Topsys and Turvys
Topsys and Turvys 2
The Hole Book
The Rocket Book
The Slant Book
The 20-Mule-Team Brigade
Jungle-Jangle

New! Almost a century after newspaper serialization:
The Naps of Polly Sleepyhead

I don't really know much about Peter Newell except he was famous as an illustrator of children's books at the turn of the century and did appreciated illustrations of Lewis Carroll's Nonsense books (Alice and Snark).

His own books tend to be based on a single idea, the holes of the Hole Book and Rocket Book, pictures which can be looked at upside down in the two Topsys and Turvys. What probably makes him unattractive today are the frequent racial jokes in his works, and though they were probably standard at the time he really insisted quite a lot.

What I find interesting is the fact that he seems to have made the typically Victorian children's book more popular and introduced techniques that would be used by newspaper comic artists in their daily or weekly production; in particular the recurring device (hole, turning the picture) recalls the repetitiveness of the early comic strips (Nemo's waking up, Ignatz's brick).

He was clearly imitated (and improved upon) by Gustave Verbeek — with whom he collaborated on a Nursery Rhymes for Grown-Ups — who produced a series of Upside-Downs in which you read half the story 'upside', then turn the page 'down' and read the second part — a real tour de force. Newell himself produced a comic series, The Naps of Polly Sleepyhead, published in various newspapers between Feb. 25, 1906 and Sep. 22, 1907.

I bought some of his books on eBay, and since their condition was not very good, I decided to scan and put them online.

The picture above was on sale on eBay some time ago as a self-portrait by Newell.

For more information on Peter Newell and his work, see Peter Newell Family Papers, at the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

I have now added several pictures and information on Newell's sometime son-in-low Alfred Zantzinger Baker, who also published toy books and upside-down images, as well as comics.
 

 

Online editions by Marco Graziosi, 2000-2004.
[nonsenselit.org]