September 23, 2014

The Good Child's Book of Stops

        I always like to observe National Punctuation Day, which is coming up tomorrow.  So today I have for you some funny wood engravings from Punctuation in Verse, or, The Good Child’s Book of Stops, of around 1826.  Here’s Mr. Stops, stopping the galloping reader for a 
toll.  Mr. Stops himself is pretty excellent, all made of punctuation as he is, with his fashionable neoclassical tollbooth surmounted by its exclamation point.  He contrasts delightfully with the realistically detailed horse and swans.  (Reading while horseback riding seems like a bad idea, but presumably not as stupid as reading while driving.)  It’s worth noting also that this book advertises itself as being “Embellished with Twelve Neatly Coloured Engravings.”  If this coloring job is neat, I’d hate to see the messy version!
        Mr. Stops proceeds to provide little Jane with two examples to prove the importance of punctuation.
     Four rooms I have and hating gloom
     I’ve twenty candles in each room
     Five and twenty in the four
     Indeed there are not less nor more

     Four rooms I have; and hating gloom,
     I’ve twenty candles.  In each room
     Five; and twenty in the four.
     Indeed there are not less nor more.
        Interestingly, one of the stops included at the end of the book is the ellipsis, which Madame Leinstein gives as a long dash, rather than the three dots we know today.  Also, she defines it as indicating omitted letters, rather than omitted words.  I wonder when the three-dot ellipsis came into use.  (Fun vocabulary word: using an ellipsis to show a sentence trailing off into silence is called aposiopesis.)
        But back to Mr. Stops.  Obviously these wood engravings were rather shoddily produced without any great care, with neither particular skill nor concern for artistry.  Today’s equivalent would no doubt be the generic cartoon-style illustrations of a 
million cheap educational paperbacks for kids.  But while the workers who hand-painted The Good Child’s Book of Stops were clearly not giving it their all, I think the artist who designed Mr. Stops must have actually had some fun.  And if there’s one thing that everyone agrees is fun, it’s punctuation, right?

[Pictures: Each galloping reader a moment should stay;
Mr. STOPS and little Jane, hand-colored wood engravings from The Good Child’s Book of Stops by Madame Leinstein, c 1826;
Additional marks, typesetting from The Good Child’s Book of Stops printed by Dean and Munday.  (Images from Internet Archive)]

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