Adventures in Publishing

newell illustrations

This shepherd thought poetic thoughts
As by the flocks he sat;
But while he wrote his verses,
The goat fed on his hat.

Children’s author and illustrator Peter Newell collected a whole series of such reversible images in Topsys and Turvys (1893) and a sequel. He followed these up with The Hole Book (1908), in which young Tom Potts accidentally fires a gun, sending a bullet through a town; The Slant Book (1910), a book shaped like a rhombus in which a runaway baby carriage careens downhill; and The Rocket Book (1912), in which a janitor’s son sends a rocket upward through 21 successive floors of an apartment building.

The Hole Book was manufactured with a hole right through it — on each page the physical hole shows the mayhem caused by the bullet, deflating bagpipes, severing kite strings, sounding a bass drum, and blowing up a car, among many other things. It’s finally stopped by a cake:

And this was lucky for Tom Potts,
The boy who fired the shot —
It might have gone clean round the world
And killed him on the spot.