Thursday, 12 September 2013

Book of the week; Walter Crane Slate and Pencil

This week's book of the week is a strange arithmetic book written and illustrated by Walter Crane.

Slate and Pencil – Vania; being the adventures of Dick on a desert island
Published by Marcus Ward & Co in 1885

In which young Dick buys a boat and taking a few necessaries, sets sail. But the wind and the weather take counsel against him and he finds himself cast up on a strange shore. The beach is made up of slates and pencils and so Dick sits down to write his sad story. At that very moment, several natives of the Island appear and take Dick to their King. Eventually, Dick is rescued and returned home.

Very early in life he was suited for a sailor

and, at the seaside, has thoughts of voyaging,

So he buys a boat

and sets sail.

But the wind and weather take counsel together,

and 

Dick finds himself cast up on a strange shore,

composed principally of slates and pencils.

Then some strange figures suddenly appear,

but as they cannot come to an understanding

Dick is taken to their King, who, is engaged with an addition sum in his counting house.

Dick is shown into the parlour where the Queen offers him some honey

and sends him into the garden to help the maid do multiplication on the clothes line.

All that takes place is in strict accordance with the rules of Arithmetic.

But at the sight of a sail, Dick is very happy to go home!


I think this must be one of the oddest stories I've ever read!  The illustrations, however, are a joy.

Walter Crane (1845–1915) was an English artist and book illustrator. He is considered to be the most prolific and influential children’s book creator of his generation.  Reed more at Wikipedia

Walter Crane Slate and Pencil - Vania published in 1885 is now sold, thank you for your interest.


What do you make of this odd story?

42 comments:

  1. ...with a childish heart ~ i plumb the depths ~ mine muse doth says: a different time zone ~ a different code of conduct ~ however: the tale's illustrations more than tell a beautiful story! ~ and that be more than goodly for mine soul! ~ (loooooove the pegs!)... ...thank yoU! ~ for such an amazing share and discovery! ~ blessed be! ~ dear generous heart!...(O:

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    1. And thank you for all your lovely words, your visits mean so much. xx

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  2. Unusual for sure ... but what wonderful illustrations. I love it!

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    1. Thank you Vintage Jane, I had a feeling you might like them. xx

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  3. Magic...pure magic my friend. These days of innocence just don't last long enough do they? But I am always intrigued how quickly a child's eyes and even a teenager's eyes will light up when a good story is shared. Thank you for always bring back what is important. Many happy greetings to you ! Anita

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    1. They truly don’t Anita, but I like to think these lovely books have the power to return us to that place if only for a little while. Thank you for always having something meaningful to say, I really appreciate your comments. xx

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  4. This is my kind of math! Beautiful illustrations- you have such amazing books, it must be so exciting to find them! Thanks for sharing : ) ~ Jess

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    1. Hi Jess, I can’t tell you how exciting it is! When I first started collecting and selling books, I naively thought I would see the same books over and over again, but that’s just not the case, something new (old) and wonderful is always turning up. Thank you for your comment Jess, I really appreciate it.

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  5. Most definitely odd and yet quite magical. I can't help but think that these illustrations wouldn't be used in a book these days. A shame really as they are so well done.

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    1. Hi Tracy, I think you are absolutely right. I hesitated before putting the illustrations on the blog but then decided it would be wrong of me to judge something created in 1885 by today’s standards. The artwork is amazing it and deserves to be seen. Thanks so much for your comment.

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  6. I seem to remember that my gran read this book to me. It was wonderful. Didn't help with my maths, though.

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    1. What a lovely memory. I can’t remember my gran reading to me. I'm sure she did, I’m just too old to remember! Thanks for calling in.

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  7. The story was made in a different time and has it's own charm, though it may seem odd and unusual for us. The illustrations are wonderful!
    Thanks for sharing, Barbara :)

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    1. Hello Hilde, I was mystified the first time I read it, but it does seem to make a bit more sense after reading it again. I still think it odd, but I agree the illustrations are wonderful.Thanks for your comment.

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  8. Loved those illustrations , the book is really sounds like a very good read :)

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    1. Thanks Aunt Mary, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Barbara

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  9. The first thing that came to mind: wow, a boy who knew what he wanted to be at such a young age! The second: I like the artwork, especially the page on Wind & Weather taking counsel. The third: Good grief, why was the laundry maid doing multiplications? The last: very glad I'm not the sailor, because I was never good at math. What an interestingly odd book!

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    3. Hello Claudine, Well, I suppose career choices were limited back then and going to sea must be preferable to sweeping chimneys! (O: Yes, what is it with that laundry maid? Why is she hanging out numbers rather than clothes? I did say it was odd, but it’s also pretty. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. xx
      Sorry about the deleted comments above, I spelt sea see and called the numbers letters!!

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  10. I love these old books and the way of saying things. Kids now would find it dull and odd but I find it quaint. The drawings are delightfull.

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    1. Thank you Darlene, you summed it up perfectly! :)

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  11. Hello dear Barbara, yes I am very much with you. An intriguingly odd little book but I do love Walter Crane's illustrations & I love the font! The wee picture in your side bar "Stories that Carry-Us-Off" has quite utterly taken my fancy. Surely there is no better story than one, that indeed....Carries-Us-Off!!
    Have a lovely weekend.
    Much love Catherine x0x0x0x

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    1. Hello Catherine, if you click on “Stories that Carry-us Off” you will be transported, (and I can’t think of a more fitting word) to a delightful blog called Carry Us Off Books run by the lovely Claudine. I know you would enjoy it.
      Like you I also love Walter Crane’s illustrations so that won out over the oddness of the story.
      It was lovely to see you here today, thank you my dear! Xxx

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    2. Gosh, you both just made my day, Catherine & Barbara. Thank you for liking what I have on CarryUsOff's blog. Those stories that whisked me off are brilliant enough to bring me back to share them. Can't imagine a world without books. Don't want to, either. Have a fabulous weekend, ladies!

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  12. What a gorgeous book!

    I adore the illustrations even though the story is a little on the odd side.

    Because of the references to honey, and pegging out the clothes,
    it reminded me (just a touch) of one of the verses from Sing a Song of Sixpence.....

    The king was in his counting house, Counting out his money;
    The queen was in the parlor, Eating bread and honey.
    The maid was in the garden, Hanging out the clothes,
    When down came a blackbird And pecked off her nose.

    (There's also a blackbird in the garden)

    Enjoy your weekend Barbara : )

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    1. Hello Yvonne, Now that you’ve pointed it out, I can see how similar it is to the verse. Perhaps that’s where the idea for the story came from. I think you may well have solved the mystery of its oddness! Thanks for your good wishes; I hope your weekend is everything you would like it to be.

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  13. Good morning dearest Barbara! Thank you for coming by yesterday; I saw your comment from my iphone while I was at school. I had a very long day and night for we had an open house and I must have been up yesterday for at least 14 hours! It is always a delight to see you too my friend. IT'S FRIDAY! Anita

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    1. Happy Friday Anita, I do hope you manage to get a good rest over the weekend.

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  14. Well this is certainly an odd story. It almost seems like it will go somewhere with all the math- but the math terms just seem to be thrown in there for no reasons. It seems like they could have helped him to get saved or something like that. The pictures are great- but I am not sure what to make of the story. After reading what Winter Moon had to say- that makes sense to me! :)

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    1. Hello Stephanie, I wanted that to happen! I expected him to multiply a number, divided it by four, take away two, multiply by 16, double it and produce the coordinates to find his way home! I now think Winter Moon had a far better idea of what was going on!

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  15. I love it. Scary looking natives for someone so young. I think I'd rather have sand than slates though. Detailed illustrations. I could take a lot of time looking at them.

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    1. Can you imagine how your feet would hurt? Give me nice warm, golden sand any day of the week!

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  16. I think its fabulous - I agree with Darlene's sentiment that a child of today would not be drawn to it - but for its time it has tremendous originality and vision. It reminds me a bit of Alice in Wonderland - & you do really have to wonder if he was tripping on something! Some of the illustrations would be considered terribly un-PC today but as a window into the past they are marvellous. It's a gem!

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    1. I meant to tell you also - I tried to buy the book I mentioned in my post last week (at the moment I'm trying to be good & not collect anything else but this one I feel I just have to get!!). Turned out the seller would not ship outside the USA. There is another copy on eBay but its in terrible condition - good price but shipping costs wouldn't justify it. If you ever come across a copy to sell please let me know - its called Fifty Famous Fairy Tales with illustrations by Bruno Frost. Published by Whitman (I think 1954). I'll buy it from you in an instant if you have one!

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    2. Hi Sharon, thanks for making me laugh – and you know what, I think you might just be right! You are also spot on with regards it being very un-PC, but it’s also a thing of beauty that deserves to be admired.

      I will certainly keep a look out for Fifty famous fairy tales, and if I should find a copy, you will be the first to know. Thanks so much for all your comments today, I know how little time you have. Barbara.

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  17. BARBARA! Greetings dear friend from afar! How lovely your comment is to see this early Sunday morning in the Midwest of the USA! I am still active and alive here, but only twice a month. Life is getting busy and one needs to make adjustments to get every thing accomplished. I am still running over here ASAP to not miss your delightful posts! Have a super Sunday, Anita

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    1. Dear Anita, I really appreciate you taking the time to call in knowing how busy you are. Thank you for continuing to share so many lovely things on your blog. xxx

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  18. Dearest Barbara! I keep seeing a new post "CHRISTMAS NIGHT" pop up in my blog roll for your blog, but I don't see it here. I'll keep trying! Anita

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    1. So sorry Anita, I was trying to save a Christmas poem for later in the year and ended up publishing it by mistake. I deleted the post, but the messages had already gone out.

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  19. Well it is different but how detailed are those illustrations!

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

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    1. Hi Lainy, they are certainly very detailed and quite beautiful, but the story leaves a little to be desired. Thanks for your comment.

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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