The Fig Tree #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 17

The Fig Tree

‘The Fig Tree’ illustration from Elizabeth Blackwell’s Herbal Vol. 1

Plate 125. The Fig Tree. Ficus.

It seldome grows to be a Tree of any great Bigness in England; the Leaves are a grass Green and the Fruit when ripe of a brownish Green; it beareth no visible Flowers, which makes it believed they are hid in the Fruit.

Its Native soils are Turky, Spain and Portugal; and its time of Bearing is in Spring and Autumn; the Figs are cured by dipping them in scalding hot Lye, made of ye Ashes of the Guttings of the Tree, and afterwards they dry them carefully in the Sun.

Figs are esteem’d cooling and moistning, good for coughs, shortness of Breath, and all Diseases of the Breast; as also the Stone and Gravel, – and the small Pox and Measels, which they drive out. – Outwardly they are dissolving and ripening, good for Imposthumations and Swellings; and pestilential buboes.

Latin, Ficus. Spanish, Igos. Italian, Fichi: French, Figues. German, Fengen. Dutch Uygen.

Puffin Books – August 2020

2020 marks 80 years since the creation of Puffin Books, which are the children’s division of Penguin Books. The idea initially came about in 1939 after a meeting between Noel Carrington and Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books, with the creation of the company a year later.

The original idea was to publish a series of children’s non-fiction books which were a success. The first Puffin storybook was entitled Worzel Gummidge and appeared in 1941. During the early years Puffin Books encountered problems such as paper rationing during World War II and libraries still preferring hardback books rather than paperback.

Title page of Worzel Gummidge by Barbara Euphan Todd
Title page of Worzel Gummidge by Barbara Euphan Todd, illustrated by Tony Ross (OUP, 2002), text copyright © Barbara Euphan Todd 1936, reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press. (Book Trust Collection, FICTION TOD WOR)

Under its first editor, Eleanor Graham, Puffin aimed to publish 12 titles per year. During the 1950s, stories which allowed children’s imaginations to wander were published. Titles included Charlotte’s Web and C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Under the editorship of Kaye Webb, children’s publishing increased during the 1960s from 151 to 1,213 titles which included reprints of such classics as The Hobbit . New titles at this time included Stig of the Dump. A picture book list and teenage fiction began to be published as well as the introduction of The Puffin Book Club, which still exists.

Titles published during the 1970s and 1980s included The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Spot the Dog series.

Recent titles include Harry and his Dinosaurs and the Charlie and Lola series which have both been televised.  Roald Dahl’s popularity as an author has led to an annual celebration which takes place on 13th September.

December’s calendar – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 22

Door no. 22

Page from Kate Greenaway’s Almanack for 1892 (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll 020 GRE)

Catherine Greenaway (1846 – 1901), known as Kate Greenaway, was an English children’s book illustrator and writer. Her almanacs ran from 1883 up until 1897, with no 1896 issue being published. Each almanacks included a Jan-Dec calendar, beautifully drawn illustrations and short verses and poems. Her almanacs were sold throughout America, England, Germany and France and were produced with different variations and in different languages.

Greenaway’s Almanacks are from the 19th Century Collection. Find her out more about Kate Greenaway’s almanacks in Education Outreach’s Amazing Archives online resource.

Two Turtle Doves

Door No. 2

The Turtle Dove from ‘History of British Birds Vol I (Bradshaw-Bewick Collection, Bradshaw-Bewick 761BEW)

On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree


“…The female lays two eggs, and has only one brood in this country, but in warmer climates it is supposed to breed several times in the year.”

Extract from History of British Birds Vol I., page 273, by Thomas Bewick.

History of British Birds is published in two volumes. It was the first field guide for non-specialists and contains accurate illustrations of bird species. Aspects from the History of British Birds is used in poetry and literature.

Find out more about the Bradshaw-Bewick collection.

2nd December – 1892 Kate Greenaway Almanack


'Winter' illustration

‘Winter’ illustration from Kate Greenaway’s 1892 Almanack (030 GRE)

Beautiful Winter illustration taken from Kate Greenaway’s Almanack for 1892 – Engraved by Edmund Evans – Published by G. Routledge & Sons

Catherine Greenaway (1846 – 1901), known as Kate Greenaway, was an English children’s book illustrator and writer. Her most popular books are Under the Window (1879)Kate Greenaway’s Birthday Book for Children (1880), Mother Goose; or, The Old Nursery Rhymes (1881), and A Painting Book (1884).

Her almanacs ran from 1883 up until 1897, with no 1896 issue being published. Each almanacks included a Jan-Dec calendar, beautifully drawn illustrations and short poems. Her almanacs were sold throughout America, England, Germany and France and were produced with different variations and in different languages.

Kate Greenaway’s Almanacks are from the 19th Century Collection. Find her 1892 almanack and others here.

Front cover design for Beyond the border (1898) – November 2010

Front cover of Campbell, W.D. Beyond the border. With 167 illustrations by Helen Stratton (Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co., 1898)
(19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 823.89 CAM)

Yes, it was most decidedly Black Duncan the smith who was at the bottom of the whole affair. He was the author of the remark that set everybody gaping, and made such a tremendous fuss in the town. He it was who let fall the fatal joke, when his wife brought in the dish of broiled haddock that morning at breakfast; and though it is not the best taste to laugh at one’s own pleasantries, he, I must confess, did so. It was beyond measure funny, and not a bite or sup would he taste till he had had his laugh out.
Thus begins Walter Douglas Campbell’s Beyond the border (1898). It appears to be a children’s story, with a king and queen, a talking cat and a hag who lives in a tower with her daughter who has a “flat, yellow face, speckled like a trout”.

Helen Stratton (fl. 1892-1925) provided 167 black and white illustrations to accompany the text. A British illustrator who was particularly associated with children’s books and fairy tales, she was sometimes influenced by the Glasgow School of Art and art nouveau movement; at other times was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite style of painting.

The book itself has a green Victorian cloth binding, with a front cover design depicting a witch dropping frogs into a cauldron, and highly-stylised cats on the spine. It was presented to J. Patten MacDougall from Innis Chonain in 1899. Innis Chonain is the Scottish Island on which Douglas Walter Campbell, an amateur architect, had built a large home.

Walter Crane: When the Bright God of Day – August 2008

Illustration of When the Bright God of Day, with accompanying music script
When the Bright God of Day from Pan-pipes: a book of old songs, 2nd ed. [ca. 1890] (White (Robert) Collection, W 784.3 MAR)

This image is taken from an illustrated music book featuring decorative colour illustrations by the artist Walter Crane (1845-1915).

Walter Crane was one of the leading lights of the Arts and Crafts Movement in England, along with other major designers including the likes of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. The Arts and Crafts movement aimed to recapture the spirit and quality of traditional craftsmanship in response to what many saw as the soulless mass-production of the factories of the Industrial Revolution.

Crane became especially renowned as a children’s book illustrator and was interested in the design of the book as a whole, concerning himself as much with borders and typography as with the illustrations themselves.

The Pan Pipes book from which this image is taken features musical scores for a variety of traditional songs, accompanied by Crane’s bold and elaborate border panels featuring images of lovers, beautiful maidens, gallant soldiers and the like.