Julia Rogers’ “Playtime Picture-Book” (London: Dean & Sons, 1885-7)–Cultural uplift and a strange dose of the future Edward Gorey

Julia Rebecca Rogers (1854-1944) played a crucial role in founding Goucher College by leaving to the college the bulk of her fortune, over $900,000, which was used to build a Library at the new Towson campus.  Daughter of an iron and steel magnate, she devoted her life to philanthropic causes in aid of women’s education and the arts. Generally, we do not know much about the childhoods of famous and generous donors, but in this case, Julia Rogers left the college a copy of what may be one of her earliest childhood books: “The Playtime Picture-Book.”  She autographed the verso of the preface page in penciled cursive “Julia Rogers | Florida”.  The book contains a riotous, moralizing, instructive and weird compendium of hand-painted images accompanied by sometimes bizarre rhyming verses.  Pictures of the Crystal Palace Exhibition, Hans Sloane’s Museum and the British Museum, coexist with a menagerie of behaving and misbehaving children and animals, often used to didactic effect.  Occasionally, as in the case of the young lady at her writing desk (bottom center of image 1), the effect tilts into the mysterious/ominous/Dada world of Edward Gorey.  Gorey fans, did EG own or refer to this volume?

Author: Professor Arnold Sanders, Emeritus Professor of English (2015) – Goucher College.

*Note: The materials below are provided by Goucher Special Collection & Archives.