Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2017 Issue

A Dr. Seuss Museum Opens in His Hometown

16538df5-5bb1-4f53-9722-f9f012b514ee

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>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <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>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions