Friday, February 24, 2017

Aesop's Fables (1884): The modern comic page on its way

I was able to get this wonderful 1884 book on the cheap from eBay, owing to some loose pages throughout.  I owe thanks to the binding for deteriorating--this kept the item in my price range.  Pages otherwise look fine.



But before we open Aesop's Fables, let me present this 1901 New York Herald comic page by Richard F. Outcault, of Yellow Kid fame (image swiped from eBay).  Its depictions of African Americans, as most of us probably know, was par for the 1901 course.  This was your great-great grandparents' popular culture:



What's significant to this post is Outcault's comic page layout: text surrounded by comic panels of various shapes--some lined, some not.  This is the same format featured in the Aesop's Fables chapter, "The Ants and the Grasshopper," by illustrator Morgan J. Sweeney. To the scans:



Below: A short text version of Aesop's fable...



...followed by a much longer version in verse and accompanied by Sweeney's delightful comic page illustrations:





Note the slightly softened ending for young readers.  The grasshopper dies, as in Aesop's tale, but only after the ants have taken pity on him, giving him food and clothing--to no avail.

A quick Google search turns up nothing on Morgan J. Sweeney, save for illustration credits.  Shouldn't he better known?  (Him, and a host of other children's illustrators from this era.)  More chapters to come....



Lee

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