Adopt-a-Book 2011, Part 3: An Epistolary Children’s Book

Today we continue a series of blog posts highlighting items from our upcoming Adopt-a-Book event, slated for Tuesday, March 29, 2011, at 6PM in Antiquarian Hall.  You can read the entire  Adopt-a-Book 2011 catalog on the AAS website, where you will find descriptions of all 176 items up for adoption this year.

Our third orphan for the spotlight is no. 12 in the catalog and was selected by AAS’s curator of children’s literature, Laura Wasowicz.

12. Barrow, Frances. The Little Nightcap Letters. New York & London: D. Appleton & Co., 1863.

Frances Barrow (1822-1894) enjoyed a long and prolific career as a writer of children’s story books, particularly the Nightcap series. The author was in her forties by the time this reprinted edition of the Little Nightcap Letters appeared in 1863.  The book tells the engaging story of a northern mother’s trip down to Charleston, South Carolina, before the Civil War made such a trip impossible. Structured as a series of letters written between the mother (recovering from an illness) and her daughter Bella in the north, the book follows the activities of both adults and children in the two regions.  In one letter the mother writes:

As I walked home, I saw such a sweet little white girl carried in the arms of a great black woman, whose head looked like an immense butterfly fastened on her shoulders; for she had a handkerchief on it, of all colors of the rainbow and it was spread out on either side like wings. The sweet little child seemed to love her black nurse dearly, for as I walked behind, I  saw her press her tender, lovely pink and white cheek close against the dusky face of her nurse, and I heard her say in a sweet lisping tone: ‘Oh Binah, I love you.  When I go to Heaven, I will take you with me.’

Interestingly, little Bella never responds to this description, and instead writes back to her mother about an argument that she had with a sister, a broken candlestick, and a new paper doll.  The book is illustrated through out with wood engravings of children, pets, and scenes of everyday life, both North and South, including views in a school room and a slave cabin. The binding has a gilt cover design of a little cherub boy whimsically dipping his pen into the inkwell, symbolizing the child as professional author.

In order to adopt this or any other object in the Adopt-a-Book 2011 catalog, please click on the link and follow the directions for “How to Adopt” which are found in the sidebar to the right at the top of the page.  Remember, you don’t have to wait until March 29th to adopt!

Published by

Lauren Hewes

Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society

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