The Man in the Moon – One Last History Mystery at LCP

ASSU Illustration 3616 - One of the more perplexing images so far! Courtesy of The Library Company of Philadelphia.

In my last post I briefly described the work of digitizing American Sunday-School Union woodblocks.

I’ve been holding off on writing this post because I hoped that I might be able to find an explanation for the above block, but alas, I’m entering my last week at The Library Company and it remains a mystery!

Like Ever, I’ve found the Internet an invaluable resource in hunting down information: mysterious elements in images, words inscribed on the blocks which might help identify the places the images were used.

The Library Company’s online database WolfPAC has listings of the works stored in the stacks above the main floor’s reading room.  Archive.org has a huge collection of digitized ASSU publications.  I’ve learned to use Authority Records from the Library of Congress (Hi Gabi!) to correctly describe the subjects of images: “Agriculture,” not “farming;” “living rooms,” not “parlors”!  With the help of a Google Books court case summary, I was even able to be what the chief of reference called a “history detective” and find out that one partnership of engravers was active two years earlier than previously recorded.

Often the images are easy to describe with little or no research.  I struggled to describe this slightly bizarre block, though.  What can you make of a man in an orb, a dog, and a kite?  A little Googling of this mystery block suggested that it might be the man in the moon, but a search through all of the digitized ASSU books on Archive.org has yielded nothing.  A member of the Print Department even got in on the search, looking for any bindings or images depicting a figure like the one on this block.  So far, no luck, but I’ll be searching diligently through the next week to try to solve one more (small) history mystery before I leave!

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