Book History

Author: J.G Francis (Joseph Green)
Joseph Green Francis was born April 21, 1849 in Boston. For many years he was the treasurer of the First Church in Boston. He published only two books both of which were for children. They include A Book of Cheerful Cats and Other Animated Animals (1892) and The Joyous Aztecs (1929). Francis died on April 15, 1930, three days after his eighty-first birthday.
Bibliographic Information
A Book of Cheerful Cats was written by J.G Francis and published in 1892 by the Century Company and Printed by the De Vinne Press. The book has 37 pages of print and many blank pages at the end. The book is worn, has a green border, rectangular shape, thin, there is no paper book cover, text illustrations and title page vignettes, all black and white. There is an illustration on the cover of a cat playing the violin and five smaller cats dancing.
Physical Description
It is a thin book of rectangular shape about 6 ¾ inches x 9 inches in dimension. The green hardcover binding threatens to disintegrate with every touch, yet upon opening the book the playful text and images seem lively and clear across each page. The title page accurately describes what one can expect from this book of playful cats. It reads, “Some Cat-land fancies, drawn and dressed,
 To cheer your mind when it’s depressed.” Indeed all thirty- seven pages are cleverly illustrated with amusing cats and other animals. Each illustration relates to a witty text usually about cats out-witting other animals and occasionally out-witting the ridiculous human.
Illustrator: N/A
Joseph Green Francis was the illustrator as well as the writer.
Publisher: The Century Co. New York
The Century Company, a well-known publisher of periodicals and books, published this volume in 1892. Founded in New York City in 1881, after Roswell Smith bought Scribers and Company and was renamed the Century Company. Its primary publication was The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. This magazine was one of the most popular periodicals of its time during the 1880s and 1890s. The Century Company's other publications included the ten-volume Abraham Lincoln, George Keenan's Siberia, and William Sloane's Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the children’s periodical St. Nicholas. The St. Nicholas magazine was noted for its short stories, poems, documentation of historical events, and fine woodcut illustrations: as a result, they set the standard for quality in late nineteenth century commercial art. In 1929, The Century Magazine became a quarterly and then merged with The Forum magazine in 1930.

A Book of Cheerful Cats was taken on by the Century Company and was then printed by the prestigious De Vinne Press. The De Vinne Press was a renowned-printing establishment known for their high quality books and magazines. Founder Theodore Low De Vinne purchased the Francis Hart Company in 1883 making it the Theodore L. De Vinne and Company until 1908 when the company took the corporate name, The De Vinne Press . De Vinne was a printing connoisseur: always experimenting with new technologies in an attempt to perfect and optimize the art of printing. De Vinne was a great friend of and strongly influenced by John Harper of the Harper Brother printing establishment, which went on to be one of the most influential printing establishments in the country. De Vinne has been credited as the “foremost artist and innovator in American printing in the nineteenth century and a major force in the revival of the printing art” by authors such as Michael Koenig.
Manifestations
Today, A Book of Cheerful Cats can be found for free on many different websites and in e-book form. A simple Google search produces numerous online copies at one’s disposal. Hard copies are available as well, but are not as easy to come by. This book has not been printed since 1903: so any hard copies would have to have been carefully preserved.
Bibliography
Century Company Records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library.

Gaskell, Philip. A New Introduction to Bibliography. New Castle: Oak Knoll Press & Paul’s Bibliographies, 2009.

Koenig, Michael. “De Vinne and the De Vinne Press,” The Library Quarterly , Vol. 41, No. 1 (Jan., 1971): 1-24.

Lang, Marjory. “Childhood's Champions: Mid-Victorian Children's Periodicals and the Critics.”Victorian Periodicals Review, Vol13, No. 1/2 (Spring - Summer, 1980): 17-31.

Lundin, Anne H. “Victorian Horizons: The Reception of Children’s Books in England and American 1880-1990.” The Library Quarterly (1994): 30-59.

Zboray, Ronald J. A Fictive People: Antebellum Economic Development and the American Reading Public. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Essay
A Book Of Cheerful Cats and Other Animated Animals is a classic children’s book published in 1892 and written by J. G Francis. The high quality materials used and its artistic qualities make this book an important piece of history. A Book of Cheerful Cats is an example of the cultural shift in children’s literature and the artistic qualities popular during the golden age of children’s literature in the late nineteenth century. It is unique in that though its primary purpose was to entertain children, it was also considered a work of art, meant to be saved and passed down.

The twenty years between 1880 and 1900 were known as the “golden age of children’s literature.”(1) After the industrial revolution, the American public was bombarded with cheaply made mass produced books. In the late nineteenth century there was a counter movement to return to the artful handmade books that could be considered collectable.(2) This movement took its roots in the production of children’s books.(3) Publishers and printers began to use quality materials and simple sturdier designs when publishing books. These books were now given as gifts and prizes and were saved by families who acquired them.

New technologies and rising education levels in the later nineteenth century enabled books such as this Book of Cheerful Cats to achieve a status of permanence as well as allowed for a wider distribution of children’s literature throughout the United States. The steady increase in literacy rates of children and the availability of quality books led to a larger following of all ages and a belief in the importance of children’s literature. The increasing popularity for these books motivated publishers to hire the finest printers and the “finest literary, artistic, and inventive talent that clusters around the publishing craft.”(4)

A Book of Cheerful Cats was published by the Century Company and then printed by the De Vinne Press. The Century Company was a well-known publisher of periodicals and books. The Century Company’s periodicals were known for their short stories, poems, documentation of historical events, and fine woodcut illustrations: as a result, they set the standard for quality in late nineteenth century commercial art. (5)

The De Vinne Press was a renowned-printing establishment known for their high quality books and magazines. De Vinne’s reputation for perfection and high quality books and publications ranged from commercial books to limited editions. De Vinne believed that a book should be simple and of high quality.(6) A Book of Cheerful Cats is an example of De Vinne’s neatness and simple design. The text is simple and readable, the pictures are simple black and white figures, and the make is one of integrity.

Though this volume is considered an art form and was made by renowned publishing and printing companies, we can gather from its rough worn appearance that it was more than decoration. The book was read and used by families for generations as evident by the crumbling binding and fingerprint stained pages.

Not only does A Book Of Cheerful Cats and Other Animated Animals clearly have sentimental value, it represents a lost era of artful bookmaking and is the legacy of the masterful book companies The Century Company and the De Vinne Press. This volume is a reflection of the late nineteenth century art movement, explaining why this playful book of cat poems and drawings has been saved for over one century.

(1) Anne H. Lundin. “Victorian Horizons: The Reception of Children’s Books in England and American 1880-1990.” The Library Quarterly (1994): 30.

(2) Marjory Lang . “Childhood's Champions: Mid-Victorian Children's Periodicals and the Critics.” Victorian Periodicals Review, Vol. 13, No. 1/2 (Spring - Summer, 1980): 17-31.

(3) Anne H. Lundin. “Victorian Horizons: The Reception of Children’s Books in England and American 1880-1990.” The Library Quarterly (1994): 36.

(4) Lundin, “Victorian horizons,” 37.

(5) Century Company Records, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library, http:// (accessed March 5th, 2013).

(6) Michael Koenig. “De Vinne and the De Vinne Press,” The Library Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Jan., 1971): 2.

Submitted by Kristina Rader
Published: 1892
Call Number: Rare PZ 8.3 .F72 B6
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