Friday, May 20, 2016

Collectable Illustrations for Children's Books

In 1863, publishers Adam and Charles Black sold Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels in five editions – ‘The People’s Illustrated Edition’ in 5 volumes with 100 wood engraving illustrations and one prited from a steel printing-plate; ‘The Cabinet Edition’ in 25 volumes with one wood and one steel engraving in each volume; ‘The ‘1847’ Edition’ in 48 volumes in large type with 96 illustrations (each novel in two volumes for ease of use); ‘The New Illustrated Edition’ in 48 volumes printed in a new type-font with 1600 illustrations drawn by a range of artist members of the Royal Academy …and ‘The Library Edition’ bound in extra-gilt cloth in 25 volumes with 204 engravings by the most eminent artists of the time. They are advertised in this small Almanac (about half the size of a postcard) created and distributed by the publisher, along with description of other books by Scott with multiple editions:


With what delectation would prospective purchasers of Sir Walter’s books have surveyed the choices available! How eagerly they must have anticipated reading pleasure when they placed their order. 

The engravings for the volumes were printed on quality paper and with generous margins and sold separately . Would purchasers keep them safely hidden away, frame them or engage a hand-bookbinder to add them into the text and create volumes with sumptuous covers?



Mini-Posters of Quentin Blake's illustrations of Matilda are currently available for $12 Australian - or less in special deals.

I wonder if the ability to collect affordable copies of illustrations from a wide range of children's books would encourage book sales, reading and creativity? 

Peter Taylor 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

An Elephant Story from India

During WW2, my uncle, who was called Wag, was stationed at Arokonam (now called Arakkonam) in India, about 50km west from Chennai. This a Christmas aerogram that he sent to his sister Vera, my mother.

During his stay he paid for a temple elephant to take part in a parade. If anyone who reads this blog-post lives in India or has friends there who can tell me, I'd love to know which temple would have supplied the elephant and if the parade is still held today. Is it an annual event? What does it celebrate?

When Wag returned to England at the end of hostilities, he took home elephant carvings of all sizes for his family. One was minute and enclosed in a hollowed manjadi seed, and he gave it to my mother and I now own it. Most seeds have 12 elephants in them, some up to 100 - but mine only has one carving. You get one wish for each elephant. I wonder if each person who owns the seed gets a wish. What would you wish for? This has been a stimulus for my new picture book story in progress.

Carving elephants this size strained the eyes of child workers so that, sadly, some lost their sight, and I've read that consequently the industry was closed down in the 1970s or 80s.  I'd also like to know:
  1. How old were the children who did the carving?
  2. Did they work from home or were they employed in workshops? 
  3. How much did they earn?
  4. What tools did they use?
  5. How did they do it? Did they have magnifying glasses or carve unaided?  
  6. Is it really true that the industry has been prohibited? I wonder if some people are disregarding any law and children are still being exploited with horrendous consequences because, if you put ‘elephant seed’ in a search on eBay, you’ll find quite a few for sale, and they are very cheap.
Any help will be very much appreciated!

Peter Taylor

Monday, May 02, 2016

Where Do Stories Come From - A Gift From The Universe

Many writers describe getting in the writing groove to such an extent that they feel that they are writing down a dictation. Similarly, some musicians also say that phrases appear to be fed to them by ‘mystic powers’ in the universe. 

After reading in a newspaper that the Australian home of Joe Bugner (the then national Heavyweight Boxing Champion) was burgled while he was away at a fight, I started writing a children’s story about a boy who found the stolen watch belonging to his racing driver hero, and tried to return it

At one stage, I wasn’t sure how to progress with it, and it was put on the back burner. 

Months later, I was homeward bound to Australia from the UK and checking-in at Heathrow airport. The clerk asked what I did for a living. I told him I was writing a children's story and how it originated. He smiled. I looked at his name badge. He was Joe Bugner’s son - and the plot suddenly became clearer. 

Co-incidence or ‘powers’ in the universe? 

Some places also seem to draw me to keep returning there as though I am owned by the earth – which is the belief of numerous cultures.

Have you ever been given a 'gift from the universe' when it was needed, but unexpected?

Peter Taylor