Alphabet Soup

This morning I was looking for an image from our collection to relate to the Cranbrook Art Museum’s newest exhibition “Read Image, See Text” to post on our Facebook page. I would hazard a guess to say that most, if not all, archivists love books almost as much as historic documents.  Though archives usually do not seek to collect books, and certainly are not lending libraries, books can often comprise part of a collection. So my search for a single image led me to think about the range of books we have in our collection.

The first was written by William O. Stevens, nearly 25 years before he became the first headmaster of Cranbrook School.  After receiving his doctorate at Yale, Stevens taught English at the U.S. Naval Academy for 21 years. The book, which satirized early 20th century Annapolis using twenty-six limericks and illustrations, became an instant success. Find out why it also became controversial.

William O. Stevens, An Annapolis Alphabet: Pictures and Limericks (Baltimore: The Lord Baltimore Press, 1906).

William O. Stevens, An Annapolis Alphabet: Pictures and Limericks (Baltimore: The Lord Baltimore Press, 1906).

The first edition poetry book below illustrates beautiful text and the tooled binding of the times. It is inscribed: “Ellen W. Scripps, a Christmas present from her Father [James E. Scripps], Detroit 1879.” The editor of the compilation, Henry T. Coates joined the publishing firm of Davis & Porter in 1966; Davis retired the following year and the company became Porter & Coates which became famous for creating Home and Garden magazine and publishing the Horatio Alger Junior titles.

Henry T. Coates (ed.), The Children’s Book of Poetry: carefully selected from the works of the best and most popular writers for children. (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1879).

Henry T. Coates (ed.), The Children’s Book of Poetry: carefully selected from the works of the best and most popular writers for children. (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1879).

Gustaf Strengell, the father of Cranbrook’s textile designer Marianne Strengell, composed and designed this handwritten analysis of the Swedish poet’s writings as part of his graduate thesis. Franz Michael Franzén’s (1772-1847) work expressed the romantic conception of nature as both idyllic and divine, and was influential in the development of Finnish poetry.

Gustaf Strengell., Franzén. (Helsinki, unpublished, 1898)

Gustaf Strengell, Franzén. (Helsinki, unpublished, 1898)

For a really great blog post about related collections, see: Graphic Arts Collection, Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

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