(Written by SHS Intern Allison Densel)
Not a creature was stirring… except for the mouse that nibbled on this little children’s book! We found this copy of Little Pleasewell’s The Mouse and the Christmas Cake, a one-cent book printed by the McLoughlin Brothers, in a box of old letters, prints, photographs, and other mementos that was lent to the SHS by a family that recently moved to Sudbury. The collection has been passed down from homeowner to homeowner, and contains documents from the 19th Century, some from as far back as 1813!
In the poem, a mouse named Nib comes across a human family’s Christmas cake. She finds that the cake topper, a model of Windsor Castle, is the perfect place for her to build a home. During the celebration on Christmas Day, she gives the party-goers quite a scare when she leaps out of the cake and runs away! After trying to catch her, the humans have a good laugh about the situation and continue on with the party. The text is paired with vivid and colorful illustrations from scenes in the story.
The McLoughlin Brothers, a New York publishing firm, were pioneers in color printing, specializing in children’s books and games. Active between 1858 and 1920, the Brothers worked with several artists to adapt watercolor and pen-and-ink drawings for print. The firm was sold in 1920 and again in 1951. Later, many items in their collection of publications were donated to the American Antiquarian Society, and are still collector’s items today. Despite being (ironically) mouse-eaten, this copy of The Mouse and the Christmas Cake is a stunning example of children’s literature from the 19th Century.