In the News: Stork Delivers Baby Boy; Need a Royal Record Book? (A new “flash” exhibit in the Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library)

In response to recent news out of St. Mary’s Hospital in London, we recommend a title or two from our UCLA Library Baby Books Collection to consider as the royal record book for George Alexander Louis.

Ethel Elaine Barr’s 1902 memory books—one (with a red cover, Biomed HQ 779 B268hi 1902 RARE) for a king, one (with a blue cover, Biomed HQ 779 B268h 1902 RARE) for a queen—are “illustrated in free-hand paper cutting” and include an appropriate coat of arms (or “diaper of arms”) for the nursery.

But for advice for the new mother, we instead would turn to R.I. Woodhouse’s ca. 1894 memory album, Baby’s Record: Mother’s Notes About Her Baby (Biomed HQ 779 W889b 1894), which has the title page claim, “as used by The Royal Mother of the future King of England”.

The preface quotes Walter Bessant’s review in the 13 July 1889 Illustrated London News, describing how the then-novel phenomenon of “baby record books” was faring:

“In many books, the farther one goes the worse one fares; but this is not the case with ‘Baby’s Record,’ the plot thickens, the incidents multiply as we go on. ‘Early Incidents—First Crawl,’ the art of locomotion in a nutshell … ‘First Walk’: this is even still more full of rapture.

“’The dear, lumpish baby, humming like the May-bee, meets us with his bright stare, stumbling through the grass.’ He does totter and lurch a bit—he has not got his land-legs on yet—but how delightfully he does it in his mother’s eyes! ‘First Word’: good heavens! he says ‘Dada,’ and (forgetting Balaam’s ass) she [the mother] imagines that he has established his superiority over the brute creation. Let us hope that ‘big, big D’ will never pass his lips in another form and with less obvious effort. ‘First hair-cutting,’ also a great event: every hair will be religiously preserved and put into a locket—a thing that never happens to me, alas! though there is not, as in his case, ‘plenty more where that comes from.’ The entrancing chapter ends with ‘First Visit to the Sea’ and ‘First Ride,’ presumably on a donkey.”

If the library at Windsor Castle can’t find its copy of Woodhouse, we are willing to digitize or loan ours.

An interesting recent purchase on eBay (Biomed HQ 779 G618 1916 RARE) appears to have been kept for a figure of library royalty.

Lee Ash (1917-1993) co-compiled 7 editions of the pre-Internet workhorse, Subject Collections: a guide to special book collections and subject emphases as reported by university, college, public, and special libraries and museums in the United States and Canada (R.R. Bowker, 1958-1993).

The stuffed-in ephemera and documents which swell and bow the covers, of what we think is his baby book, are fascinating. Two letters of recommendation from F.A. Blossom (then Assistant Chief, Library of Congress Classification Division), who knew Ash since he was in “knee britches”, are gems. The 1938 letter (when Ash was 21) includes:

“I consider him peculiarly well qualified for library work. Besides a pleasing personality, a cooperative disposition, high standards of workmanship and a fine sense of responsibility, he has marked natural aptitudes in a grasp of detail, retentive memory and quickness of perception. His educational background is unusually comprehensive and intellectual interests are broad and genuine.”

Peculiarly well qualified for library work … intellectual interests are broad and genuine … those recommendations would be badges of honor for any library staff member.

Russell Johnson
History & Special Collections for the Sciences
UCLA Library Special Collections

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