March 27, 2023

Comic Crawhall

         Welcome to the April A to Z Blog Challenge!  My theme this year is Relief Printed Alphabet Squared, an alphabet of alphabets illustrated with relief block prints.  You can find the master list of participating bloggers here.  Check them out!
        Joseph Crawhall II (UK, 1821-1896) dabbled in many pursuits, but his interest in old chapbooks, broadsides, and their woodcuts is very much reflected in his own work.  His Old Aunt Elspa’s ABC is a bit of an oddity.  Published in 1884, it makes a somewhat tongue-in-cheek ye olde imitation of books that were already going on a century older.  For C, Crawhall gives us a Clown that I find a little disturbing, and I’m not even one of those people with a clown phobia.  But my 
favorite letter is E, which is illustrated by the sun, but which actually stands for Everything.  This
 amuses me.  You’ll be able to see one more of Crawhall’s letters coming up later.  See if you can spot it!
        Next up is another somewhat odd alphabet, A Comic Natural History, featuring detailed wood block prints of anthropomorph-ized animals with enormously oversized heads.  C is for Cat, another rather hideous illustration.  (C doesn’t seem to be serving us well, I’m afraid!)  But
I also give you another E, the slovenly Elephant, which I find rather more endearing.
        Finally, we can’t talk about block printed alphabets without mentioning Walter Crane (UK, 1845-1915), an enormously influential force in children’s picture book illustration for decades.  He published at least four lavishly illustrated alphabet books, and possibly more I’m forgetting about.  I’ve shared a few letters previously, including A and Q from Baby’s Own Alphabet, as well as V and X from The Absurd A.B.C.  I include here today the Calf for C (along with A-D) from his Noah’s Ark Alphabet, and the C (Cuckoo) from Baby’s Own Alphabet.  Crane's illustrations were originally color wood block prints, but were then sometimes reprinted with lithography in later editions.
        The moral of C comes from both the clown and the comic cat, and is the reminder that humor is very much in the eye of the beholder.  (And more on that topic here.)
        Riddle of the day: which letters encircle the earth?  (Or possibly another one: which letters carpe the diem?)
        So, all of today’s alphabets are aimed squarely at children.  Do you remember any alphabet books from your childhood?  Did you have a favorite?

[Pictures: Clown, Everything, wood block prints by Joseph Crawhall II from Old Aunt Elspa’s ABC, 1884 (Images from Toronto Public Library);
Cat, Elephant, wood block prints from A Comic Natural History, (1886?) (Image from Hathi Trust);
Calf, Cuckoo, wood block prints by Walter Crane from Noah’s Ark Alphabet c. 1871, and Baby’s Own Alphabet, 1875 (Images from Toronto Public Library).]


Melanie Atherton Allen said...

The clown picture is disturbing. I think it is partially the things sticking out of his head. Are those supposed to be bells? Also the empty white eyes and the fact that the guy’s jaw looks kind of like a puppet jaw. In fact, the whole thing. Every new aspect of the thing I notice is newly dreadful. I’m not afraid of clowns either, as a rule, but I will make an exception here.

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Yeah, these aren't as great as the previous ones.

Ronel visiting for C:
My Languishing TBR: C
Cannibalistic Fae: Ogres

A Tarkabarka Hölgy said...

Wow, both the clown and the cat are disturbing. I like the cuckoo in the cherry tree though :)

The Multicolored Diary

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

I THINK that the clown's blank eye is really his eyelid because he's meant to be winking. But there's really no excuse for the cat.

Donna B. McNicol said...

So many different ones - love seeing them all.

My A to Z Blogs
DB McNicol - Small Delights, Simple Pleasures, and Significant Memories
My Snap Memories - My Life in Black & White