Don't Judge a Book by its Cover: The Drawing Book of Verena Fehr

     For many years, Pennsylvania has been host to events such as book shows, auctions, and antique shows. The York Book and Paper Fair held in York, Pennsylvania has always been a treat. Book dealers display all sorts of items. Anyone interested in history can spend hours perusing many book titles or eyeing old documents. Trade paperbacks are in abundance with any variety of topics. Ephemera is also plentiful, providing memories for those with a melancholy streak. Few collectors leave the show empty-handed.

      A couple of years ago, one vendor displayed three brown paper-wrapped booklets.* An initial guess placed the date of the notebooks around the early 1900's, with a best guess date of 1920. Considering the notebooks were carefully wrapped in the plain protective coverings, they did not look exciting. The three notebooks were labeled with a handwritten name declaring ownership by "Verena Fehr". Each was also labeled with the word "zeichmungsheft"** and numbered.

Fehrw    Although the outsides revealed nothing remarkable, once opened the three writing books showcased page after page of charming and often whimsical drawings made by the child Verena Fehr. Some offerings are in color, some are simply pencil renderings, and all are captivating. There is a gentleness about the child's pictures which enhances their intrinsic charm.

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    Unlike many journals or diaries which which often contain a disappointing number of blank pages, all of Verena's booklets are filled with drawings. Verena, who was undoubtedly a Pennsylvania German (sometimes called Pennsylvania Dutch) child, painstakingly labeled each section in careful handwriting. Some of the works were also labelled as if she toyed with the idea of creating a book. For instance, the drawing below depicts Prinz Eugen der edle Ritter or "Prince Eugen the noble knight." Fehr 3                                                   

     H. Verena Fehr was born on November 8, 1914  and she lived until  November 21, 2007. According to records found on, She was 93 years old when she died in Palmyra, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. Although it is possible there are more than one Verena Fehr, her dates correspond with the time frame originally placed on the drawing books. The location is a fair match also, substantiating the belief that this is the correct Verena Fehr. As her name does not appear to have changed she may never have married. Public information about Verena Fehr is scarce, but more may eventually surface. Although details about her life are minimal, with these three plainly-wrapped drawing books, Fehr has brought joy to others while leaving insight into her personality.  

* Verena Fehr's notebooks are in a private collection. 

** It translates roughly to drawing flow or practice, but someone more adept at the PA German dialect might translate.

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