The development of children's literature really began in the 18th century. Children's books before that--when they were available to the general population--tended to be religious in nature like A Token For Children by James Janeway. Janeway was a Puritan minister and among other things, the book features the deaths of 13 children who were grateful to go to Heaven:
More strides were made in the 18th century. In particular I'd like to focus on John Newbery of England. He believed that the philosopher John Locke was correct when Locke suggested that the best way to teach children was through amusement. Newbery is considered "The Father of Children's Literature" and the publisher's most famous book is The History of Little Goodie Two-Shoes which has a theme familiar with many fairy tales like Cinderella. The book was published in 1765:
1. 1894 etching of children reading. Artist unknown.
Newbery proved that children's literature could be profitable and at it is he who is honored by the Newbery Medal; each year since 1922, American librarians celebrate "the most distinguished contributions to American literature." It is the highest honor given to a children's writer.
In the early 19th century, the Grimm brothers book of fairy tales was introduced in England in 1824. The illustrations were by George Cruikshank and are credited with being more dynamic than previous children's books:
Cruikshank's illustration for "The Goose Girl"
The real changes in illustrations for children occurred between the 1880s and 1920s. It is referred to as "The Golden Age of Illustration" and included many of the illustrators we will discuss.
All of the connections discussed yesterday contributed to the rise of illustration but there was one other art movement that also was integral: The Aesthetic Movement. From 1860 to 1900, this movement altered the perception of art. Aspects of the philosophy relevant to illustration included "art for art's sake", that art should be available to the general masses, and that crafts should be embraced like ceramics, metalwork, fashion, and yes, illustration.
Despite the disdain of people in the "high arts" aka the fine arts, illustration fulfilled one of the concepts of the Aesthetic Movement. Illustration was extremely popular with the general public. People of limited means decorated their homes with colored illustrations. All types of illustrated works were collected and used. One way the illustrations were integrated were screens comprised of collages of illustrations--see here for an excellent example.
Scrapbooks that often featured only illustrations were assembled and it was not just a hobby for young girls or women. One of the books in my collection is a scrapbook by Samuel Maucher and dated 1881. A page from Samuel's book:
Illustrations were so popular that businesses used the cards to advertise. The concept was not unlike the calling card and usually similar in size. The products were referred to as trade cards and were not only popular then but are still sought by collectors today.
Companies like McLaughlin's Coffee often included a trade card with the purchase of the product. The illustrations often were in a form of a series which could be collected by the consumer. The series could be in the form of children's lives (above), stories, or even historical or current events:
This trade card portrays the christening of Grover Cleveland's second child Esther.
Other cards simply advertised a product or a company. Almost any kind of business could advertise like this including sewing companies:
The last factor that I need to touch on is one that directly impacted illustrators: the rise of the greeting card. In the mid-19th century, companies began to sell illustrated greeting cards. By 1860, mass production made the cards more affordable to customers. As you will learn, many of our illustrators began their careers in this field before the work with book publishers.
This trend of greeting cards-to-book illustration continues today. Mary Engelbreit and Sandra Boynton are two examples that come to mind.
Magazines also employed illustrators which increased the popularity of their magazines. Illustrators like Randolph Caldecott (as in the Caldecott Medal given in this country to the artist who created the most distinguished picture book in a given year) first were employed in magazine illustration.
All of these aspects contributed to the rise of illustration.
Next week we will begin with our first illustrator and yes, look at quilts.
Tomorrow is Flower Friday and if you have any images you would like to share, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. A Token for Children was published in England in 1671-1672.
"Story Time Stitches" © 2021, Michele McLaughlin