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Gavin’s book of witches

Sarah S Pipkin29 October 2021

Hidden in the Institute of Education’s Baines Archives is a small book entitled Gavin’s book of witches (BA/1/9/78).

A book cover decorated with crayons which reads Gavin's book of witches

The Baines Archives includes items related to the work of George and Judith Baines, who pioneered new teaching methods in the 1960s-1980s. The archive includes examples of student work from Eynsham County Primary School where George Baines worked as the headteacher. There are a number of small books written, illustrated, and bound by the students. One former pupil described the process:

‘A prominent memory that I have is of the book binding which not only completed a study but also became a feature. The technique is a cherished memory: the meticulous scraping of the lino block, the roller thick with sticky paint, the binding and the glue oozing out in all the wrong places, the pride of producing a book contained within a hardback.’

Gavin’s book of witches is one such example of student work. It was produced by a young pupil, probably named Gavin, who was probably still learning to write. The teacher has written the text for Gavin to copy underneath. It was then illustrated with original drawings.

Two pages. One has children's writing and is decorated with red and black crayon. The other is a drawing of a group of witches.

The book is very short – just six pages in total. A transcription of it follows:

A children's drawing of a witch on a broom with a cat.

 

 

 

My witch is flying. She is going to the witches party.

 

 

 

A children's drawing of a group of witches.

 

 

She gets there first then all these come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A group of witches sat at a table.

 

The witches are singing and eating at their party.

 

 

 

 

 

Gavin’s book of witches is the perfect Halloween story.

If you’d like to see more examples of workbooks from the Baines collection, ‘A Book of Bones’ and ‘My Book about the Potato’ are both featured in our online exhibition ‘Word as Art: Beauty in the Archives.’

Advent Definitions: Christmas Box

Nazlin Bhimani11 December 2017

The definition of ‘Christmas Box’ from the 19th century dictionaries is ‘a box for collecting Christmas presents; a Christmas present’ (1885). Christmas as we celebrate it today has its origins in the Victorian period, thanks to Prince Albert bringing to England the German tradition of a Christmas tree lit with candles. By the end of the 19th century, the Christmas tree was a familiar sight in the homes of many well-to-do families and the joy of opening a Christmas box part of the excitement of the festivities.

One of the children’s books in the Baines Collection held in the UCL Institute of Education’s Special Collection is an annual (the first for children published in England) with the title The Christmas Box. As the title is so relevant to this time of the year I would like to share the delight of this little book as a Christmas treat for everyone. The book, edited by T. Crofton Croker, is small in format as was typical of children’s books at the time so that they could fit in a child’s hands.  It is only 16.2 x 10.2 cm in size and was published between 1828 and 1829.  It has lovely wood cut prints  and includes short stories, verses, plays and articles and even a brief history of the Napoleonic wars.

The stories include ‘Battle of Frogs and Mice’, a short animal epic ascribed to Homer in the ancient world and ‘The Three Caskets’ which was used in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. The book also contains a couple of firsts:   the first appearance of a Norwegian folk tale ‘The History of Asim and Asgard’ and the first publication of Scott’s poem ‘The Bonnets of Bonny Dundee’ (Hahn, 2015, p. 127). In addition, there are writings by the prolific author of adult and children’s stories Maria Edgeworth (1768 – 1849) who also wrote the well-known education treatise Practical Education (1801) (also in the IOE’s Special Collections) in which she and her father Richard Lovell Edgeworth combine ideas of different philosophers including John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

The book concludes with a collection of carols and a message for the reader which seems very appropriate for both the book and this blog post:

And now, little dears, we have only to wish you all good wishes,

and to thank you for your patience in perusing our small present.

May you all spend your Christmas holidays pleasantly, with every enjoyment and entertainment,

and be ready, when we meet again, to glance over our pages with the same good humour and glee as we trust you have done.

And so GOOD BYE.

Have a lovely Christmas and Best wishes for the New Year!