The stuffed animals from Zollverein were one of the most popular exhibits at The Great Exhibition of 1851. The novel, The Comical Creatures from Württemberg, is a collection of stories and illustrations of the lives of these popular animals. The novel contains six stories written to explain nineteen illustrations.
This illustration depicts the stuffed weasels from the Exhibition in their story “The Weasels of Holm-Wood”. The story is twenty-five pages long, and contains seven of the books fourteen images. The story is a tale of romance and neighborhood scandal with many different animals seen in the Württemberg section of the Great Exhibition, including hares, martens, and geese in addition to the weasels. For more information about the stuffed animal exhibit continue to the Württemberg Section.
This novel was intended as a souvenir for children who attended the exhibition, or for parents and relatives to bring back to their families who could not attend. Many souvenirs from The Great Exhibition were marketed towards children, although the idea of ‘childhood’ as we know it in the twenty-first century wouldn’t be around for another hundred years. Children were allowed to attend the exhibition, and families often visited on the reduced ticket price or “shilling days”. However, travel was expensive for families who didn’t live in the city of London. Many parents and relatives in the working class bought souvenirs for the children in their lives in lieu of taking them to experience the exhibition first hand.
Children’s souvenirs from the seventeenth century were very different than the ones we buy today. The brunt of souvenirs were text based (books, pamphlets), or a single image (posters, post cards) rather than an object like a pen or toy. In Victorian England people spent much of their free time reading for entertainment and education. This is why even the children’s books are extremely dense in text. There are far fewer images than in children’s books of today due to the expense of printing, particularly in color, which makes The Comical Creatures a rare book for its time.
While souvenirs were a common and desired element of The Great Exhibition, The Comical Creatures from Württemberg is unique as it is one of the only souvenirs that relates directly to an artifact from the exhibition. Today many small replicas of various attractions and artifacts are sold as souvenirs, however very few souvenirs in our gallery relate to one single artifact. Instead, the souvenirs have a broader scope such as the exhibition as a whole or the Crystal Palace that housed The Great Exhibition.