Home Featured Sculpture A Quirky Collection of Cat Whiskers Diligently Cataloged in a Handbound Book from the 1940s

A Quirky Collection of Cat Whiskers Diligently Cataloged in a Handbound Book from the 1940s

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A Quirky Collection of Cat Whiskers Diligently Cataloged in a Handbound Book from the 1940s




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January 2, 2020

Grace Ebert

An inside spread of the handmade book created from 1940-1942 by Janet Gnosspelius. All images © Collingwood Archive, shared with permission

This recent discovery in the Collingwood Archive of the Cardiff University Special Collections purrfectly catalogs a young girl’s childhood quirks. A handmade book by Janet Gnosspelius contains every one of her cats’ whiskers found in her home from 1940 to 1942. Gnosspelius wove the whiskers into the pages, dated, and noted how each was discovered, whether “while playing darts,” “under edge of lino in pantry,” on the “dining room hearthrug,” or “under back door draught protector.”

Gnosspelius was the daughter of artist and sculptor Barbara Collingwood and the granddaughter of W.G. Collingwood, John Ruskin’s secretary, and was one of the first women to attend the Liverpool School of Architecture. Archivists say the meticulous nature Gnosspelius exhibited in creating her book remained throughout her life as she worked in “local history and building conservation, regularly posting samples of masonry to Liverpool City Planning Office, neatly labelled with their provenance and date, demanding their restoration.”

At age 40, Gnosspelius channeled her creative energy once again into creating a special diary documenting the lives of her feline friends. “The diary is no ordinary one,” a note to Colossal from archivists reads. “It is written from the perspective of her beloved ginger cat Butterball, recording the dates of his fights, illnesses, and stays with friends: ‘9 March 1965: wrapped my mouse in the mat outside kitchen door.’” More information about Gnosspelius’s family history is available in this online exhibition.










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