Tuesday, 6 March 2012

King Penguin: A BOOK OF TOYS by Gwen White

King Penguin No. K 26 - 1946

 I have been collecting the beautiful little hard covered Penguin books for some time. 

The King Penguin series began in November 1939 and ceased in 1959 after 76 volumes were published.  They were very slim, small hard cover books. They acquired dust jackets in 1949.

They discussed various topics and many of the illustrations in them were simply gorgeous.  The book I am discussing today is A Book of Toys.   It was published in England in 1946.  Although it appears to have been written for children, the narrative is a bit clumsy and extremely brief.  I would find it hard to believe that today’s  more sophisticated children, if that in fact is true, would stay with it too long except for the lovely illustrations which are definitely the highlight of this small volume.

The toys in the book are drawn from real ones found in various museums around the London area.   Several centuries are represented in very brief fashion.  It begins with early toys having been balls of stone then moving on to balls made of rushes, wool, string and wood. These were approximately 5000 years old.
There is a mention of a baby’s rattle from 2000 BC.

The book having been published in 1946 of course is quite dated.  One page (13) has a couple of bronze boars represented along with a primitive early  daschund  type dog. The text reads:
“Two little bronze boars go out for a walk in  Middlesex. The little dog on his way home looks like a German. They belong to the early Iron age.”   I can only surmise as a daschund is a German breed that this must be the meaning behind the wordsIt was difficult not to smile.

Later on many of the toys were more balls, small animals and many warriors. Some were clay baked and there were many religious references.
Another quote on (pg 26) shows an old horse with no wheels, stating   ”Here is a wooden horse. He is a Roman and he is rather lonely in the British Museum because his wheels have come off and he cannot escape.”

Moving on to the 12th Century,  toys were manipulated on string with the 13th century creating toys of lead.  During the 13th to 14th century many toys related to war.  Paper toys appeared in 18th century as well as the lovely old tin soldiers.

The book ends up in the 19th to 20th century with big round hoops controlled with sticks and decorated with beads.  More toy tools appeared and the 20th century included the music box.
The original toys the book is based on are housed in the Bristol, Victoria, Albert Museums as well as Kensington Palace and Bethnal Green.  There are corresponding page numbers related to the toys that match where their original is now housed. 

Although the text is extremely jilted it would have been fun to look at the illustrations and then find their corresponding matches in the various museums mentioned.  It would certainly have made a decent trip for a rainy day.

1 comment:

I love comments. I promise to try very hard to reply to any message left.