A Special Collections Gallery talk on Wednesday, October 10, at 4:00 p.m. in the Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library, will highlight a new exhibition in the Special Collections Library. “Heinrich Hoffmann’s Stories for Children and the Emergence of the Modern Picture Book,” opening on October 8, will explore the work of Hoffmann (1809–1894), a German psychiatrist whose most popular book, Struwwelpeter, has delighted children on both sides of the Atlantic since its first publication in 1845.
Gerhard F. Strasser, professor emeritus of German and Comparative Literature at Penn State, will introduce an engaging video featuring Frau Marion Herzog-Hoinkis, of Frankfurt, Germany. Herzog, whose late husband, Gerhard Hertz Herzog, was director of the Struwwelpeter Museum in Frankurt am Main, will give a lively, illustrated tour of the history and influence of the boy called Shockheaded Peter, as he is known in English, and will explain how there came to be a museum devoted to a fictional character.
The video, produced by Berlin videographers Alexander Kraudelt and Victoria Magali Herzog, is accompanied by the darkly humorous songs of the Tiger Lillies, a British trio often described as the forefathers of Brechtian Punk Cabaret. Their 1998 musical “Shockheaded Peter: A Junk Opera” set the stories of Heinrich Hoffmann to music.
Frau Herzog recently donated to the Special Collections Library some 300 items from her personal collection of editions, translations, imitations, and parodies of the story, many of them included in the exhibition. Early children’s books were moral tales about teaching virtues or etiquette. Hoffmann’s genius is that he turned such moral tales upside down and made fun of them with his exaggerated stories. The iconic status of Struwwelpeter is a testimony to Hoffmann’s radical and original influence on the modern picture book, where the text and the illustrations are integral and equal. His innovation was the birth of the funny picture book, whose legacy includes comic books and even the graphic novel. Hoffmann’s influence can also be seen in modern examples in the exhibition, including works by Edward Gorey and Maurice Sendak.
The exhibition draws on the extensive holdings of children’s literature in the Allison-Shelley Collection of German Literature in English Translation. A special feature of the display will highlight educational toys developed by the 19th-century German educator Friedrich Froebel, who created the concept of the “kindergarten” and coined the word.