The 2016 Chinese New Year began on Monday, February 8th. The year of the monkey! To celebrate, we’ve prepared a short post featuring monkey bindings. These are not a type of binding that you can hang from a branch by their tail bands. Nor should you attempt to feed one fruits, nuts, or insects of any kind, particularly book worms. Rather, they feature monkeys as a theme. Monkey bindings are quite scarce in the American Trade Bindings Collection, but what we have we now offer in celebration of the Year of the Monkey.
|New York: L.C. Page & Co., 1900|
This children’s story is an autobiography of Dago, told by himself to “the mirror-monkey” (his reflection). The illustrations are by Etheldred Breeze Barry (born 1870), a prolific illustrator of children’s books including many by Annie Johnston. The cover design shows Dago holding a vase which, along with the monkey’s paw and tail emerge from the central frame. The inks used on the binding can vary in different copies, but the really interesting variation is that on an unknown number of copies the title lettering has an almost unnoticeable addition: a small cross stroke below the crossbar of the “H” in “THE.” Here’s a rendering of what I mean:
In this way a monogram is partly hidden within a title letter. The monogram in this case is “FH” for Frank Hazenplug (1874-1931), who changed his name in 1911 to Frank Hazen. We’ll have more to say about him in a later post. This copy does not have the monogram in the title letter nor does any image that I found, but I have seen the variation on a copy. The cover design was also used on the British edition of 1902, published by the London firm Jarrold & Sons Ltd.
I also must mention that the ornament at the head of the contents page:
is by Amy Sacker (1872-1965), who was a well-known and prolific binding designer. Our colleague, Mark Schumacher, details the widespread use of this engraving on his Amy Sacker website.
By placing an enlargement of the decorated part of the cover next to the frontispiece we can see some interesting differences.
Obviously the illustration has been greatly simplified, omitting everything except Adam chiseling the face of a woman on a slab (and covering her own eyes) while two monkeys watch. So no Eve; no smiling pelican, lion, tiger, or snake; no squirrel perched on the slab, or turtle, or frog sitting on another drawing; no supporting wall against which the slab rests--which makes the cover image look unsettlingly like a tombstone. What Adam has acquired though is a fine leafy smock, although he is naked in the illustration. In addition, a large chunk of Adam is missing from his upper thighs to his waist (presumably obscured by the seven blades of grass). A strange red swatch is also added around the leaf smock and under his arm, possibly to hold the leaf smock on, although it makes him look more like a Christmas tree tied to the top of a car. Thus chastely emended, Adam chisels on…
I could accept the illustration’s Adam and Eve producing Cain and Abel, but I have my doubts about the cover Adam. We don’t know who was responsible for this modest proposal, but I would be very surprised if it were the artist. It seems much more likely that the art department at Harper had a simplified die made expressly for the cover. For this reason, our description states that the cover is after the Strothmann illustration and it does not give a binding designer.
The third title is actually from my own collection, but there’s just too much monkey on this one to pass up.
|New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1898|
The pictorial cover of the book was designed by George Wharton Edwards (1859-1950). He was known for his impressionist paintings and as an illustrator. He also designed book covers and in the 1910s wrote, illustrated, and provided cover designs for a series of travel books, many of which were issued by the Penn Publishing Company of Philadelphia. Somewhat older than most of the cover designers we have discussed, he is often not included among the great designers of the 1890s and 1900s. A selection of his work can be seen at our American Publishers’ Trade Bindings site. You can identify his bindings by his monogram, several versions of which are reproduced below.
|George Wharton Edwards, from Wikipedia|
The British edition of this book was published by Hodder and Stoughton, also in 1898, but with a very different cover(1). This edition features a design after one of the illustrations by Louis Wain (1860-1939)(2). Wain was an enormously popular English artist chiefly known for his humorous illustrations of anthropomorphic cats with large eyes engaged in human behaviors and situations. He often dressed them in clothes, from bowler hats and bow ties to full suits and dresses. The cover is based on the illustration on page 21 in which Tricky goes on a painting frenzy aboard the ship Vulcan, at the beginning of which he paints the ship’s parrot. Did I mention that Tricky/Gum is continually up to various sorts of mischief?
|London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1898|
And finally, because you’ll need a place to keep all these monkeys, we offer the following:
A Box of Monkeys and Other Farce-Comedies, by Grace Livingston Furniss. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1905.
1) Images from the copy held by the Baldwin Library, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
2) Louis Wain led a difficult life. He spent his later years in various mental institutions, possibly afflicted with schizophrenia. This youtube video shows a progression of drawings, roughly before and after he was institutionalized.