Once Upon New Times

Come see tales transformed at “Once Upon New Times: Reimagining Children’s Classics,” currently on display at the Cotsen Children’s Library! Curated as a companion to the larger exhibit in the Milberg Gallery of Firestone Library, each item offers a different perspective on a cherished classic. From highly imaginative physical transformations to diverse adaptations, we hope you enjoy these selections from the Cotsen collections, curated by Andrea Immel, Dana Sheridan, and Katie Zondlo. We have a few items to share below…

Katie and I were especially delighted that LEGO’s “Once Upon a Brick” Pop-Up Book made it in the exhibit! Originally posted on the blog here, this set not only renders “Jack and the Beanstalk” in 3D, the pop-up mechanism delights visitors both young and young-at-heart.

LEGO. Once Upon A Brick: Pop-Up Books. Ideas No. 21315 (The LEGO Group, 2018). Jason Allemann and Grant Davis (LEGO Ideas member submitters), Wesley Talbott and Crystal Marie Fontan (LEGO designers/graphics).

Visitors can also take a look at a kamishibai version of Alice in Wonderland, which includes a red-dressed Alice and a white rabbit in snappy pinstriped trousers. Those unfamiliar with the Japanese performance art of kamishibai can learn more here.

Takahashi Gozan, adaptor. Fushigi no kuni no Arisu-chan. Illustrated by Seiichi Yuno. (Tokyo: Nihon Kamishibai Gento Kabushiki Kaisha, Shōwa 27, 1952). Cotsen Children’s Library, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Also featured is the gorgeous book The Singing Bones by multiple award winning, and New York Times bestselling, author, illustrator, artist, and filmmaker, Shaun Tan. Masterfully rendered, the book distills classic fairy tales down to a single page (or sometimes a paragraph!) and represents it with a powerfully elemental sculpture. You can hear Tan discuss it, as well as his other books, here.

Shaun Tan, reteller/illustrator. The Singing Bones: Inspired by Grimms’ Fairy Tales. (New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016). Cotsen Children’s Library, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

I’ll also share this humorous 1939 pamphlet from General Electric Company titled “Mrs. Cinderella.” Here the story of Cinderella is retold using General Electric products (while also thwarting goblins messing with getting dinner prepared for her happily ever after). You can read more about this particular item in Andrea Immel’s excellent post on Cotsen’s Curatorial blog.

Mrs. Cinderella. Illustrated by Corydon Bell. (New York: General Electric Co., 1939). Cotsen Children’s Library, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

“Once Upon New Times: Reimagining Children’s Classics” runs through March 2024. If you’re in the area, please come and visit! You will find directions and hours to Cotsen Children’s Library here, and we have some fun community programs and events coming up in connection with the exhibit (hint: think gingerbread architecture)!

In The Company of Good Books

Keep company with literary luminaries this fall! The Department of Special Collections at Princeton University Library invites you to “In the Company of Good Books: Shakespeare to Morrison,” currently on display in the Milberg Gallery of Firestone Library through December 10th.

In honor of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s First Folio of 1623, the exhibit showcases Princeton’s collection of English literature, and the readers and writers who celebrated English literature around the world. Curators Jennifer Garcon, Librarian for Modern and Contemporary Special Collections, Gabriel Swift, Librarian for American Collections, and Eric White, Scheide Librarian & Assistant University Librarian for Special Collections, Rare Books & Manuscripts, have selected some true treasures.

In addition to William Shakespeare and Toni Morrison, you will find Maya Angelou, Sylvia Beach, George Lamming, James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Carlos Bolusan, Lorraine Hansberry, Chinua Achebe, Virginia Woolf, and others! Visitors can peruse working manuscripts, archives, original cover art, portraits, and charming inscriptions, including James Baldwin’s personal copy of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, signed by the author.

Maya Angelou (1928–2014). I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House, 1969.

We at the Cotsen Children’s Library are always on the lookout for children’s literary connections, and we found a couple amazing ones in this exhibit! First is one of three tiny manuscripts by Charlotte Bronte. Written when she was a youth, these juvenalia concern the fictional African kingdom of Angria, and are penned on pages bound with blue Epsom salt wrappers. To give you an idea of size, and how minuscule Bronte’s handwriting is, the bound volume on the left is only about 3.5″ tall!

Also in the exhibit are the manuscript notes, sketchbooks, and original storage case of Maria Edgeworth, a prolific novelist for both adults and young readers.

An early edition of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is displayed, which reminded me of this very interesting fact. When she was only twelve or thirteen, Austen penned The Beautifull Cassandra: A Novel in Twelve Chapters, a tiny work of 465 words total. The Princeton University Press offers a delightful version, with an afterword by Princeton faculty Claudia L. Johnson and artwork by Leon Steinmetz.

Readers might not be aware that Morrison made significant contributions to children’s literature as well. Collaborating with Slade Morrison, mother and son authored nine books for children. These delightful tales were displayed in Cotsen’s previous exhibit, “They’ve Got Game: The Children’s Books of Toni & Slade Morrison.”

montage round 2 If you are interested in learning more about the exhibit, you will find a digital companion  here, and a fantastic Zoom panel with the book’s illustrators here. We also hosted a connected community gallery event this spring, which you can find here.

From now to December 10th, please plan to visit “In the Company of Good Books” in Princeton! It is truly monumental. Not able to visit in person? No problem! Virtual guests can find the exhibit here.

A Piranesi-Inspired Picnic

No need for a basket, this little picnic folds right up into a book! Unfurl your picnic blanket, pull your food from the built-in pockets, and you have yourself a feast with friends!

The inspiration for this project comes from a rather unusual source – a Princeton University Library Special Collections exhibit entitled “Piranesi on the Page.” It details the work of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the foremost printmaker in 18th-century Europe. Originally seeking to be an architect, Piranesi eventually turned to printmaking and experimented with the architecture of books, innovating on the concept of what a book can be.

An example of this is Ichographia, Campo Marzio dell’antica Roma, created in Rome in 1762. Below you can see a huge map of the Campo Marzio, the ancient district of Rome used as a military training ground.

But what you can’t see at first glance is that this map is also part of a book! The photo was difficult to capture what we me crouching, the low lighting, and a highly reflective case, but hopefully you can see the open book below and how the map extends from it!

Amazing, right? It got me thinking of a huge page unfolding from a book…maps…the great outdoors…picnics…picnic blankets…aha! Today, we bring you…the picnic book!

You’ll need:

  • 1 sheet of posterboard
  • Wrapping paper
  • 1 craft tie or pipe cleaner
  • A set of picnic set templates, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ cardstock
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

First, prepare the cover of your book. Fold an 11″ x 36″ piece of posterboard in half to create a cover, then tape or glue two, 4.5″ x 7.5″ pockets to the inside.

Now for the picnic blanket page! Begin with a 25″ x 31.5″ piece of wrapping paper, laid out flat, design side up…

Fold the right and left sides of the wrapping paper inwards, meeting in the center (apologies for the masking tape rolls…the wrapping paper wouldn’t stay flat for the photo!).

Next fold the top and bottom upwards and downwards, meeting in the center.

Finally, fold the wrapping paper in half, to the right, so it fits inside the book’s cover like a page…

To attach the page to the book cover, use scissors to cut 2 small slits, each about 1″ from the top and bottom of the cover. Make sure to cut through both the cover and the pages!

Now unfold the picnic page, located the slits, and thread the ends of a craft tie or pipe cleaner through both.

Refold the picnic page, close the cover, and locate the two ends of the craft tie. Tab them sharply to the spine of the book cover, and reinforce the connection with tape.

Print as many picnic place settings as you would like from the template, then color and cut them out. Slide them into the pockets of your book.

Add a title to the front of your book, tuck it under you arm, and head out for a picnic with your favorite friends or stuffed animals!

If you’re feeling extra creative and Piranesi-inspired, instead of having a picnic blanket with a wrapping paper design, flip it over to the blank side and draw a map leading to your favorite picnic spot or literary landscape!