Paper cut

Christine's Picture Book, which was made in 1859 by Hans Christian Andersen and Adolph Drewsen, is now published by the Royal Library in Copenhagen as part of a lenghty series of publications and documents that will serve to illuminate Hans Christian Andersen's life and work on the occasion of his 200-year jubilee in 2005.
     This first online edition of the picture book has only been made possible by the great kindness displayed by Troels Andersen, director of the Silkeborg Kunstmuseum, who lent the original manuscript to the Royal Library so that it could be scanned, and also gave permission for it to be published on the internet.
     The book was published in 1984 by Erik Dal, who has written a new introduction to this internet-edition, extracts of which can be seen below.

What sort of a book is this?
Christine's Picture Book is a beautifully bound scrapbook of 122 leaves, slightly larger than A4 format, dating from 1859. On the right-hand pages and some of the left-hand ones, more than 1,000 pictures of widely varying kinds have been pasted in, most of them printed in colour or hand-coloured. In many instances, amusing little hand-written captions or verses have been added.

Who made it?
It was compiled by Hans Christian Andersen and his friend, a Danish magistrate named Adolph Drewsen, who is named on the first sheet as being Christine's grandfather. The occasion was her third birthday, 30 October 1859.

Who was Christine, and where is the scrapbook now?
She was the great-grandchild of Jonas Collin, a civil servant who had been of great support to the young Hans Christian Andersen, and to whose family Andersen became closely attached. In 1826, Collin's daughter, Ingeborg Collin, married Adolph Drewsen (1809?85), and in 1850 their daughter Jonna married Baron Henrik Stampe. They had six children, including Baroness Christine Stampe (1856?84). One of her grandsons married Countess Alette Bardenfleth (1925-86), lady-in-waiting to the Queen. In 1983 Countess Bardenfleth decided to publish the book and set up a foundation, Christine Stampes Billedbog, whose funds for a number of years were to support projects connected with Danish history, language, literature and music. The scrapbook itself was to be donated to Silkeborg Kunstmuseum, because the Drewsen family and the history of Silkeborg are closely linked. Danish, German, English and Italian editions of the book were published in 1984 and a Swedish edition in 1985.

What sort of pictures does the book contain?
Virtually, anything and everything: scenes of nature, both domestic and foreign, all kinds of domestic and wild animals in (or often outside) their natural surroundings, people from all periods, all strata of society and engaged in all kinds of occupations, also as individual figures in the most diverse situations, and also all manner of decorative objects and articles of everyday use, or purely decorative details. A number of them are portraits that have been signed ? others are probably portraits whose names are missing or have been cut off. Very often pictures have been combined to create a situation, or simply for decorative purposes - perhaps rather too many little figures have been used as ornamentation around important or larger pictures. Many of the pictures are illustrations, including pictures of scenes from plays, but as a rule without naming either the theatre or the play in question, which would not be of much interest to a child.

Christine's Picture Book Plate 14

Plate 14

What was the purpose of the books?
Yes, books in the plural, because Christine Stampe was the youngest of three sisters, and Grandfather Drewsen and his friend Hans Christian Andersen made a picture book for each of them.
         Rigmor's is from 1852 and is now in Norwegian ownership. Astrid's is from 1853, when she was only one year old - it returned to its original home when Peter Stampe-Holst, owner of Nysø, the family estate near Præstø, acquired it in 1958 at one of the largest auctions of the period. Today it belongs to Odense City Museums.
         Apart from the work on the pictures, both Drewsen and Andersen also contributed texts. It is easy to see whether the handwriting is Andersen's - large and rather sprawling - or Drewsen's, which is smaller and neater (see for example Plates 99 and 98). Whether Andersen may have composed some of the verses penned in Drewsen's hand is hard to say. However, it must be assumed that the work as a whole was predominantly done by Grandfather Drewsen, who in a letter to his poet friend in 1857 mentioned his growing delight in seeing pictures and making picture books for the little ones.
         Common to all three scrapbooks is their total disorder, which has even led to the separation of large coherent sheets (see, for example, Plates 34 and 107). The aim has been to amuse rather than provide useful information. And in some places quite unchildish attitudes are revealed, such as 'the participants' in the royal menu (Plate 105) and, worse, the treatment of a deeply serious historical scene (Plate 81) must have been by mutual consent - and intended for grown-ups!

Christine's Picture Book Plate 81

Plate 81

What about the silhouettes?
There are only a few, but they are important. Plate 11 has a whole collection of Andersen's favourite figures: mermaids and swans. Plate 18 has a troll, rather unnecessarily guarded by four soldiers. Plate 59 has perhaps the most distinguished of many silhouettes of dancers, though unfortunately also burdened with various decorations. Plate 80 has a light and delicate landscape and again two of Andersen's favourites, the swan and the stork. And finally, Plate 91 shows dancers, meant to be folded so that they could be stood up. Andersen cut many silhouettes, often for the entertainment of others and perhaps accompanied by a little story about what kind of picture was coming now. On the other hand this scrapbook contains none of the drawings which Andersen also made, about 300 of which are known; until about 1830 they were of various imaginary beings, later only of buildings and districts. It was in his paper-cuts that he gave his imagination free rein.

Christine's Picture Book Plate 11

Plate 11

Translated by David Hohnen