While browsing the amazing and often confounding Flickr Commons, I was entranced by a collection of late 19th century book covers from the British Library. The majority of the nearly 900 covers are “pulp novels,” but you’ll also find travel books, text books, and other miscellany. Last month I shared a batch of six vintage book covers, and this post has six more in the image gallery that have interesting art or a lurid title. (Click any one of the images to expand the image and navigate through the collection.)
Thackerayana has too many enchanting sketches to be limited to a single post of Thackeray sketches, so I’m highlighting ten more sketches (this time as a “slider,” instead of a tiled gallery). In the gallery you’ll find struggles with umbrellas, fencing vegetables, dancers, and more.
I want to highlight one of the sketches, which I call “big hair.” To accompany the drawing, Thackerayana has a long quote from a publication called the ‘World’ on May 3, 1753, which I assume held the big hair sketch in its margins. It’s a conversation between a father, mother and daughter about hair styling:
“But how do you like my pompon, papa?” continued my daughter; “Is it not a charming one? I think it is prettier than mamma’s.”
“It may, child, for anything that I know; because I do not know what part of all this frippery thy pompon is.” [said papa]
“It is this, papa,” replied the girl, putting up her hand to her head, and showing me in the middle of her hair a complication of shreds and rags of velvets, feathers, and ribands, stuck with false stones of a thousand colours, and placed awry.
“But what hast thou done to thy hair, child, and why is it blue? Is that painted, too, by the same eminent hand that coloured thy cheeks?”
“Indeed, papa,” answered the girl, “as I told you before, there is no painting in the case; but what gives my hair that bluish cast is the grey powder, which has always that effect on dark-coloured hair, and sets off the complexion wonderfully.”
“Grey powder, child!” said I, with some surprise; “grey hairs I knew were venerable; but till this moment I never knew they were genteel.”
“Extremely so, with some complexions,” said my wife; “but it does not suit with mine, and I never use it.”
Thackerayana: Notes and Anecdotes, illustrated by nearly six hundred sketches by William Makepeace Thackeray, depicting humorous incidents in his school life, and favourite scenes and characters in the books of his every-day reading, by Joseph Grego, published by Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly (London), 1875. Full text at Archive.org. No known copyright restrictions.
On my journeys through the amazing Flickr Commons, one of the more exciting finds is a collection of late 19th century book covers from the British Library. The nearly 900 covers are primarily what we today call “pulp novels” written for the mass market, but there are also travel books, text books, and other miscellany. In the image gallery in this post, I’ve included some of my favorites, covers with interesting art or a lurid title — “Her Bitter Awakening” is a special favorite right now. (Click any one of the images to expand the image and navigate through the collection.)
I’d love to read “Seth Slocum, Railroad Surveyor, or the Secret of Sitting Bull” — how often do you see an adventure story about a surveyor, an important but not glamorous job? I suspect that the story is about a surveyor working in the western territories who gets mixed up in conflicts between settlers and Native Americans. Unfortunately, the book is available as a PDF download and the text quality is rather poor, as the screenshot of two pages from the digitization below show. It would not be easy to read this book on a computer or mobile device. (But here’s something worth trying: use Acrobat Pro to extract the Seth Slocum part of the PDF as images, then use an image editor to sharpen the text.)
While searching for something or other in Flickr Commons, the wave of images included some attractive sketches of people struggling with umbrellas in a storm, elegantly attired dancers, and various other everyday happenings. I soon discovered that they were from Thackerayana: Notes and Anecdotes, a book published in 1875. The book is tribute to William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863), a writer known for the novels Vanity Fair and The Luck of Barry Lyndon (this was the foundation for Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 film Barry Lyndon).
The 500+ page book highlights Thackeray’s skill as an artist — he was a master of caricature and the quick sketch — by pairing facsimiles of drawings found in the margins of books in his library with relevant writing (sometimes the text near his drawings, sometimes text relevant to the drawing). His drawings can be charming and inventive, and the gallery above shows some of my favorites. The images could make a fun coloring book.
[Click “Continue Reading” to see an image gallery.]