England: circa 1957. Single volume, measuring 14.75 x 10.25 inches: . Original full tan morocco, front board stamped with dozens of tiny gilt stars, spine stamped with stars and lettered in gilt, heavy purple endpapers hand-stamped with border of yellow squares. Unfinished manuscript title page stamped with border of yellow squares and hand-colored in yellow; eighteen unnumbered manuscript leaves in black ink on rectos only; three manuscript leaves (“Index to Illustrations”) in red ink on rectos and versos. Illustrated with fourteen original drawings and gouache paintings mounted onto heavy grey paper. Light wear and spotting to boards.
Striking illustrated manuscript on the role of toys across cultures, produced by English scholar Avril Henry (1935-2016). As a young woman, Henry studied painting and sculpture at Wimbledon School of Art, obtaining an Art Teacher’s Diploma with Distinction at the University of London. After working as an art teacher and illustrator, she entered Oxford to study the culture of medieval England. Henry would go on to teach medieval studies at the University of Exeter for more than three decades, with a special interest in “the complex interface of text and image” (Exeter Cathedral Keystones and Carvings). That interest is on display in this research project, almost certainly an art school assignment. The text is written in Henry’s calligraphic hand, illustrated with fourteen examples of her original artwork, and presented in an unusual vernacular binding likely executed by Henry herself. The aim of the essay is to “consider toys insofar as they are works of art, for both those who make and those who play are artists.” Drawing on anthropological and historical sources, Henry illustrates her argument with examples of toys from the Stone Age to the Age of Steam, including full-color images of Javanese shadow-puppets, an African mask, Hopi Indian dolls, a Victorian rocking-horse, and an American teddy bear. Many of the toys are drawn from life at the British Museum, the Horniman Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Literary quotations from the likes of Alexander Pope, G.K. Chesterton, and A.A. Milne are sprinkled throughout the text. The most recent bibliography entry is a December 1956 Punch article entitled “Toys Will Be Toys,” which dates this manuscript to Henry’s early twenties. A compelling manuscript, historically informed and graphically striking, reflecting the author’s lifelong attention to material culture.