The Tale of Jeremy
Frederick Warne, 1906.
century saw the four-color printing process as an alternative to chromo-lithography,
especially suited to the reproduction of watercolors. This eliminated the
need for the middleman, but presented it’s own problems. Because the process
required shiny paper to print on, illustrations had to be hand tipped-in
while the rest of the book was printed on the letterpress.
Potter was one of the first illustrators to benefit from this new printing
process. She had her critics for both her writing and her artwork but there
can be no doubt that, as in Potter’s case, the words and pictures match
best when the author and illustrator are the same person.
A flood of children’s gift
books, aimed more for adults, were being illustrated by Arthur Rackham,
Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen and others. Publishers were eager to oblige an
enthusiastic public. When the copyright ran out on Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll in 1907, there were no less than seven new versions that
year in England alone, all lavishly illustrated in color. Bessie
Pease Gutmann and Millicent Sowerby both
illustrated a version that year, Margaret Tarrant
and Mabel Lucie Attwell following a few years
Carroll, Lewis, Alice’s
Wonderland, New York,
Dodge, 1907. Image
courtesty of David Neal.
Carroll, Lewis, Alice
World War I brought
an end to the Victorian sentimentality of the gift book era. Only Rackham
found continued success with gift books. World War I and World War II created
an upheaval that caused many leading European artists to immigrate to America.
New York soon became the center of the art world. Artist-immigrants such
as Fritz Eichenberg, Boris Artzybasheff, Feodor Rojankovsky, Roger Duvoisin,
Ludwig Bemelmans, Kate Seredy, and others infused American children’s books
with a new graphic quality and removed them forever out of the 19th century.
What they contributed was a European folk art tradition and the influences
of artistic movements such as Impressionism and Expressionism. Power presses
and other printing innovations allowed for larger number of books to be
printed. A younger generation of artists was starting to emerge.
Newly Formed Libraries
In 1893, Anne Carroll Moore,
of the New York Public Library, established the first children’s book room
in a public library. As more librarians brought attention to excellent
children’s books, the publisher’s responded. 1916 saw the opening of the
first Bookshop for Boys and Girls by in Boston Bertha Mahoney Miller. Her
booming business caused her to produce catalogs for her customers which
in 1924 she expanded into The Horn Book, the first publication devoted
to reviewing children’s books.
Publishers started Children’s
The end of World War I brought
with it a booming economy. Macmillan was the first major publisher to establish
a children’s book department in 1919, placing Louise Seaman Bechtel at
the lead. Other publishers soon followed. Publisher’s Weekly and the American
Booksellers Association started the annual Children’s Book Week that same
The 1920s was a time of great
experimentation. New techniques, binding methods, formats and layouts were
being tested by open-minded editors and artists. In order to give children’s
books the recognition they deserved, the American Library Association established
the Newbery Medal, in honor of John Newbery, for the most distinguished
American children’s book published the previous year. Although picture
books were eligible, it wasn’t until 1937 that the Caldecott
Medal was established for picture books, Dorothy
Lathrop being the first recipient.
Carroll, Lewis, Alice's
Windus, London, 1907.
Carroll, Lewis, Alice
Tuck, 1910. Image
courtesy of David Neal.
when the depression hit, children’s literature was the first to feel the
pinch in the publishing industry with a decline in staff and production.
Gone were the experimental days; economizing was the order of the day.
Americans’ focus drifted from internationalism to a new-found patriotism
as they struggled to deal with every day life. Children’s books reflected
this change by rejecting the European fairy-tale for the American tall-tale.
A new genre grew around the folklore of Paul Bunyon, Pecos Bill and the
like. American children were being introduced to American heroes for the
To the horror of librarians
everywhere, comic books and animated cartoons were beginning to flourish.
Mary Tourtel’s Rupert the Bear (1920) and Hergé’s Tintin
(1929) have become classics. Mickey Mouse made his first big screen appearance
in 1928. Walt Disney was seen as a threat to children’s literature yet
many illustrators received good training in the Disney studios.
de la Mare, Walter,
Bells and Grass,
in Victorian England
19th Century American Woman
World War II
|© 20002002 Denise Ortakales
All Illustrations are copyright
by their respective owners.
This page last updated on 24 August 2002.
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