Brain Pickings

19th-Century Anthropomorphic Animals from the NYPL Archives

What kimono-wearing rabbits and ice-skating camels have to do with solving information overload.

The New York Public Library has long been leading the way with smart digitization projects that make its vast and remarkable collections accessible to the world at large. And while the disconnect between accessibility and access may loom larger than ever in the age of information overabundance, it only takes a bit of curiosity and patience to find in these archives utterly fascinating historical materials. Case in point, these weird and wonderful anthropomorphic animals from the 1800s culled from NYPL’s Mid-Manhattan Picture Collection, including some early six-panel comic strips, with original captions from the collection and brimming with the subtle humor of the era — a fine fictional complement to the very real emotional lives of animals you might recall from several weeks ago.

Assembly of the notables at Paris, February 22, 1787 (1875)
Animals kissing, eating, listening to music, and dancing
The duel (1857)
Ice skating camel. (ca. 1898)
King Noble the Lion slaying a sheep (1846)
Monkey throwing a bucket of water at a cat on the street
Nursing the invalid
Pig and bear playing on a swing
Le procès des chiens (1849)
Une visite le jour de l’an : les joujoux (1876-1878)
Rabbits wearing kimonos

For more on the curious history and psychology of anthropomorphism in art and culture, see Lorraine Datson’s Thinking with Animals: New Perspectives on Anthropomorphism.

Published August 25, 2011




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