The modern holiday of Mother’s day however was first celebrated in 1908 when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother, whose work she wanted to honour. Her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died in 1905 and was a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers during the Civil War, and set up Mother’s Day Working Clubs to address public health issues.
With Mother’s Day this Sunday, and the idea of celebrating mothers in my mind, I hunted through the titles of the richly coloured book spines in the Darwin Rare Books Room. Some faded, some still glowing warmly with old gilt, I happened to pull out a plain brown spine which previous to this had passed unnoticed, lodged as it was, between the very decorative spines of our bound and beautiful collection.
The Baby’s Bouquet: A Fresh Bunch of Old Rhymes and Tunes, compiled as a companion to the “Baby’s Opera” and arranged and beautifully decorated by Walter Crane, might have an unassuming spine but it has an immensely appealing and decorative cover. It was published by Frederick Warne and Co and is a very early edition, possibly a first edition, although it is undated. It does have in child-like writing, however, an owner’s inscription of Gwen Raverat, world renowned for her wood engraving prints and her book Period Piece. We hold Period Piece in stock here at Bookbarn International, together with some other books that feature her prints too.
Gwen Raverat is the grandmother of the director of Bookbarn International, William Pryor, and she is the granddaughter of Charles Darwin himself, who wrote Origin of the Species. This makes this book extra appropriate to honour all mothers, grandmothers, surrogate mothers, foster mothers, stepmothers, indeed all who give birth, and dedicate years of their life to care for and raise their young. As Anna Jarvis said, a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” So this little book, The Baby’s Bouquet, would make a perfect Mother’s Day gift, in place of the usual bouquet of flowers.
The illustrations are very Kate Greenaway-esque with their muted sage green, pale blue and soft terracotta-rose tones, with ladies in bonnets and gentlemen in striped stockings and tall hats. All very genteel and charming. It includes miniature illustrations in strips, as a kind of story board border around the edges of each rhyme, which is complete with it’s notation, so you can actually sing them to your mother! After years of singing lullabies to you, she is sure to love that, whether you can sing in tune or not!
Obviously this kind of book was designed for mothers and fathers to sing to their babies and little children, but this particular book is so special and delightful, it makes the perfect symbolic gift of love and appreciation to any mother. All those hours of love spent reciting and singing nursery rhymes over and over, for the pleasure of their tiny child, is represented in this delicate little book, which is dedicated to “The Friends of Babies.”
There are the well-known rhymes, like Polly put the Kettle on, Lucy Locket, and Hot Cross Buns which the ones that were sung to me as a child, and which I subsequently sang to my children, as well as ones I have not heard of; Fairy Ship, Billy Pringle and Aiken Drum, a darkly humorous rhyme.
All in all, this is one of the most delightful books amongst our Darwin stock and it is currently available online for £42.96, as well as to buy directly from our Darwin room. We also have its complementary partner, an equally charming book with many more nursery rhymes, again beautifully illustrated. The Baby’s Opera is also available online and in our Darwin rare books room for £32.00.
For a beautifully unique present this Mother’s Day, this pair of books is hard to beat, as a thank you to the woman who brought you into being, and shared so much of herself to make you the person you are today.