This post was contributed by David Holbert, Digital Imaging Specialist at the Smithsonian Libraries Digital Imaging Center.
A wonderful German children’s book came through the Smithsonian Libraries’ Imaging Center recently for digitization. It was a beautiful, but oddly shaped (9 x 24cm), picture book from the early twentieth century. The book, Nimm mich mit!, was recently adopted through our Adopt-a-Book program by Linda and Jay Freedman, in honor of Miles & Lola Monroe and Lucas & Devin Freedman. Smithsonian Libraries conservator Noah Smutz had disbound it and performed repairs to many of the pages (more on that in a subsequent blog post). Before rebinding, it was given to me in page gatherings to photograph.
While shooting it, I was intrigued with its possible purpose. The illustrations weren’t organized in any clear manner, which ruled out a picture dictionary. But a search for its author, Lothar Meggendorfer, led me to a blog post by Amanda M. Brian at Cotsen Children’s Library, a library within the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University Library.
Lothar Meggendorfer (1847-1925) was a German illustrator, mostly known for his famous pop-up books. In fact, the Smithsonian Libraries featured Meggendorfer’s Neue lebende Bilder: ein Ziehbilderbuch (New Living Pictures: A pull book) in our exhibition Paper Engineering: Fold, Pull, Pop & Turn. But this little mystery volume was a “non-moveable but equally interactive” picture book. Nimm mich mit!, roughly translated, is Take me with you!.
From Amanda M. Brian’s post, “Cotsen Research Projects: Lothar Meggendorfer’s Mechanical Books“:
This small, 8 centimeters by 24 centimeters, picture book was designed for the non-reading, or read-to, child to “take along” around the home and into the field to compare the drawn object to the real object. It presented a comprehensive catalog of things in the child’s “garden and room” to be examined “with love,” as the introduction explained.
It went through at least eight editions from the 1890s through 1926. In the later editions a supplement was included, which updated what a child might see in the early part of the twentieth century.
In the end though, there were still things in this charming little book that remained a mystery, at least to 21st century Americans.
But now the book has been physically preserved as well as digitized so that future generations may continue to wonder.