Gift Books: Visual Splendor


Interior page of Japanese Fairy Tale: Princess Splendor

Illustrated by T. Hasegawa, Tokio, 1880

Children's books become gifts of choice wherever an educated middle class is on the rise. In England, the juvenile trade formed in the 1740s when London bookseller-printer John Newbery latched on to the surging demand for children's fare that mingled instruction with delight, as John Locke had recommended. By the early 1700s, a comparable juvenile book trade had developed independently in Edo Japan.

As advances in color printing upped the ante on visual splendor, sumptuous gift editions of children's classics illustrated by noted artists Arthur Rackham, Ivan Bilibin, and others became holiday staples, increasingly on an international scale. Juvenile magazines proliferated as national distribution via rail became an option, and proved another popular choice; in 1870, there were 60 children's monthlies in America alone. Amid this clamoring for gift-worthy reading matter, even a homegrown bit of nonsense or narrative might catapult to far-reaching commercial success, as Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, and A. A. Milne, among others, would all discover to their initial astonishment.

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Interior page of St. Nicholas Magazine 

Edited by Mary Mapes Dodge, New York, 1874

St. Nicholas


Cover of Lear's Book of Nonsense

By Edward Lear, London, 1875

Lear's Book of Nonsense

Written and Illustrated by Edward Lear


Cover of The Baby’s Opera: a Book of Old Rhymes with New Dresses

By Walter Crane, New York, 1877

The Baby's Opera

Written and Illustrated by Walter Crane



Cover of Japanese Fairy Tale: Princess Splendor

Illustrated by T. Hasegawa, Tokio, 1880

Japanese Fairy Tale: Princess Splendor

llustrated by T. Hasegawa

Translated by E. Rothesay Miller


Cover of The Blue Fairy Book

Edited by Andrew Lang,  Longmans Green and Co.,1910

The Blue Fairy Book

Written by Andrew Lang

Illustrated by Jacomb Hood


Cover of The Tale of Peter Rabbit

By Beatrix Potter,  Frederick Warne, 1902

Kerlan Features

The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Written and Illustrated by Beatrix Potter

1901 and 1902

Cover of The Brownies' Book

Edited by W.E.B. DuBois, DuBois and Dill, 1920

The Brownies' Book 2, no. 4


Cover of Winnie the Pooh

By A.A. Milne, Methuen, 1926


Written by A.A. Milne

Illustrated by E.H. Shepard


Process art of the cover of The Poky Little Puppy

Illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, 1942

Kerlan Features

The Poky Little Puppy

Written by Janette Sebring Lowrey

Illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren