Friday, December 28, 2012

Old Dame and Her Pig an Ancient Tale

I was doing a little sidetracking the other day and came across an old, tattered and somewhat dirty child's story book. I don't remember ever seeing this book before, or maybe I never really gave it much thought when I did. All I know is I found it tucked between a couple other very old books I had in my "keepsake" cabinet. 
There is no title page with a copyright, date, or publisher. The book is very fragile. It has a sewn binding. It also looks like it may have had a harder cover at sometime before. The book is not complete either. The flyer on the wall behind the "old dame" says "Old Nurses Little Library" I have no idea what that means. [On "googling" it seems as though there was a 1868 book which compiled many stories which could have been where my book came from. Just a guess.]

I turned the first page and – this time – took notice it belonged to my grandfather William Dennis Porteous. The words "willie dinnis Portus [h]is book" is actually written in a purple ink. [h] I added to show he had dropped the "h" because that is how English people talked. The spelling of PORTUS was how my great grandfather wrote his surname. The PORTEOUS spelling was first seen being used after they settled in Lake County, Illinois in the 1870s.
Inside the first page is "willie dinnis Portus is book." "His" is spelled phonetically as "is." It was written in purple ink over erased pencil words possibly of the previous owner.

I looked a little closer and I think it was written over another name. I tried to make out what was erased and all I can really make out is the last work as BOOK. So I think it belonged to another earlier on.

Not knowing when or where my book came from, there was a clue on the first page...the words "crooked sixpence" confirmed my suspicions this book was from England. Could my tattered little book have been brought over in 1870 when my grandfather came to America with his parents and siblings? William was three years old. Was he a little too young to read or hear a story like this? Could it have been his older sister's? It was possibly written about 1847. Could it have been my great grandfather John's childhood book. John was born in 1841, he would have been six years old. Would six be the right age to hear this story? 

My PORTAS family are from Lincolnshire, England. There were windmills in many towns...not so many now, but you can still see a few. In a couple illustrations you can see windmills which leads me to think the illustrator could have been from Lincs. They are in both my tattered book and the one below. 

I scanned that inside signature at 1900 dpi hoping (in Photoshop) I could "pull" out the back writing. No success. Will I ever know who the previous owner of willie's book was? I can only guess.

Because my little tattered book was missing almost half of the story (ended at the butcher page), I decided to look on the internet for any information on this story or if someone else had a book like mine. I found many versions of this tale. I found several images of complete books, but none looked exactly like mine. 

I found one closest to mine. It is on the University of California's "California Digital Library" on the Internet Archive website <> and can be viewed online or downloaded

The illustrations in this book are a little more detailed, but are so close to being the same as mine I would think both book's illustrations were by the same person; I don't know which book is the older.

The author is John Leighton (1822-1912), publisher was London: David Bogue, Fleet St. It is no longer in copyright. According to the website: 
The ancient story of the old dame and her pig: a legend of obstinacy shewing how it cost the old lady a world of trouble & the pig his tail ([1847]). 
I'm not sure if it would be a story our children would hear at bedtime in today's world. They can't compare to the violence and gore our kids see on tv and movies today. To me, well, I like these old tales. I have always loved fairy tales and nursery rhymes, too. There is always a "moral to the story." I hope you enjoy this old tale and remember back in England in 1847 stories had a little odd side to them.
The cover page is more elaborate and if you look carefully at the illustration, there are many
whimsical items tucked in and around. Quite fun to look at.
 The plaque on the wall in back of the "old dame" says "Illustrated by Luke Limner, £8Q" but is different on my book.
As it turns out, the nom-de-plume "Luke Limner" was used by John Leighton who is both this book's illustrator
and a publisher of many other books.

The bottom writing:
"The ancient story of the "Old Woman & Her Pig" is suppose to be derived from a hymn in Sepher Haggadah, Fol:23.  The original is in the Chaldee Language, a translation may be found in "Halliwell's Nursery Rhymes of England" & an historical interpretation in the "Christian Reformer" Volume 17. Page 28.

The Sepher Haggadah, Fol:23 text can be found: 

The definition of Chaldee Language can be found:

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