Kate Greenaway Medal

Today sees the announcement of the shortlist for the 2018 Kate Greenaway Medal, awarded annually by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) for an outstanding illustrated book for children. We thought this the perfect excuse to highlight Kate Greenaway herself – one of the country’s finest Victorian illustrators – and some of her work held here in SC&A.

Kate Greenaway (1846-1901) was born in the East End of London. From aged 12 she was a full-time student at the Finsbury School of Art, and later went on to attend classes at the National Art Training School in South Kensington, the Heatherley School of Fine Art, and the Slade School of Fine Art. Her first book illustration was published in 1867 – the frontispiece to William Kingston’s Infant Amusements, or, How to Make a Nursery Happy – but real success came in 1879 with the publication of Under the Window, her first book as an author-illustrator.

OLDHAM 794: A scene from Under the Window (1879), which comprised verse and accompanying illustrations. A huge critical and commercial success, the book sold over 100,000 copies in Greenaway’s lifetime.

From 1883 Greenaway also regularly produced illustrated almanacks, which proved hugely popular in Europe and the US. Following a revival of interest in Greenaway’s work in the 1920s, some of the almanacks were reissued with new text.

JUV.135.3, 4: Almanacks, 1883 and 1927, comprising illustrated calendars.

Greenaway preferred to illustrate her own text but she did collaborate with a number of the Victorian period’s foremost poets and novelists: in 1888, for example, she illustrated Robert Browning’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

NOBLE D.7.13: The front cover of The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1888), in which Greenaway adopted a Pre-Raphaelite style.

One of Greenaway’s most enduring relationships was with the art critic John Ruskin. She began a long-term correspondence with him in around 1880, and soon became one of his protégées: as her biographer notes, ‘Ruskin became the most important influence in Kate’s life’. In 1883 she visited Ruskin’s Lake District home of Brantwood in Coniston for the first time; initially intended to be a fortnight’s stay, she stayed for almost a month. The visit made a huge impression on her, as is clear from one of Greenaway’s letters held here in SC&A. The letter is one of two we have that she wrote to Eleanor Tennyson, wife of politician and author Augustine Birrell. In it Greenaway declares she is having a ‘delightful time’ and notes the ‘many new impressions in this to me quite new country’.

Birrell/3/1: Letter from Kate Greenaway to Eleanor Tennyson from Ruskin’s Lake District home.

The last of Greenaway’s illustrated works to be published in her lifetime was The April Baby’s Book of Tunes (1900) written by one of her favourite authors, Countess von Arnim. The book tells the story of the author’s own children, April, May and June, and the rhymes the babies enjoyed listening to in the nursery.

OLDHAM 262: A page from The April Baby’s Book of Tunes (1900).

The Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955, and past winners have included such giants of children’s literature as Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Shirley Hughes, Emily Gravett, John Burningham and former Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell. This year’s winner will be announced on 18 June.

Greenaway’s books are part of SC&A’s extensive collection of 19th and early 20th century children’s books: we hold over 7,000 items, including educational texts, annuals, chapbooks and works by the likes of Frances Hodgson Burnett, G. A. Henty and R. M. Ballantyne.

Valentine’s Day

For Valentine’s Day this year, we’re highlighting five love-themed items in Special Collections & Archives…

John Wyndham’s poems for Grace Wilson

Science-fiction author John Wyndham is best known for his novels, including The Day of the Triffids (1951) and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957), but he also dabbled in poetry. His archive features several verses, most of which he wrote for Grace Wilson. They married in 1963, though they had been partners for around 30 years by the time they tied the knot.

Wyndham 8/4/1: 1944 Valentine from Wyndham to Grace Wilson

Wyndham 8/4/1: 1944 Valentine from Wyndham to Grace Wilson

Wyndham 8/6/2: 1962 Valentine from Wyndham to Grace Wilson

Wyndham 8/6/2: 1962 Valentine from Wyndham to Grace Wilson


Love Letter from George James Boswell to Hannah Chason

Percy Boswell was Professor of Geology at the University of Liverpool, 1917-1930, and his archive collection mostly consists of his academic and professional papers, such as essays, notes and correspondence. However, this letter, from Boswell’s great-grandfather George James Boswell, has also survived. It is addressed to Hannah Chason and is an ardent expression of Boswell’s love. He describes how his sincere friendship has ‘ripened into an affection of a more tender nature,’ and reassures her of his ‘perfectly honourable’ intentions, before proposing marriage. And marry they did, in 1855.

D4/2/2 Love letter from George James Boswell to Hannah Chason

D4/2/2 Love letter from George James Boswell to Hannah Chason


The Quiver of Love: A Collection of Valentines Ancient and Modern

Published in 1876, The Quiver of Love comprises verses from the likes of Christina Rossetti, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Sir Philip Sidney, along with a host of others, collected together in a volume which could be given as a gift, ‘either as a token of esteem, or as an indication of deeper regard.’ It also includes beautiful colour illustrations by artists Walter Crane and Kate Greenaway.

JUV.569:9 The Quiver of Love

JUV.509:9 The Quiver of Love


Happy Homes and How to Make Them (or Counsels on Love, Courtship, and Marriage)

This volume by J. W. Kirton, published in the 1870s, is packed full of advice in areas such as ‘Courting and Popping the Question,’ ‘The Mutual Duties of Married Life’ and ‘The Public-House the Rival of Home.’ To young men seeking a wife, the author urges them to ‘select the daughter of a good mother,’ ‘see that she is of domestic habits’ and ‘seek one that knows the worth of money,’ but warns them to ‘never trifle with any young woman’s affections, for it is cruel and wicked in the extreme.’ Women are advised to choose a mate who is respectable, careful, honest and healthy and, once married, to dress neatly but not extravagantly, learn to submit, and not talk about their husbands’ failings abroad (‘for if you have married a fool, it is not wisdom to go and tell every one that you have done so’).

JUV.414:2 Frontispiece of Happy Homes, and How to Make Them

JUV.414:2 Frontispiece of Happy Homes, and How to Make Them


Emblems of Love, in four languages

Emblem books, which first emerged in Europe in the 16th century, comprised symbolic pictures accompanied by mottoes, verses or prose. This volume, by poet and translator Philip J. Ayres, features beautiful engravings alongside verses in Latin, English, Italian and French; it is thought to date from the late 17th-early 18th century.

H35.26 Emblems of Love

SPEC H35.26 Emblems of Love

Love in the Library

To celebrate National Libraries Day and look ahead to Valentine’s Day, Special Collections and Archives has put on a romance-themed display.

On show are John Wyndham’s handmade Valentine’s cards, menus for romantic cruise dinners on board Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and Caronia II, paintings and poems from the Adrian Henri archive, including an owl bookmark with verse by Henri and Carol Ann Duffy, and The Quiver of Love: a collection of Valentines ancient and modern illustrated by Walter Crane and Kate Greenaway.

1964 Cunard Valentine's menu

1964 Cunard Valentine's menu