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The Giant Book

Brave New World

The Cotsen Children's Library exhibit explores
the brave new world depicted in 20th-century children's books

  Edward Shenton, An Alphabet of the Army.
Philadelphia, 1943.
The Cotsen Children's Library - the historical collection of illustrated children's books housed in Princeton University's Firestone Library -soon will publish the second of two volumes describing its 20th- century materials.

To celebrate this milestone, the Princeton University Library will open a new exhibition on Sunday, May 4. "Brave New World: 20th-Century Books from the Cotsen Children's Library" will fill both the main gallery and the Leonard L. Milberg Gallery in Firestone Library. Reflecting the extraordinary riches of the collection, the exhibition will feature material exclusively from the Cotsen Library's holdings.

Barbara Bader, one of the foremost authorities on the 20th-century picture book and for many years a reviewer of children's books and adult nonfiction for Kirkus Reviews, will deliver the exhibition's opening lecture, "Twentieth-Century Children's Books in Russia, Japan and the United States: Currents and Crosscurrents." Her talk will take place at 3 p.m. in Betts Auditorium, School of Architecture, on the University campus. The talk and exhibition are free and open to the public.

Vincenzo Fraschetti, Italia dall' A alla Z.
Illustrated by C. V. Testi. Rome, 1936.
"One of the purposes of the show," noted Andrea Immel, curator of the exhibition and of the Cotsen Library, "is to demonstrate that children's books reflect the legacy of modernization in all its complexity and ambivalence and excitement."

Because the Cotsen research collection is international in scope, the exhibition will juxtapose books from America, England, France, Germany, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Japan and the Soviet Union. The Cotsen Library, Immel explained, is perhaps "the only historical children's book collection in the English-speaking world that could mount such an exhibition of picture books without borrowing from other libraries."

The exhibition will be divided into two parts. The main gallery will feature artwork and children's books published between 1900 and 1950, organized around such subjects as the automobile, communications, consumerism, health and hygiene, the train, urbanization and war. Related original artwork, posters, activity books and toys drawn from the Cotsen Library's collection also will be on display.

  Kodomo No Kuni [Children's Kingdom],
Department Store.
Illustrated by Yasui Koyata.
Volume 11, number 2 for February 1932
The focus of the second portion of the exhibition, in the Milberg Gallery, is the modern artists who have created children's books. Among the highlights are works by Alexander Benois, Jean Cocteau, Salvadore Dali, Edward Gorey, David Hockney, El Lissitzky and Barry Moser, as well as unpublished drawings by George Grosz loaned by the artist's son and his wife. Visitors can expect to find items that are not only highly original but also, in Immel's words, "deliciously subversive."

Tours of the exhibition will be held during Reunions weekend, on Friday, May 30, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Thereafter, tours will take place at 3 p.m. on the following Sundays: June 1, July 6, Aug. 3 and Sept. 7.

The exhibition will run through Sunday, Oct. 26. For more information, contact Andrea Immel at (609) 258-1148.

Walter Copeland, The Mad Motor.
Illustrated by Charles Robinson. London: Blackie & Son, 1906.