This delicate children’s book comprises Mother Goose nursery rhymes and images by Bartlett printed together on tissue sheets that are tipped in. Her images picture well-dressed boy and girls acting out the verses and evoke the sweet Victorian charm of the early pictorial period. Mary A. Bartlett (1846-1913) was active in Chicago camera clubs during the 1890s, making primarily portraits and genre scenes. This is one of only three children’s books she illustrated, all with rich photogravures and published in the early 1890s. (Peterson) “Mrs. Bartlett distinguished herself as an amateur photographer at a time when relatively few women were involved in the art. An active member of the Chicago Camera Club, she displayed her work in several exhibitions, receiving recognition for idealized and sentimental imagery of women and children posed in outdoor settings… The photogravure printing is high quality; it was done by the New York Photogravure Co. (Wood 136 #23). This extremely delicate volume could never have been handled by children because they would destroy it. The gravures are only tacked down on the binding edge. The luminosity of these plates is superb. Her abilities as a photographer of children are perfectly demonstrated in these re-enactments of Mother Goose rhymes. (Hanson) (GEH Imagining Paradise p. 153)
During the late 19th century, photographically illustrated children’s books were a popular form of expression among photographers and meant primarily for keepsake mementos. The present work was produced for sale at the Columbia Exposition of 1893.
Foster, Sheila J, Manfred Heiting, and Rachel Stuhlman. Imagining Paradise: The Richard and Ronay Menschel Library at George Eastman House, Rochester. Göttingen: Steidl, 2007 p. 152