His classmate Dorothy Hubley was my elementary school principal, and several other people listed above were friends of my parents, who moved to town in the 50's and were professors at what is now Shippensburg University. Thanks for posting!"

A few hours later, the same commenter returned with additional information: "My sister just sent me a ref showing that 'Paggy' Wise's (nee Hargleroad) real first name was 'Pague.' I knew her as a JHS PE teacher and had always assumed it was 'Peg.' A quick check of a US first-names site lists just one living person with that first name."

I'm so happy when people find Papergreat posts through search and stumble upon a piece of their past. This commenter has added to the discussion/history with the information about Paggy/Pague. I would have never guessed that Pague was a first name. Sadly, I can also add that Pague Hargleroad Wise died in 2003 at age 79. Here's the obituary.

Snazzy 1960s postcard of a historic Chicago hotel: Anonymous writes: "Hi, I have a copy of this postcard. You can see it here The card is used and the message is interesting. Yoshi is was in Chicago and is traveling to LA, San Francisco and then Hawaii and Japan. He mailed it to a woman in Cincinnati and used a West Virginia stamp. I am fascinated by these little time travelers. Thanks for your interesting blog."

Saturday's postcard #1: Cute cotton girl in the South: Anonymous writes: "Ironic that it is a white girl 'picking' cotton. Don't imagine that happened much here in South Carolina."

Point taken.

Postcard: The Haunted Room in the Mint House, Pevensey: Messianic Light writes: "I have a possibly brass ashtray featuring Ye Olde Mint House and Merry Andrew with no idea how old it is or how much it may be worth. I also have a Pevensey Castle pamphlet reprinted 1951."

I hope Yuriy Sosnitskiy becomes a famous artist: Yuriy and Nataly reply: "Thank you, Chris, for such wonderful words!'

My pleasure! I hope that I can become one of your patrons some day!

Miniature photographs from 1930s New York City: Anonymous writes: "Very cool! I plan to use these to launch a reading inquiry unit about the 1930s with my class. Thanks!"

I'm thrilled to see Papergreat being used for educational purposes!