Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2017 Issue

A Dr. Seuss Museum Opens in His Hometown

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The Amazing World of Dr Seuss (Springfield Museum's photo).

It isn't a medical museum, but a museum has just opened in Springfield, Massachusetts to celebrate the life of America's foremost "doctor." Rather than a physician, Theodor Geisel was an author, and if his actual name is not familiar to you, his pen name, Dr. Seuss, certainly is. It opened on June 3, and according to the museum, 3,000 people showed up, many of whom had to be turned away for another day. Only 1,800 tickets were available.

 

The museum is mostly focused on Seuss' career as a children's book writer, with the first floor devoted to exhibits and activities designed to appeal to the young. However, the good doctor had a career before the one for which he is remembered. He was born and raised in Springfield, hence the museum's location. He graduated from Dartmouth, and attended Oxford, seeking a doctorate in literature. However, he returned home in 1927, and instead, put his unique drawing talents to work. He provided illustrations for magazines, and then advertisements. While his advertising characters were not the same ones used in his children's books, they certainly had the distinctive whimsical characteristics of Seuss' later children's book illustrations.

 

In 1937, Seuss (his mother's maiden name) wrote his first children's book, And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street. He wrote a few more children's titles over the next few years, but then the war intervened. He focused his art on political cartoons, posters to support the war effort, and films for the Army during this period. It left behind the most controversial part of his legacy (more on this later). After the war, Seuss returned to writing children's books. In 1954, after a Life Magazine article on children's illiteracy, his publisher challenged him to write a book that younger children could not only read, but would actually want to. If you ever endured a Dick and Jane book, you will understand the need for that challenge. The result was The Cat in the Hat, probably his most famous title.

 

Seuss continued writing books for children in the years ahead, though he never had children himself. He was happy to entertain other people's children, and not have to entertain any of his own. He was quite content with that. Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel died in 1991 at the age of 87.

 

The first floor of The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss is devoted to the children. It provides images of favorite Seuss characters with interactive activities. You will meet such characters as Horton the Elephant, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and the stack of turtles from Yertle the Turtle. Ted Geisel's boyhood home has been partly recreated. There is his bedroom, and his grandparents' bakery and brewery. There is Fairfield Street, where Geisel grew up, and Mulberry Street, another actual street in Springfield.

 

Upstairs, there are mementos of his adult life in La Jolla, California. It has furniture and knick knacks from his studio and his home, including his drawing board, oil paintings, breakfast table, sofa, armchair, and furniture from his studio and waiting room. There is even a collection of his funny hats and over 100 bow ties. The personal items were given to the museum by Seuss' 95-year-old second wife, and his two stepdaughters, who have been very supportive of the project.

 

What is missing, and led to some controversy in stories about the grand opening, is his wartime material. This is deliberate, the museum being focused on his children's works. Geisel was a humanitarian, progressive person for his time. He was very pro-American during the war, and strongly favored America's joining up with its western allies before America entered the war. Though ethnically German, he was a vehement critic of the Nazis, Charles Lindbergh, and the isolationist America First movement. He was sympathetic to the plight of Jews and blacks. Where all of this becomes more controversial is in his attitude at the time to the Japanese.

 

Here we really need to understand his times before becoming too critical of Geisel. Few in America were very sympathetic to the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, and sadly, that included attitudes toward Japanese-American citizens. After all, we did place them in internment camps. Geisel's cartoons were at times stereotypically racist in the way they depicted the Japanese, and he didn't much differentiate between the Japanese and Japanese Americans. Then again, how many Americans did at that time?

 

Washington owned slaves, Lincoln was willing to guarantee the survival of slavery in the South prior to the beginning of the Civil War. For their shortcomings in hindsight, they were still well ahead of their times in their times. The same can be said of Geisel/Seuss, whose views toward the Japanese slowly evolved after the war. His 1954 book, Horton Hears a Who!, whose message is brotherhood of all, was written after a visit to Japan and is dedicated to a Japanese friend. Dr. Seuss wasn't perfect, but he was a very good man who brought unparalleled joy to generations of children past, and will continue that gift to generations of children in the future. If you're in the vicinity of Springfield, drop by his "home."

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.

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