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Railroad alphabet
Title : Railroad alphabet Railroad alphabet View More Images
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Creator : Crane, Walter, 1845-1915
Place Of Creation : London
Publisher : G. Routledge
Date of creation : [1865]
Format : Book
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
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Donated by : Gilbert Family
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Description :
Alphabet books are generally speaking the child's first book and great numbers of these have been published across several hundred years, and which gave both pleasure and instruction. By the mid-19th century with the introduction of colour printing the variety increased: any familiar or even not so familiar subject could be used for an alphabet book. They could comprise rhyming couplets or simply use the 'letter + picture' style and the illustrations could be by able artists or by hack illustrators.

At this time there appeared a new style of book for small children: 'toy books' as they came to be called were a uniform size, approximately 25 x 17cm and contained about eight leaves. More importantly they sold for only sixpence and so were more readily available. With this low price and volume sales, larger print runs were possible. Several publishers were notable exponents of the type including George Routledge & Sons. A glance at their list on the back cover of The Railroad Alphabet reveals the extent of their list of 'toy books' and also the subjects.

Walter Crane was one of the most popular illustrators of the late 19th century. In 1863 he began working with the colour printer Edmund Evans, who was greatly impressed by Crane's talent. Initially he worked on a series of toy books for the publishers George Routledge and Frederick Warne such as The Railroad Alphabet. These books brought his work to the public's attention and with Evans as printer he was able to consider more ambitious work. The Baby's Opera, The Baby's Bouquet and The Baby's Own Aesop issued between 1877 and 1887 reflect this. Goody Two Shoes picture book published in 1884 is particularly lavish with its use of colour, including gold.

Crane was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and also by Japanese art. He became a member of the Arts and Crafts Movement, worked with William Morris and his Kelmscott Press and was a designer of wallpaper: this is often evident in the design of his children's books. He later became Principal of the Royal College of Art and Design.

Period : 1852-1883
Further reading :
Crane, Walter, Walter Crane as a book illustrator [text by] Rodney K. Engen London: Academy Editions; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1975

Whalley, Joyce Irene Cobwebs to catch flies: illustrated books for the nursery and schoolroom, 1700-1900 London: Elek, 1974

Muir, Percy H English children's books, 1600 to 1900 London: Batsford, [1954]

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