Blue Beard 1875


Blue Beard

Pantomime Toybooks
Copyright McLoughlin Bros. N.Y. cs. 1875
7 1/2 in. 10 in.  19 cm x 26 cm.
10 Pages

By the time this wonderful book was published, the market for moveable books in Europe and the United States was well established.  There were several types of moveable books—each with its own name.

The “pantomime” style of book was one where the reader would open to a lavishly colored scene and turn pages of varying sizes to reveal a story in pictures.

McLoughlin Bros. released many stories in the pantomime style.  As you can see in this book, the moveable pictures are set on a stage and the viewer is seeing the story from the vantage point of an audience member in an ornate theatre.  These books were not meant to be instructive in any way, they were, as the book cover says,” toybooks”.

This book give and adapted, although faithful, telling of the story of Blue Beard.  Blue Beard.  Blue Beard is a wealthy aristocrat who is feared and odd—due to the blue beard.  He has married many times and the fate of his ex-wives is unknown.

Blue Beard curries the favor if two sisters, Fatima and Anne.  He marries Fatima.  Blue Beard has to leave town for business and leaves Fatima and Anne in charge of the house with the only command that they not enter the blue chamber under any circumstance.  The two sisters can’t help themselves and enter the room.

Inside is a truly gruesome scene.  Each of the bodies of Blue Beard’s wives is hanging dead from hooks, some with heads and some without.  Shocked at the scene, Fatima drops the keys in a pool of blood staining them.

Blue Beard returns shortly thereafter and discovers that the sisters entered the room because of the stained key.  He is prepared to kill Fatima, but gives her a few minutes before he cuts off her head.  In that time, Anne is able to summon her soldier brother and his colleagues.  The soldiers burst into the castle and slay Blue Beard before he can kill Fatima.

The entire story is captured well in the folding pages of the book.  The text of the book begins with the tale leading up to the point where Blue Beard is set to kill Fatima.  The story is skillfully told in prose and int rhyming poem.  The reader is taken to the point of Fatima facing death and then the scene opens up for the reader to leaf through the pages on the stage.

After the stage scene is finished, the text picks up and finished the story in words.  The last two pages of the book is “The Story of Blue Beard” in paragraph form.

McLoughlin Bros., Inc. was a New York publishing firm active between 1828 and 1920. The company gained a unique proficiency with color printing technologies and employed the techniques successfully to children’s books.

Many of their books were adaptations of classic stories and fairy tales.  Like many publishers of the day, many classics stories were censored for a young or family audience; although, not all of Mcloughlin Bros. books underwent revising.

The artistic and commercial roots of the McLoughlin firm were first developed by John McLoughlin, Jr. (1827-1905) developed the company and who made his younger brother Edmund McLoughlin (1833 or 4-1889) a partner in 1855. By 1886, the firm published a wide range of items, including cheap pocket-sized, large folio picture books, linen books, puzzles, games and paper dolls.

Many of the earliest and most valuable board games in America were produced by McLoughlin Brothers of New York. In 1920 the corporation was sold to Milton Bradley.  When the company was sold to Milton Bradley, McLoughlin continued producing picture books, but did not produce any more games.

Blue Beard is one of numerous titles in the Toybooks series.  Others include Cinderella, Aladdin and more,

McLoughlin Bros. produced a great number of color books for a mass audience and their work cannot be understated when it comes to how the world of printing and juvenile literature was shaped.

This wonderful example of a toybook is a n important piece of late 19th century ephemera and a superb window into what popular culture consumed in the time frame.