Once Upon a Time: Illustrations from Fairytales, Fables, Primers, Pop-Ups, and other Children's Books

Once Upon a Time: Illustrations from Fairytales, Fables, Primers, Pop-Ups, and Other Children's Books - Amy Weinstein

I love the old illustrations in books and the ones in children's books can be particularly interesting. That's why I had to pick up this book; it covers several years and types of books common for children. It turned out to be both what I was looking for and not quite.


cover of one of their A Visit from Santa Claus booksThe book is largely based on a private collection of children's picture books from the 1850s to early 1900s, mostly from the McLoughlin Brothers. It's beautifully put together, the pages are printed on photographic style paper, bringing the reproductions to the reader in brilliant color, which their chromolithographic process created. I was a bit put out that there were far more pictures then text, but truthfully, there was enough to explain the basics and there was a list of further reading at the back. Lots of different types of books are covered, from ABC and teaching books, to Christmas books and fairytales.


Mother Goose in an Air-Ship - there is actually a rhyme about this!One thing I found troubling and surprising was how often McLoughlin Bros. and others ripped off artwork and stories from artist and authors outside the country - particularly the United Kingdom. One artist, Kate Greenaway, had basically her whole work purloined, often replicated in a lower quality then the original.


I also learned about some nursery rhymes and fairytales I'd never heard of before. That's become quite rare now, so I was pretty excited to see: "John Sprig" (apparently a version of There Was a Little Man)1, "Bat, Bat, come under my hat,"2 "The Marriage of Cock Robin" (a cover of McLoughlin book prequel!), "The Babes in the Woods," and "Hop O' My Thumb." On the factual front, I learned about the amazing leaper, Sam Patch.


I greatly enjoyed this book and know I'll have to buy it someday. I'm also going to track down as many of the additional readings as I can.


Note: Has anyone else heard of Old Mother Hubbard being linked to Henry VIII? It was interesting but I haven't had a chance to track that down yet.


1. [There was a little man, and he had a little gun,
And his bullets they were made of lead, lead, lead.
He shot Johnny Sprig through the middle of his wig,
And knocked it right off his head, head, head.]


2. [Bat, bat, come under my hat,
And I'll give you a slice of bacon;
And when I bake,
I'll give you a cake,
If I'm not mistaken.]