Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mounseer Nongtongpaw, or the Discoveries of John Bull in a Trip to Paris

The New York Public Library has animated the first book Mary Shelley ever worked on - a kid’s story called Mounseer Nongtongpaw, or the Discoveries of John Bull in a Trip to Paris. It was published by Shelley’s anarchist philosopher dad William Godwin in 1808 when she was a mere 10-years-old and is “probably the first book publication Mary Shelley was ever involved in,” said Charles Carter, a librarian from the Pforzheimer Collection, which houses the works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, his family and his friends. “She basically came up with a plot sketch for what was going to happen in the story. She had help from adults, but still, it’s very interesting.” In-house digital producer Jonathan Blanc put the video together in only a few weeks, Carter said, as a way to promote a new exhibit opening today called Shelley’s Ghost at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. The show - a version of which will come to NYPL in 2012 - features 12 of the collection’s “greatest treasures,” said Carter, who wrote a blog post about it today. “I was trying to think of ways to promote it that would be adaptable to an electronic medium,” he said. “This particular item, because it’s so heavily illustrated, would lend itself well, I thought. I was thinking of a Reading Rainbow kind of thing.” Well done, and appropriate. The story was originally based on a comedic song from the early 1790s.

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