A Priceless Little Doodle

006405What do you do with one of the most important books in the history of the English language? Well, if you’re Miss Elizabeth Okell, you do a little creative doodling on its pages.

The image above is from the First Folio (officially titled Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies). Published in 1623, the First Folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s work. Its significance to the world is monumental. Shakespeare’s plays were written to be performed, and many were not published in his lifetime. It’s only through the First Folio that we were able to learn of plays like Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, and As You Like It. The Folger has 82 copies of the First Folio, by far the largest collection in the world (currently, just 233 copies are known to exist).

This particular First Folio bears the inscription “Elizabeth Okell her Book 1729,” on one of its pages. It was a family treasure passed down through the generations from 1630 to the late 1800’s. While it’s not entirely clear if Elizabeth made the doodles herself, someone did it. I especially like this one. It appears to be some chairs and a table with paintings on the wall. Maybe it’s a room? Maybe it’s a stage set?

first folio detailOh, and did I mention that the First Folio is worth 5 to 6 million dollars? Yup. That’s an expensive little drawing pad. I saw this First Folio and other absolutely amazing treasures during a visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.

008928The Folger is the world’s greatest collection of Shakespeare materials. It also has major collections of Renaissance books, manuscripts, and works of art. Take a look at the library’s exhibit space, The Great Hall (which is open to the public and requires no admission fee):

2013-10-01 10.33.45And here’s an image of one of their reading rooms. Specifically, this is the Gail Kern Paster Reading Room. See the huge table in the foreground? It’s from the 17th century (and I got to pet it).

054568My absolutely favorite part of the Folger, however, is its theater.

FSL Interior: Folger Theatre View CWalking into the theater is like walking into a gorgeous, wood-paneled dream. It’s a beautiful acknowledgement that Shakespeare is meant to be acted, seen, heard, and felt. In fact, the Folger’s collections, its exhibitions, and its theater form the perfect trinity. Preservation of, education about, and devotion to the works of Shakespeare.

Not surprisingly, the Folger also has a stupendous Education Department, with a full roster of community, school, and teacher education programs. In 2016, the Folger is launching First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, an ambitious traveling exhibit that will take the First Folio to all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. In addition to the exhibit, the host sites (which include 23 museums, 20 universities, 5 public libraries, 3 historical societies, and 1 theater) will offer free educational programs and related events for the general public and families. It’s a huge undertaking, which is being deftly directed by Maribeth Cote, the Public Engagement Coordinator.

I asked Maribeth to give me a Shakespeare quote that describes her feelings about her endeavor, and she gamely stepped up to the plate:

“O, sir, you had then left unseen a wonderful piece of work, which not to have been blest withal would have discredited your travel.”

Antony and Cleopatra – 1.2.169

First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and by the generous support of Google.org and Vinton and Sigrid Cerf. The exhibition is a partnership between the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Cincinnati Museums Center, and the American Library Association.

All images courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library.


mona lisaLadies and gentleman, we have Instagram.

Indeed! If you scroll down the right-hand column of this page, you’ll see that we have a brand new Instagram widget. You’ll find behind-the-scenes photos, outtakes, previews of things to come, interesting things we spot while adventuring, and a healthy hodgepodge of somewhat amusing miscellany.

You might recognize the army of rabbits from this post, and the fairy godmother from this post. The show ribbon straightening tip is from this post. The plastic egg with the screw in it…well…it will have to remain a mystery for the time being…

Postscript: Doh! Some of the Instagram images are a bit blurry! Apparently, it’s an upload glitch. See what happens when you take Monday off? It comes back to bite you on Friday!

Amazing Space

amazing spaceThis summer, I had the pleasure of traveling to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art  to do a program in their lovely, lovely Art Studio. The program was a version of the Cars and Trucks and Things that Go event we had at my library last spring.

Located in Amherst, Massachusetts, the Carle Museum was founded in 2002 by Eric and Barbara Carle. The museum was created to honor picture books, both as works of art and for their educational value. The Carle’s heartfelt mission is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. The museum has an international collection of picture books and picture book illustrations, beautiful exhibition galleries, scores of educational workshops, public programs, a bookstore, and a library.

It also has an amazing, hands-on, all-ages Art Studio.

The first thing you notice when you enter the studio is that one wall consists entirely of windows, flooding the space with beautiful, natural light. The ceilings are very high, giving the room an open, airy feeling.

studio 1The studio seamlessly combines areas for artists of all ages. For very young children, there’s this area with a low table. On the day I visited, it was stocked with paper, crayons, and interesting objects to trace. Learning toys were heaped in big, bright containers on a comfy rug.

toddler artOn another wall of the studio is this fun activity panel at toddler height.

activity panelNearby is a light table with transparent color shapes to discover and arrange!

light tableScores of studio tables, chairs, and art supplies stand ready for you to embark on artistic adventures. There’s always a project (or two) for you to try.

studiostudio 2windowsHigh above are colorful mobiles. Here’s my favorite:

mobilesScattered here and there are clever book displays to reinforce art and literacy connections. I was especially drawn to this one. The stuffed duck! The bright blue eggs!

duckAt the far end of the studio is a well-stocked resource library (the museum also has a reading and research library in a different area of the building). Awesome textured artwork on the wall, yes? Don’t you just want to pet it?

resource shelvesIn the center of the studio are cabinets. The storage, oh the storage! Tons of counter space. Three sinks! My crafting heart goes pitter pat, pitter pat! On the top right of the cabinets are the adorable animal creations that started off this post (I especially love the elephant with the milk lid feet).

cabinets and sinks And while we’re on the subject of storage, may I draw your attention to this devilishly clever use of a low table? Not only does it offer another layer of table space, it allows even the smallest child an opportunity to browse the art materials. Practical and thoughtful!

clever little tableHere’s the low table all loaded up for the Cars & Trucks program (and there was still room for storage boxes underneath). I’m totally going to do this at my next event!

art supply tableAs you can imagine, Mr. Frumble and I had a fantastic time at the Cars & Trucks program. You can read about it (and see fantastic photos) here! A huge shout out to Meghan Burch, Guided Art Programs Educator, for welcoming Cotsen and making the program possible. Another big thank you to Studio interns Hannah Pancione and Beth Caronna for their enthusiastic energy and mad car creating skills! It was an amazing day in an amazing space.

mr frumble at the carleThe Carle Art Studio has a fantastic blog if you’re looking for hands-on ideas, programs, or if you just want to be blown away by their creativity. I especially enjoyed this post on mixing art and science. You should also check out their snow stencils, handmade paint brushes from natural materials, magazine paper tree, window art color wheel, super cool pasta machine printing press, and decorative post-it wall that doubles as a written memory project!

In addition to making a delightful, creative mess in the Carle’s Art Studio this summer, the Cotsen Children’s Library is a recipient of a 2015 Carle Honor!  For more information, and to see the other honorees, please click here.