|A "crankie," dated 2017.|
One of the things I love about the work I do now is the ongoing realization of just how much I get to learn in the doing of it. When I was a working academic, I was interested, of course, in material text, in the ways and forms of writing and writing supports. But in the work I do now, pretty much by just keeping my eyes open, I find—surprisingly often—things that I never expected to find, things I never knew existed.
|Although this crankie seems to be titled "Fall,"|
I can't help seeing this page as an echo of
"Sumer is I-cumen In"
So today, I’m sharing two such things, from among my more-or-less recent purchases. One is an item I bought last fall, when Rosemary and I went to the craft sale that’s held every year during “Mountaineer Week.” A local artist who makes prints was selling what he called “crankies.” I’d never heard of a crankie, but I knew what I was looking at: a book in the form of a scroll, held in a box with two handles, for advancing and reversing the pages.
|Title/colophon page, with pencil signature and date |
(neither of which shows well in my image)
As I found out (and as you might find, with some internet searching), there seems to be a whole kind of folk-festival crankie world, and—rightly or wrongly—there seems to be some claim or perception that crankie panoramas were a feature of nineteenth-century American folk performance, perhaps especially in places like Appalachia.
I had known, of course, that large-scale painted panoramas had had a vogue in nineteenth-century America (and elsewhere), but somehow it had never occurred to me that smaller ones might have been made and used. Presumably they were.
|The back of the crankie, showing its cigar-box origins.|
This crankie is made, as it turns out, from a wooden cigar box: it is an example of recycling in itself, as much as it is a scroll. Of course I bought it. I am sorry now that I didn't also buy one of the tiny examples made from a matchbox. Next year, perhaps.
Then, at an antique auction a couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to purchase an actual nineteenth-century example of a book in the form of a scroll.
|Robinson's Patent Photograph Album scroll (note:|
this example lacks its original lid, which
had two windows, allowing two photos
to be displayed at a time).
The Robinson's Patent Photograph Album was probably always an unusual thing, and I think it's safe to say examples are scarce today. Some have turned
up before—this is not the first one known—but I think they are usually collected as parts of photography collections, rather than as books (I couldn't find an example on WorldCat, for one). Yet the title page distinctly calls this item an album, even if the language of patenting and manufacturing used there also suggests that the original makers weren’t really thinking of it in book-like terms.
The photos that have been placed into this particular album, it may be worth noting, include both albumen prints (such as one might find on cartes de visit) and tintypes.
And while I am not certain that I am correct, I think that patents at this period extended for fourteen years, with a possible extension of seven more: so, given the cited patent date in 1865, this particular album must probably date from between 1865 and 1886.
|Two tintype photos.|
Scrolls, I guess I have learned, are a physical format for books that is not limited to the distant past.