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Sunday, June 30, 2013

History and Chronology Continued: Paper Dolls and The Paper Collector

Before I start, let me note that this is the best site I've found for paper dolls and their history, plus it has lavish illustrations; The Paper Collector. It is a blog, but I like beginning research with blogs; I find most are written by people who are passionate and who care. This one is no exception. Paper has existed for centuries, and was probably invented by the Chinese. Though, the Ancient Egyptians had papyrus, and others wrote on vellum. Rare medieval manuscripts and illuminations were painted by hand in monasteries by talented monks; the famous tome of these is The Book of Kells, represented in artwork done for Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle. Books and paper were rare and prized in Europe. Wealthy people posed with their libraries, showing that the more books they owned, the wealthier they were. The book A Gentle Madness describes famous book collectors, all wealthy, who had "rock star" status. Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a 17th century Mexican scholar, mathematician, poet and writer who was also a child prodigy and a nun, kept a library of 2500 books and manuscripts in her cell. She is often painted with them. For her talent and genius, she was famous in both Spain and Mexico, and was the granddaughter of the viceroy of Mexico. Early manuscripts that have survived by Cervantes, Byron, Keats, Wordsworth, and other 15th-19th century writers show that they conserved paper, saved old manuscripts, wrote on scratch paper, and wrote all over the page, turning it upside down, writing on margins, etc. Paper was collected and sold at rag and bone shops, and would not be thrown out. Our modern day recycling hearkens back to this era. In Japan, origami has long been a treasured art. Figures of paper have often represented the souls of the departed and were used in ceremonies where they were thrown into water at the end. Paper figures are burned in similar rites in Malaysia. Paper scrolls play a role in the Japanese Milky Way festival, as described by Rumer Godden in her story of two Japanese dolls, Miss Happiness and Miss Flower. There is a paper doll in love with a lead soldier in Hans Christian Andersen's "The Steadfast Tin Soldier." As we know them, paper dolls were created in the 18th century, more as amusements for adults than children. Indeed, Mary Hillier and Helen Young have written that 19th century jointed pantins originated in France. Supposedly, a law was written prohibiting them, lest pregnant women give birth to deformed children because they played too much with the paper dolls themselves. These jumping jacks still exist. Shackman reproduced the original Polichinelle varieties, but they are also made in wood. Often, they come from German or Italy. I have a rare, X-raged one done in metal involving a couple with 1920s style hairdos. This is a family blog; I'll leave the rest to your imagination. Paper dolls were often hand tinted, and represented fashions of the day. There are fashion plates made of ivory, very thin, where images of hats and wigs are laid over a head to try out the latest styles. There are examples of these in the Cincinnati Museum of Art. The books of foremost authority R. Lane Herron also feature great articles on paper dolls, as do the books of Janet Pagter John and Clara Hallard Fawcett. Mr. Herron was the first authority to write on and publish about, paper dolls. By the time The History of Little Fanny and The History of Little Henry came around, lithography was being used in books and paper, and paper dolls could now be lithographed and mass produced. Fine examples exist from the 1820s to 1890s. Paper dolls, often printed on both sides, where used to advertised products, so that Lion Coffee and other companies used them as others did trade cards. There is also as set featuring Queen Isabella and other European queens that dates from the 1892 Columbian Exhibition. There will be more on the handmade varieties that abound, some in 3-D, as well as a word on paper toys and printables, as well as paper doll houses. For those who crave more, I recommend Marilyn Waters The Toy Maker site, Jim's Mini Printables and Marilee's Paper Doll Page.

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