One of my favorite things to find in the Baldwin are books that children have scribbled or colored in. It just makes the book’s past seem so much more alive to me, more so even than inscriptions. In this copy of The Fairy Godmother’s and Other Tales by Mrs. Alfred Gatty I hit the jackpot, however, because it contains both coloring and inscription! I chose the image above because, regardless of what the child who colored it in originally thought or planned, to me it looks like the woman, Hermione, has been bathed in a golden sunlight, lit up and separated from the rest of the dreary world around her. What can I say, I’m a bit of a dreamer. In reality the child probably got bored, called away, or maybe even another child stole their crayon but I like to imagine that they were happy with just coloring her. After all, what else are we to do with these paratextual elements, these calls from the past, but to attempt to understand them and perhaps relate to them in some way?
Here’s another example of coloring from this book, along with an inscription that tells us this book was given to Kathleen Mary Bateson by her affectionate sister Eve J.C Bateson as a Christmas present in 1862. I really like that word “affectionate”, it’s not often that descriptive words are found in these inscriptions so to see it sheds a little extra light on this pair of sisters and their relationship. The coloring on this page is a little more controlled than on the other. The colors generally stay within the lines and there is evidence of at least 2 colors being used, if not more. Does this mean there were multiple children coloring, perhaps both sisters? Or maybe neither of them. Again, it is hard to determine the situation from which these colorings may have arisen but all the same these pictures, combined with the inscription, work together to paint an image of two sisters in the 1800s.