Sunday, 16 February 2014

Cole's Funny Picture Book

Okay. I confess. I am a huge fan of Professor Cole.

For those of you who don't know, Professor Cole (who was not, in fact, a professor,) was a bit of an eccentric chap who was born in England, but travelled to Australia during the gold rush and became famous for establishing one of the most unusual bookstores in Australia, if not the world. At its peak, Coles Book Arcade, which was located in Melbourne, was home to an astounding two million books. And legend has it, Professor Cole wasn't terribly bothered if people paid for his books or not. The entrance to the arcade was decorated with a rainbow and there were many unusual relics inside, most of which were salvaged after the arcade closed during the depression and now live inside a museum in Melbourne. And the most famous book of all to come out of Cole's Book Arcade, is none other than Coles Funny Picture Book, a children's book filled with poetry and quirky Victorian era pictures. The highlight of the book for me, as a child (yeah, okay and as an adult as well,) was Cole's Whipping Machine, designed to flog naughty boys:

Image source: Project Gutenburg

My grandma and I used to have great fun looking at the picture and the accompanying poem that detailed what each of these bad boys did to deserve such a dreadful punishment--so much so that my grandma ended up writing Kathryn's favourite page underneath the picture. 

The Cole's Funny Picture Book became so famous that it sold more than one million copies. The full version is now freely available on Project Gutenburg, something I think Professor Cole would approve of. Soon after Cole's Funny Picture Book was published, a second one was published and a third was written and published by his grandson, in the 1950s. In the 1990s, Cole's Funny Picture Book No.4 was published by members of the Cole family and included input from several generations of the Cole family. In 2013 Coles Funny Little Picture Book, a smaller version of the Cole's Funny Picture Book was published by Hardie Grant. With a bit of luck, this book and the legacy of Professor Cole will continue to charm generations to come ...

Do you have any memories of the Coles Funny Picture Book? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments section below ...

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