When I was a child, I had one of those big treasury-type books of nursery rhymes and fairy tales called Young Years, published in 1960. I say “I” had it, but really I had to share it with my younger brother, whose main interest in it was embellishing the text with abstract crayon art. It didn’t need his help, because it was already lavishly illustrated in a variety of styles. I loved the pictures as much as I loved the stories.
There was one particular story, “Beauty and the Beast,” whose illustrations were hauntingly gorgeous. The florid colors of Beauty’s rich gowns, of the Beast’s splendid 17th-Century coat and breeches, of his elegant chateau and his rose-filled garden, never failed to send me into a state of wonder. I kept the book into adulthood – I have it still, though it’s falling apart – just for those illustrations.
It wasn’t until I joined Distributed Proofreaders that I understood what a treasure that book really was. A Project Manager had come across three very pretty children’s books – The Baby’s Opera, The Baby’s Bouquêt, and The Baby’s Own Aesop – containing music notation. (You can read the lovely story of how he found them at an elderly friend’s home in this post.) Knowing that I was a music transcriber who could create audio files from the notation, he asked me if I’d like to work on them.
As soon as I saw the first one, I was immediately struck by the style of the illustrations – could it be the same artist who had made those marvelous “Beauty and the Beast” illustrations in my fairy-tale book? I pulled out my book – yes, it was none other than Walter Crane. In fact, that old children’s treasury of mine had pictures by pretty much every major children’s illustrator of the 19th and early 20th Centuries, including Kate Greenaway and Arthur Rackham. No wonder I loved it.
But Walter Crane’s illustrations were, and are, special to me. And I learned that his art is special to many DP volunteers who love working on the books he wrote and/or illustrated. In fact, one of his beautiful volumes, A Flower Wedding, was DP’s 33,000th title a few years ago. DP volunteers have contributed over 40 Walter Crane books to Project Gutenberg. Most are children’s books, but there are also works designed for grownups with vividly colored illustrations, like Flowers from Shakespeare’s Garden, posted to Project Gutenberg just last week. Crane also wrote and illustrated his own poetry as well as nonfiction works on art and design, and he decorated the work of other authors. You can even color your own Walter Crane creation with Walter Crane’s Painting Book.
See below for links to more of the wonderful world of Walter Crane, thanks to the volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders and Project Gutenberg.
This post was contributed by Linda Cantoni, a Distributed Proofreaders volunteer. Hot off the Press wishes all its readers a very Happy New Year!
Walter Crane Books at Project Gutenberg
The Absurd ABC
An Alphabet of Old Friends
The Baby’s Bouquêt
The Baby’s Opera
The Baby’s Own Aesop
The Buckle My Shoe Picture Book
Carrots (by Mrs. Molesworth)
A Christmas Posy (by Mrs. Molesworth)
The Cuckoo Clock (by Mrs. Molesworth)
Don Quixote of the Mancha (by Judge Parry)
A Flower Wedding
The Frog Prince and Other Stories
Goody Two Shoes
Grandmother Dear (by Mrs. Molesworth)
King Arthur’s Knights (by Henry Gilbert)
Little Miss Peggy (by Mrs. Molesworth)
Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes (with other illustrators)
Mother Hubbard, Her Picture Book
The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde (by Mary de Morgan)
The Rectory Children (by Mrs. Molesworth)
The Sleeping Beauty Picture Book
The Song of Sixpence Picture Book
The Tapestry Room (by Mrs. Molesworth)
“Us,” an Old-Fashioned Story (by Mrs. Molesworth)
The Vision of Dante (by Elizabeth Harrison)
Walter Crane’s Painting Book
A Winter Nosegay
A Wonder Book for Girls & Boys (by Nathaniel Hawthorne)
Eight Illustrations to Shakespeare’s Tempest
Flowers from Shakespeare’s Garden
A Masque of Days (from essays by Charles Lamb)
The New Forest, Its History and Its Scenery (by John R. Wise)
The Shepheard’s Calender (by Edmund Spenser)