"Filled with the Most Precious Jewels": The Arents Doll's Casket

Nothing sinister is intended in the name of this charming and very rare treasure from the George Arents Collection of Books in Parts: "casket" is simply an old-fashioned word for a chest or a box. The Arents Doll's Casket is in fact a miniature library containing twelve tiny picture books, as well as "2 Battledores, 3 Packets of Beasts, 3 Packets of Birds, 4 Packets of Objects, A Portfolio of Landscapes, A Bag of Letters to make words with, A Pincushion with six black and six white pins, [and] A Curious Map of the world." Each of the miniature books features fourteen full-page illustrations, which, like all of the printed materials, are engraved and hand-colored throughout. A separate accompanying sheet includes a preface addressed to the "Doll's Mamma" from the "Children's Printer."

A letter of introduction from the printer describes a somewhat macabre game: "œI have now contrived something new for your doll, it is a little Casket filled with the most precious jewels, and a pincushion for your doll, with six black, and six white pins, and as often as she is good you are to stick a white pin on one side, and when she is naughty you are to stick a black one on the other, and if ever there is occasion to stick all the black pins she must be corrected but if the whole of the white pins, then she is to be rewarded with a book or a picture out of her casket. Thus in time clearly ... she will become a good doll."

The Doll's Casket. London: John Marshall, ca. 1815-20.
The New York Public Library, George Arents Collection of Books in Parts.

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