Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Wash-and-Wear Books

Here's a book that gets right down to basics. No hardcover binding, no text. It's a cloth book and its title is (what else?) CLOTH BOOK.

Published by Holiday House in 1939, it's illustrated by future Caldecott-winner Leonard Weisgard. Each page features brightly colored objects that toddlers can point at and identify: a cup, a fork, a spoon, a clock, a house, a tree, a broom.

Although not stated explicitly, this volume deals only with objects. Later volumes (and there appear to be at least five books in this series) feature animals (illustrated by Glen Rounds), vehicles (Leonard Weisgard) and food (Glen Rounds.)

I do not know what type of cloth was used here nor do I know how the pictures were reproduced. All I can say is that the book was well manufactured; sixty-nine years after publication the stitched binding remains strong and the illustrations are brilliant and bold.

Whenever I find something new like this (well it's OLD...but new to me) I realize how much I still have to learn about the history of children's books. Did cloth books originate with homemade books made from scrap material? Were these Holiday House volumes the first to be commercially produced or were there others before them? How were they designed and manufactured? Do people collect them and are they considered valuable?

I obviously have a lot of research to do on this matter.

In the meantime, I have an idea for a new assignment on Project Runway.

1 comment:

Brooke said...

Anne Pellowski wrote a book called "Making Cloth Books for Children" in the 1980s. It includes, in addition to instructions on making cloth books, a brief history of "rag books," as well as a bibliography of more on the subject. Just something to get you started!

By the way-- I loved your post on A CLAMOR OF CHILDREN. :-)

When I first heard that the book was originally to be publised in 2005 "with a different illustrator," I immediately suspected that Hyman was the first choice. Oh, for what might have been!