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Movable and Toy Books; Myths and Heroes. 0705: Anon., Frank Feignwell's Attempts to Amuse his Friends

Author: Anon.
Title: Frank Feignwell's attempts to amuse his friends on Twelfth Night. Exhibited in a series of characters
Cat. Number: 0705
Date: 1811
1st Edition:
Pub. Place: London
Publisher: S. and J. Fuller
Price: 6s coloured (from an advertisement on the outside back cover of Phoebe, The Cottage Maid, S. and J. Fuller, 1811)
Pages: 1 vol., 16pp.
Size: 13 x 9 cm
Illustrations: The illustrations are comprised of eight loose, headless figures. A separate, loose, paper head is to be slotted into each figure in turn. The head is missing.
Note: One hand-written page is added. The whole is bound by string and enclosed in a cardboard case. Inscription on title-page: 'Charlotte Morris / Feb.y 8th / 1811'.

Images of all pages of this book

Page 002 of item 0705

Introductory essay

The Hockliffe Collection contains three of S. and J. Fuller's early nineteenth century movable books, namely Frank Feignwell (0705) and two editions of The History of Little Fanny (the third of 1810, 0706, and the seventh of 1811, 0707). These books provide the reader with a narrative in verse and a small doll to be dressed in various paper costumes. The 'doll' is, in fact, nothing more than a paper head. A long paper tab extends beneath the head, which slides into each of the costumes. The idea was that as the story progressed, the book's user would change the doll's costume - that is to say slide the head into a new set of clothes, and add a new hat - to suit the protagonist's current adventure. Thus readers were able to create their own illustrations for their book. For an indication of how this works, see one of the costumes from 0707. For an animated, colour demonstration, see the website of the rare books collection of the University of Northern Texas: https://www.library.unt.edu/rarebooks/exhibits/popup2/fuller.htm.

Movable books of various kinds had been in existence for several centuries before they came to be used by children's publishers. Books with illustrations in levels, so that one layer could be lifted to remove a different image underneath, had been used to illustrate human anatomy as early as the fourteenth century. Rotating circles of paper pinned into books lent themselves well to accounts of astronomy (see Lindberg 1979 for accounts and images of both these kinds of movable book). However, it was only in the mid-eighteenth century that anyone first thought of applying these techniques to children's books. It was probably sometime in the 1760s that Robert Sayer first published his 'Harlequinades'. These sixpenny books (or a shilling coloured) featured flaps of paper which folded out to reveal a new set of images and verses which developed the narrative set out in the top layer, not unlike 0709 (see Haining 1979: 10-11).

The next major development was Fuller's doll-books. These contained an original text, were carefully hand-coloured, and each came in its own case. They were expensive therefore, selling for not less than five shillings - a substantial sum for any book, let alone a children's book of just 15 pages. They were probably designed primarily as gifts, something corroborated by inscriptions in the Hockliffe copies. The series began in 1810, and ten different titles were produced (Haining 1979: 14-15). The series was apparently a success, their title-pages claiming multiple editions within a year or two of their first publication. Yet publication does not seem to have extended beyond 1812, which is perhaps an indication that the affluent market at which they were aimed was a little too small to sustain profitability.

Whilst The History of Little Fanny, though a toy-book, can be positioned squarely in the tradition of the moral tale, Frank Feignwell's Attempts to Amuse his Friends is largely devoid of any overt didacticism or morality. It takes the form of a Christmas entertainment. Frank, the hero and the only character the reader comes across, is hosting an assembly of his friends on twelfth night. He has provided a cake for them (which we see on p.2), and has decided to entertain them by acting out, and dressing up for, seven different characters. The first is a King (text p.5, illustration p.17), which gives rise to some rather general patriotic statements. Next comes 'Rolla', a Peruvian hero and the king of the Incas in Pizarro, a play recently translated (from Kotzebue) and produced by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (text p.7, illustration p.14). Then comes a barber (text p.9, illustration p.4), Harlequin (text p.11, illustration p.10), a 'Scotchman' (text p.12, illustration p.3) and a 'Jew Pedlar' (text p.15, illustration p.15). The character of the Jew is written in a pastiche of a Jewish accent and ends with some fairly standard anti-semitism, the line 'Vid only tree bad shilling' suggesting that, although the products he sells might be cheap, the pedlar will swindle his customers by passing bad coins onto them. (p.16. The accent of the Scot, on the other hand, is hardly parodied, and he is praised for his (new-found) loyalty to the king - of England, Ireland and Scotland. Though he thinks of himself as a second William Wallace, the Scot acknowledges that 'Freedom reigns beneath a King / Whose laws are true and just; / I'll fight for him, and kingdoms three, / And conquer sure I must.' (p.14)

Interestingly, what follows is a seventh figure apparently added by hand - that is to say that a new verse section has been written, and a new illustration has been drawn, by the book's owners. This is the 'Midshipman', a middle rank in the Royal Navy. The inclusion of this character might well reflect the occupation of one of the owner's family members, an impression substantiated by the final line of verse, in which the sailor vows that he will 'ne'er bring disgrace on the clothes I now wear'. The final character to appear in the book is a 'Counsellor', that is to say a lawyer (p.17). He melts back into being Frank Feignwell, who ends the book back in his original person.

Other titles in the Fuller series included The History and Adventures of Little Henry (1810), a companion piece to The History of Little Fanny, Ellen, or the Naughty Girl Reclaimed (1811), and Phoebe, the Cottage Maid (1811). This last text altered the format a little by having its illustrations of headless bodies against ornate backdrops fixed in place. The readers simply moved the head from one page to the next, as he or she read through the book.

Lindberg, Sten G., trans. William S. Mitchell, 'Mobiles in books. Volvelles, inserts, pyramids, divinations, and children's games', The Private Library, 3rd ser., 2, i (Spring 1979), 49-82

Haining, Peter, Moveable Books. An Illustrated History ... from the Collection of David and Briar Philips, London: New English Library, 1979

Haining, Peter, Moveable Books. An Illustrated History ... from the Collection of David and Briar Philips, London: New English Library, 1979