Saturday, July 23, 2022

Endpapers of 1915's "The Brownies and the Goblins"

OK, let's see if I remember how to do this. The 17 indoor cats are fed, as is Tales of the Big Boi, one of the three outdoor cats we take care of...

Pictured are the dandy front and back endpapers for the 1915 hardcover The Brownies and the Goblins, which was published by Grosset & Dunlap. It was written by the brother-sister team of Nathaniel Moore Banta (1867-1932), who is listed on the title page as N. Moore Banta, and Alpha Banta Benson (1870-1922). In the preface, the authors state that their aim was to write a book that children would actually be interested in reading, thus encouraging young readers: "Too many lessons in the average school reader are dry and uninteresting in the extreme. ... It is therefore, small wonder that the child shows little, if any, interest in the ordinary reading lesson."

Nathaniel Moore Banta worked as an educator (teacher and administrator) for 16 years, according to the Arlington Heights Historical Museum. It adds: "He was an author of 27 books, including the 'Brownie Books' for children and many books about nature and bird life. His first book The Brownie Primer was published in 1905. These books were widely used as supplemental texts in area schools."

Chapters titles in The Brownies and the Goblins include "The Brownies' Banquet," "A Trip to the Moon," "A Pain in the Sawdust" and "The Jewels." 

In a 2013 interview published on the website Dread Central, author James Blaylock talks about how this book was one of his inspirations:
"There’s a book that I grew up with that had belonged to my mother, titled The Brownies and the Goblins, written and illustrated by N.M. Banta, in which a group of brownies and goblins go on a travel excursion to the moon in a wooden, open air omnibus thing. They fall in with the Man in the Moon, who is very nearly blind from watching the sun instead of watching the stars. Our heroes give him a pair of fairy spectacles, which fit him despite his enormous head, and he’s so overjoyed that he makes a solemn promise to visit Earth some day carrying a vast treasure that he’ll give away to poor people. He sends them off with pockets full of diamonds. It’s a good bet that I was genially infected by that story, and especially by the illustrations of flying machines, magic spectacles, and heaps of treasure on the moon. In other words, my attraction to the fantastic is a cosmic conspiracy abetted by my mother, who followed up The Brownies and the Goblins with books by Verne and Wells and Conan Doyle and Edgar Rice Burroughs. By the time I was fourteen-years-old, the die was cast."

What a wonderful memory of how books serve as inspiration across generations and build upon each other! But I had a question about one detail he noted. Was Nathaniel Moore Banta the illustrator of this book? No illustrator is credited. Looking through the interior illustrations and deploying my grandmother's magnifying glass (which I need more and more often), I found an illustration signed as what appears to be Dorothy OR. Aniol. And, indeed, there was a Dorothy O'Reilly Aniol who was illustrating books during this era. So I think we have our answer. Two other illustrations are signed D. OR. A., including the lower-right corner of the back endpapers, if you look closely. That seems to be the only credit she received.

Affixed to the back endpapers is a book label for Hudson's BookShop in Detroit. I'll leave you with this sweet passage about random acts of kindness from the book:

"All day long they canned blackberries and made blackberry jam. They made blackberry pie for dinner. The Goblins liked this so well and ate it so heartily, they had to wipe blackberry juice from both sides of their mouths. That night the Goblins helped the Brownies carry berries to a score of old ladies who were too old and feeble to go berrying. It was great fun to slip into these old ladies' kitchens and leave the berries. How surprised and delighted these dear old people would be when they found these treats the next morning."

I literally do not know if this is Panda or Toffee; I have trouble telling those two apart.

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