Caricature… (Antique Book Review)

Two years ago, I rescued and was gifted a couple of boxes full of vintage and antique books from the old house on dad’s property. Dad wanted to clear away some clutter and said I could discard or keep whatever I wished.  Many of the books were moldy and beyond repair.  Others had a better fate by being stored in the middle of piles, they only had a musty odor.  Among the salvageable books, were some real treasures.

I came across a simply bound volume that, at first, looked like a college yearbook. When I picked up Caricature: The Wit & Humor of a Nation in Picture, Song & Story, I realized that it was certainly a keeper.  It appeared that the book had only been perused a few times by the prior owners. There were no dog-eared pages nor any other type of visible damage. So I set it aside and promptly forgot about it.

The other day, I rediscovered the antique book in my stack of old encyclopaedia and atlases then I decided to enjoy it.  There are no publishing date nor preface to the book.  It has only a title page with some attribution to the contributors of this collection of humor, short essays, limericks, cartoons, and illustrations.  I read a few pages, then wanted to research it online to find out more about it.


Images are clickable


I decided to review the book for you after I discovered that there is a digital copy of a later edition available at that can be perused online. Even though the digital copy is different from my hard copy, the basics of the two are quite similar in scope.

Judging by many of the cartoons, as far as I can determine, the copy of Caricature… in my hands was printed sometime around 1911. It is a slim book of perhaps 300 unnumbered pages. I didn’t count them because I didn’t want to take the risk of damaging the pages by unneccesary handling. Although the paper is not archive quality, the pages are relatively smooth and have not yellowed very much, but they’re somewhat fragile because of age. As with any antique book, mindful care must be taken when handling and reading it.

One of the delightful aspects about an old mainstream book of this sort is the style of humor.  While there are many pages that contain risque’ joking, none of it is crude.  Puns are skillfully crafted, too.  The material was written to be savored, not just thrown away.  A superficial reading of the pages will give the impression that the material is merely quaint and innocent. However, I decided to carefully read the stories and poetic verse.  Doing so, I was able to imagine the life and times of average Americans in the early 20th century.

The cartoons are real treasures.  Many of them not only lampoon the hypocrisy of politicians and public figures but give jabs at the foibles of regular people. Little tidbits of pithy wisdom jump out from the pages at unexpected turns.Caricature-03

The book contains many full-page drawings and illustrations, but no photographs.  The lack of photos is not a detriment, but is instead an asset. There are very artistic depictions of fashion, transportation, and commercial art.  I especially love the appearance, here and there, of some Art Nouveau illustrations. Many of them are so stunning that I feel tempted to frame and hang them on my walls.  A few of the pictures were probably poster size, in their original form.

Books of this type, as well as general audience magazines, provided the entertainment for the American public in the early 1900s.  The times were a prelude to the two world wars.  There was no concept of radio and television. Certainly, the Internet was far away at the time.  I can imagine a family of the 1910s relaxing in the parlor after dinner and all the household chores being completed.  Father, mother, and the children would be reading material much like this book for their amusement and edification.

I can’t say that the times were simpler back then, only that the culture was quite different from ours.  I’m glad books like Caricature… have survived.  Writing and visual arts of this sort provide us with an enjoyable opportunity to investigate the roots of our modern culture.

{ Caricature The Wit & Humor of a Nation in Picture, Song & Story; Illustrated by America’s Greatest Artists; published approximately 1911 by Leslie-Judge, New York, New York }

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes this short excerpt from Caricatures….  “Sympathy for another’s woes seldom disturbs a night’s rest.”


About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in art, Books, cultural highlights, Entertainment, History, Vintage Collectables and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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