Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Of Cheshire Cats and Colouring-in.

Dear Emily,

Look at the early morning sea-mist today, beautiful colours in the sky, as the sun wakes up to gently heat up the air and burn off the fog.

Well I've finished the manuscript for your picture-book, and stuck it up on Amazon for a bit so I can get a but of feedback and tweak it about before the print-run. So let's have a bit of play-time Em- all about colours, and colouring-in.

On Sunday, Grumpa and I had to go and look at a plumbing job. Well, Grumpa did, and I went with him.

The Chap whose house it was is a book-dealer ( now you see why I went too! ) He specialises in Mervyn Peake and had just spent all his pennies tracking down the rarest of the rare of the rarism in his subject. The story Em, sounded like one of those Arabian tales of myth and legend, where the hero has to swim across shark-infested seas, climb mountains in the hinterlands, extract one strand of the Blue-Mammoth's tail on a Sunday at full-moon when there's an r in the month- you know the kind of thing.
Which actually, I quite like to hear- makes me feel good.

Anyhow Em, once he had told me the story and showed me the treasured prize book, and we acknowledged a mutual martyrdom as he now needs to eat baked beans for the rest of his life to pay for it- he then said...
" I bet you have never seen this particular piece of 'Carrollania' ".

I hadn't, though I'd heard about it- but was concentrating on earlier works and was a bit purist about my favourite illustrator-Tenniel with all his clues and what-not.

'Carroll wrote a number of letters to the post office and other organisations relating to letter writing and the postal service. These covered subjects such as a special design of a cape to protect letters whilst being delivered and comments on the rules for registering letters and parcels.
In 1890 he devised The Wonderland Postage Stamp Case, a folded piece of cloth-reinforced card containing pockets into which postage stamps could be kept. This was held in a card slipcase of around 10.5cm x 8cm. Both parts were illustrated by coloured adaptations of Tenniel, producing a transformation effect: Alice with the baby becomes Alice with the pig and The Cheshire Cat fades away. The item was published by Emberlin and Son and was sold, in a printed envelope, together with a small booklet written by Carroll titled Eight or Nine Wise Words about Letter-Writing
In 1891, Carroll discovered that the rules for commissions chargeable on overdue postal orders, as defined in the Post Office Guide were ambiguous. He published a questionnaire in an attempt to solicit various opinions on the meaning of the rules. A supplement was produced in the same year.'

Honestly Em, he just couldn't let anything lie could he-here he is telling the Post Office what is best!

Well Emily, even though the illustration isn't by my beloved Tenniel, look at the colouring in!
Apparently for Carrollian nerds, this edition and the colouring of this particular product is a bibliography nightmare ( we won't go there. )

But- what we are chatting about here is the quiet and rather lovely art of 'colouring-in' other peoples works. This is something that Map- colourers ( don't know if it has a proper term ) have done for centuries, then in Victorian times- photographs were hand-tinted too.
Your Granny is very guilty of this practise- look at your 'Nursery Peter Pan' and the scribbles all over the Mabel Lucie Atwell pictures ( oops... ) that I did when I was six. Don't do as Granny did Em!

I have to say though, that as a Grown-up, I find it a delightful pastime. It irritates Grumpa, who thinks I should be doing something more useful, which is always good- and I find it both relaxing and satisfying.
There's something quite magical about re-animating old works in black-and-white. You have to think and feel your way in to what it is, was and what was around it. You get quite a sense of who the artist was too. Ask Daddy who learned so much about colour when he went through his 'Modigiani' phase.

Here's a lovely postcard of the Bay in Victorian times;

Look at the couple nearly getting blown over the Cliff-top!
And here's one from about 1910, that's been 'coloured-in'...

You can see GiGi's house peeking out through the trees towards the top-right, ask Mummy to show you.

Last of all, here is a hand-tinted photograph of your Great-Grandma-Nina, aged four. Your Great-Great Granny- Elsie used to think she looked like Shirley Temple- and set her hair in rags every night! It must have been rather uncomfortable.

The other day, your Mummy put up a piccie of you on Facebook with the caption below;

Shirley.. I mean Emily

You really are rather a little chip off the old block Emily!

Ta-ta for now,

Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi, xxx

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