Thursday, October 22, 2009

Early Illustrators of a Child's Garden of Verses

A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson is one of the most illustrated children's books with more than 100 versions. Stevenson's poems capture the wonder and fantasy of childhood and I can see why every illustrator of children's literature would want to add their interpretation. I recently picked up a book that is a sort of anthology of early illustrators of A Garden of Verses. Put out by Chronicle Books in 1989, it includes illustrations of the poems by some 20 illustrators, from 1896 to 1940. The book is a pleasure to browse through, each illustration a delight to the visual sense.
Although all the illustrations are beautiful, some are particularly appealing to my sense of aesthetics. I find myself drawn over and over again to the Clara M. Burd illustrations. She often signed her work, C M Burd. I orignally found her through a rare book, called Friendly Animals. (As the book is in tatters, I have been matting the illustrations).

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C.M. Burd is one of the few illustrators who went to Paris to study art. I think possibly it is her use of color that attracts me -- she often has a mix of muted, neutrals contrasted with brighter tones. This particular illustration is actually more colorful than most of her work. She also make nice use of light - I think she must have painted outdoors.
I would have liked to share all the illustrations in this book -- but I had to stop myself and include some of my favorites as well as some that show the diverse styles.

From 1922, Juanita Bennett -- a similar use of color in a more dream world style.I would like to find out more about this artist --not much information out there.

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Jessie Wilcox Smith, 1905, very detailed, painterly, beautiful -- she is a very popular and well-regarded illustrator -- one of the few women who made it into the Illustrator Sourcebook. She was a student of Howard Pyle.

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Millicent Sowerby, 1908, was primarily self taught and her work shows a great diversity. I was drawn to this one -- I think it has an Arthur Rackham feel to it.

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The simpler, understated style of H. Willebeek Le Mair, 1926.

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And again the prolific Margaret Tarrant, 1918 -- reminds me of early poster art.

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Ruth Mary Hallock, 1940, love the very '40s look of this illustration. There is another of hers I like equally, but it needs more space.

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And another very pretty one by Florence Edith Storer, 1909

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I'd like to find the originals of these books in any condition.


  1. I have what seems to be a first edition of A Child's Garden of Verses illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith. There are 9 illustration full color plates including the one you show above with the garden hollyhocks. It is marked 1905 with no other indication of being other than the first edition. If you are interested could you cantact me?

  2. I also have this book. 8455319441

    I have many others by the same author....

  3. C M Burd was also an illustrator for Today's House see copy May 1930. Beautiful work. Thanks

  4. C M Burd was also an illustrator for Today's House see copy May 1920. Sorry.

  5. Hello,
    I have a copy of the 1940 edition, which appears to be first edition, first printing. No dust jacket. The hardcover is a little bowed, but the pages are in great condition. The color illustrations really pop. We were going to sell it, in our shop, or on eBay, but thought you might want first crack at it. We'd love to get this into the hands of someone who would really appreciate it.


  6. I have a copy of the 1940 edition. It was my mom's and then mine. I read it so often as a child that I memorized many of Stevenson's poems. The book is falling apart but I can't bear to part with it. I'm not really asking your permission to do this just your blessing...I want to take the illustrations out, matt and frame them and then use them to give to my children when they have children. Do you think that's a good use of the book or should I just keep it intact?

  7. I have a copy of A Child's Garden of Verses 1929 copyright. How can I get it appraised?

  8. I wanted to say that I am joy your blog very much, I love vintage children's books. I am also a big fan of Juanita Bennett and her illustration ,I know she did some work for Whitman Publication on their Big Little Book series, I found the most information I could on her by typing into Google. "Juanita Bennett Children's Book Illustrator" I hope that was helpful