While we often think of paratext as textual additions to an existing text, Sophie May’s Dotty Dimple Stories is contained as a box set, and I contend that this box functions as an addition to the texts that it contains. Each story itself contains a plethora of paratext as well, some of which helps us better understand how these stories were enjoyed and how they were perceived as a whole set. Some of the paratext included in each story include a table of contents, running page numbers, running chapter titles, illustrations and many more. This blog post will outline and describe each paratext found in Sophie May’s box set of Dotty Dimple Stories.
While each book in Sophie May’s Dotty Dimple Stories box set is a different story, their formatting with regards to paratext remains consistent throughout the set. Featured on the first page of Dotty Dimple at Play is an illustration in black and white. The more notable paratext, however, appears just below the illustration: a caption reading “Prudy’s Lecture – Page 133”. This illustration appears on the first page of the book, however corresponds to a scene at nearly the end of the book. This gives the sense that the illustration is a teaser placed at the beginning in order to entice the reader to read the entire story.
The following page is separated also features an illustration and is separated from the first illustration by a piece of wax paper. The illustration is a decorative title page, with “Dotty Dimple Stories” written at the top in large ornate writing. Sophie May is cited as the author, while the illustrator remains nameless; only the word “illustrated” is featured on the illustration. Below the scene of the illustration is an alternate title to the story: “Dotty at Play”. This hardly differs from the original title “Dotty Dimple at Play” but is relevant nonetheless. Finally the publishing house, Lee & Shephard Boston, is written at the bottom of the page in similarly ornate writing to the title at the top of the illustration. The following page features the exact same information as the illustrated title page before it with one small addition: underneath the words “By Sophie May” reads “author of ‘Little Prudy Stories’”. After the title page there is a small block of text on the next page that reads “Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, By Lee and Shephard, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.” The book’s inclusion into the library of congress gives it authority as a work of literature that is not necessarily typical of children’s books, and encourages the reader to think that it is a quality piece of writing. Directly following this information is a dedication page, made out “To the little ‘blind-eyed children’, in the asylum for the blind, at Indianapolis”.
Directly following the dedication is a page that outlines Sophie May’s Little Folks’ Books; a multitude of children’s series including the Dotty Dimple Series, as well as the Flaxie Frizzle Stories, Little Prudy Stories, and the Little Prudy Flyaway Series. Each series features 6 texts, and judging from the title they are all children’s books. The series share more similarities, as each set is illustrated and costs 75 cents per volume. Interestingly, the Little Prudy stories are “handsomely illustrated” while each other text is listed as simply “illustrated”, yet costs the same 75 cents as any other volume.
Following this advertisement style page is a table of contents that lists all eleven chapters, from pages 7 to 166. This is a particularly peculiar paratext, as the text is clearly meant for children, yet is incredibly lengthy. After the first several pages of nothing but paratext, we turn to the first page of content, on which there is even more paratext, including the title once again, chapter number, and chapter title. The text is large, generously spaced, and the margins are wide, making this book very easy on the eyes to read. This further indicates that the intended audience was children. As we continue through the text, we see running chapter titles in the header on the right hand side of the book, running page numbers in the top outside corner of each page, and the title of the story in the header on the left hand side of the book.