Children's Literature

Introduction | Island 1 | Island 2 | Island 3 | Island 4 | Island 5

Island 5: Late Victorian Illustrators, Peter Rabbit, and The Wizard of Oz

Kate Greenaway

The English illustrator Kate Greenaway (1846-1901), who trained at the Female School of Art, South Kensington, and the Slade School, began her career doing Christmas and Valentine cards. In 1879 she produced her first children's book through the expensive process of color-block engraving in collaboration with the publisher Edmund Evans. Her rather cute eighteenth-century costumes affected a whole generation, not only of children's books but of dress also. Shown here is the cover she illustrated for Beatrice Cresswell's The Royal Progress of King Pepito (1889).

Randolph Caldecott

Caldecott (1846-1886), after a brief stint as a bank clerk, also trained at the Slade School and worked for the engraver and printer Edmund Evans. The first example here, his nusery rhyme book The Panjandrum Picture Book, clearly shows the similarity to Greenaway. The other item, his illustrations for Hallam Tennyson's curious hexameter version of Jack and the Bean-stalk (1886), Caldecott's last book, are much more distinctive, perhaps because Caldecott himself considered them only preliminary sketches.

Caldecott and Ewing

Among the most collectible of Caldecott's illustrations are those for the works of Juliana Horatia Ewing (1841-1885), daughter of another prolific children's writer, Mrs. Gatty. The paper-covered boards of these books are seldom found intact, but Caldecott's illustrations have a delicacy not found in his color work. Shown here are Ewing's books Daddy Darwin's Dovecote (1884), and her Dandelion Clocks.

An aesthetic alphabet from the nineties

The influence of Greenway and Caldecott can be clearly seen in this alphabet by Mrs. Arthur Gaskin, published in 1895 by Elkin Matthews, one of the leading poetry publishers of the 1890s and former partner with John Lane.

Dickens or Caldecott

This early twentieth-century children's book, Jessie Pope's Three Jolly Anglers, illustrated by Frank Adams (1913), represents well the kind of Pickwickian pre-Victorian timelessness that Caldecott made standard in quality children's illustration.

Beatrix Potter

Helen Beatrix Potter (1866-1943, Mrs. Heelis) was born into a stiffling upper-class London family but spent her childhood summers in the English Lake District, from which her books are drawn and where she would eventually settle. She illustrated her books herself and insisted on them being produced in exactly the right child-size format. The first of her well-known series, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was privately printed in 1901 and reprinted for the public in 1902 by the firm of Frederick Warne, which remained her publisher for the many books that followed. Before copyright expired on her work in 1993, Potter's books might have seemed remarkably uniform, but, as the items displayed here indicate, they were in fact issued in a wide variety of small-book formats and cover-styles. Displayed areThe Tale of Peter Rabbit (originally 1902), The Tale of Benjamin Bunny (1904), The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle(1905), The Tale of Jeremy Fisher (1906), a fold-out version of The Story of Fierce Bad Rabbit (1906), a larger-format issue of Ginger & Pickles (1909), The Tale of Mr. Tod (1912), and Apple Dappley's Nursery Rhymes (not published till 1917, but prepared much earlier).

Frank Baum and The Wizard of Oz

The best-known American children's fantasy is undoubtedly The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1856-1919). An unsuccessful salesman, store dresser, and newspaper editor, Baum turned to writing because of a heart weakness, and wrote the first Oz book, The Wizard of Oz, in 1900. Following its success, Baum himself wrote ten more titles, and after his death the series was continued by Ruth Plumly Thompson and John R. Neill (Baum's illustrator). The University's extensive collection of Baum's books, from the collection of the late John Black, has recently been expanded with additional donations by Dr. Rosemary Reisman, displayed here.


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