Two Illustrated Children’s Books

When our regular guest blogger artist, Normana Wight decided to look into the illustrators of books from her childhood, little did we know that a fore-edge painting would be discovered on one of the volumes. Locating editions of A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh with illustrations by Ernest H Shepard and Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with illustrations by John Tenniel proved a little more of a challenge than expected; however books were found and Normana commenced her reminiscences.
Read on to share Normana’s story of two illustrated children's books.

In a change of direction, I am going to look at two children’s books  from the SLQ collection, that are about art in that  they have illustrations that are not only works of art, but combine  with text to become something wonderful and unique in the world of books.

First is A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, with illustrations by E H Shepard. Four books; When We Were Very Young, Winnie-the-Pooh, Now We are Six, and The House at Pooh Corner were published between 1924 and 1928 by Methuen. Two of these early publications are in the possession of the State Library of Queensland – Winnie the Pooh and Now we are six.

Covers: "Winnie the Pooh" 1926 & "Now We Are Six" 1927

Covers: "Winnie the Pooh" 1926 & "Now We Are Six" 1927

I can’t show you the wonderful illustrations that make such an important part of the original publications, because E H Shepard lived till 1976! (97 years old.) Which means that the drawings are still in copyright. THAT means that I cannot illustrate my blog with some of those memorable drawings.
However; if you have read or heard of these wonderful stories about a little boy’s childhood in England during the inter-war years, you can come to the State Library of Queensland and borrow an actual volume, to read here, in the library at South Bank.
If you are old, the experience will recall a time when there WAS time.
If you are English-born – ‘Say no more!’
If you love children’s stories, or if your parents read them to you when you were 3, or 6 years old, you will be able to recall this entertaining and memorable approach towards learning to read.

The second book is a small and curious edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland with the Hunting of the Snark and poems from Sylvie and Bruno illustrated by the author.
Also in the collection are several editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Charles Dodgson, AKA Lewis Carroll. Surrealism?
The most exciting –or – complete books by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) are those illustrated by Sir John Tenniel. Fantastical stories, wild and funny, and quite scary, are also important works – suggesting the times in which the magical combination of word and image were woven together in a perfect, gripping arrangement. These two works were first published, with illustrations by Sir John Tenniel, in 1865.

The walrus and the carpenter

The walrus and the carpenter

Tea party

Then, we come to The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll, with – not only the illustrations by Tenniel, BUT also -  on the gilded fore-edge there is a painting of a canoe!

Fore-edge painting

Normana Wight, July 2017.

The gilding on the fore-edge of the volume The Complete works of Lewis Carroll published by The Nonesuch Press, London in 1939 looked worn in comparison to the crisp gilding of the head and tail of the book.
Fanning of the fore-edge revealed a painting after the work Trappers Resting by Winslow Homer painted in 1874. A pencilled price, lot number, the word fore-edge and a missing bookplate in the book suggest that it was likely to have been purchased by the Library for the fore-edge painting. Previous owners enjoying the painting may be the reason for the faded gilding of the fore-edge. A missing subject heading in the catalogue record was responsible for the oversight in knowing of the painting’s existence despite a note ‘with fore edge painting’ appearing in the record.

'Trappers Resting' after watercolour by Winslow Homer

'Trappers Resting' after watercolour by Winslow Homer

The History and Art of the Book collection includes books on the subject of fore-edge painting as well as examples of this fascinating craft. An article by Jeff Weber, antiquarian book dealer and noted authority on fore-edge painting provides an introduction to this interesting form of book decoration.

Christene Drewe, July 2017.



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What a wonderful find, that would have made my day. I'm looking for some children's classics to share with my kids and going to check out Winnie the Poo and Now we are six at the local library - hopefully with a work of art on the fore-edge :)

Hello Rene - I'm so pleased to hear that you are about to share the wonders of "Winnie" with your children. We always travelled with a paper back Winnie the Pooh as my son could not go to sleep without a "Pooh story". Discovering the fore-edge painting certainly made my day - Libraries have great hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.Christene

Are there many fore-edge paintings in the libraries collection?

Hello LachlanThere are just 4 books with painted fore- edges in the collection and 2 artists' books (one a 3 volume work) which have fore-edge decoration. To locate the books with a fore-edge painting launch a subject search for "fore-edge painting specimens"Christene