Children’s books are part of Australia’s cultural heritage, expressed in its early literature. Hand coloured plates, colour printing ,wood engravings and chromolithography featured in children’s book illustration of the mid to late nineteenth century and very early twentieth century. Embellished by decorated covers, gilt lettering and embossed designs, children’s books of this era reflected prevailing values and attitudes.
Their literature was distinguished by sentiment. Showing how much childhood has changed, these books highlight different aspects of school life, history, exploration and discovery over a century. They also exemplify the prevailing education and instruction of their era. The following children’s books now offered for sale are mostly nineteenth and twentieth century Australian and English authors . Some of their work includes real or imaginary Australian settings.
A good introduction to the history of children’s book publishing in Australia is the book written by Jeffrey Prentice and Bettina Bird – Dromkeen: A Journey into Children’s Literature,1987.
H.M.Saxby’s A History of Australian Children’s Literature provides in two volumes a work of reference that is also evidence of the role of children’s books in this country’s cultural heritage.
Marcie Muir’s Bibliography of Australian Children’s Books with its attractive illustrations identifies children’s books appearing in Australia up to the end of 1972. Muir’s Australian Children’s Book Illustration,1977 is always of interest to any one interested in Australia’s cultural background.
Parley’s Universal History: On the Basis Of Geography, for the Use of Families and Schools. By Peter Parley.
With numerous useful maps by A. G. Findlay, F.R.G.S. Fifteenth Edition, corrected to date. Peter Parley is the pseudonym attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorn. The author’s ingenuity was not only in the clarity of his gifted writing. It was also in making geography the basis of history. How many older readers encountering this book have regretted they never read it in their school-days when history seemed so boring and geography so dull? In writing brilliantly for those he referred to as the young, Hawthorn could be excused for his brief treatment of Australia and occasional inaccuracies, mainly of dates.
This remarkable writer explains the desirability of everyone, early in their lives, having imprinted on their minds ” in bright and unfading colours” a clear outline of the story of humankind.
London: William Tegg. gift inscription dated 1879. $450 More details or buy now
Son of Billabong: By Mary Grant Bruce.The thirty fifth of Bruce’s thirty eight books that reinforced so strongly the rural vision and imagery of an Australian way of life. Ward, Lock & Co. London. First edition,1939 .$80 More details or buy now
Australian Adventures. By William H.G. Kingston. Distinguished by its blind stamped decorative binding, gilt lettering on spine and cover and spectacular gilt embossed illustration of hunters and emu on the cover, the book is scarce in such outstanding condition. Its coloured frontispiece is by British illustrator Edmund Evans. One of Kingston’s classic adventure novels, it describes the wild and perilous adventures of two brothers who settle on their own property in rural New South Wales.
London ,George Routledge and Sons, circa 1889. $475 More details or buy now
Illustrated in Colour by N. Tenison.
London. Henry Frowde Hodder and Stoughton.
1911. $190 More details or buy now
or Herbert’s Note-Book. By William Howitt. London. Arthur Hall, Virtue & Co. 1854. The rare first edition of this important Victorian goldfields tale.
The Treasure Cave of the Blue Mountains:
By Oliphant Smeaton. Decorated and Illustrated by Joseph Brown. London. Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier. C1890.
The Young Lamberts. A Boy’s Adventures in Australia. By Augusta Marryat
London. Frederick Warne And Co.
C.1878.$350. More details or buy now
With Four Illustrations by G.W. Lambert.
Third Edition. London.
Girls Together. By Louise Mack (Mrs. J.P. Creed).
With Four Illustrations by G.W. Lambert.
1898. First Edition. Sydney. Angus and Robertson.
The Golden Land; or, Links From Shore To Shore. By B.L. Farjeon.Illustrations by Gordon Browne.Engraved by Edmund Evans. Some accounts of early Australian pioneering experiences by an author and journalist who was influenced by Charles Dickens and lived in Australia as a young man. Second Edition. London, Ward, Lock and Co. 1890. $190 More details or buy now
Bush Luck an Australian Story.By W.H. Timperley. Illustrations by W.S.Stacey.
Hugh Harvey is eighteen and his brother Jack sixteen when their ageing uncle Tom, a nostalgic former Australian resident, introduces them to the prospect of emigrating from England to Australia.
Authentically setting the scene, their uncle’s introduction kindles readers’ imaginations to the spectre of adventure. Religious Tract Society. London. C1892. $200 More details or buy now
The Colters an Australian Story for Girls.
By J.M. Whitfeld. Illustrated in Colour by George Soper. London. Henry Frowde Hodder and Stoughton. Not dated.
The Hunted Piccaninnies. By W.M. Fleming. The first full length story based on aboriginal life (H.M. Saxby: A History of Australian Children’s Literature). Illustrated by Kay Edmunds. London, J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd. 1934.
Adrift at Sea A Boy’s Book of Adventure:
By Alexander Stewart Jolly.
Sydney. George B. Philip & Son.1932.
The Backblocks’ Parson: A Story of Australian Life. By Tom Bluegum.The jury remains out on the questions of the extent, if any, to which the book is author Reverend G.Warren Payne’s autobiography and whether it was intended for children or adults.
“Our particular parson” was appointed as circuit preacher to “traverse the sparsely settled western areas of New South Wales as a preliminary to the establishment of the more settled pastorate”.
.London. Charles H. Kelly.1899. $230 More details or buy now
His First Kangaroo: An Australian Story for Boys. By Arthur Ferres. Illustrations by Percy F.S. Spence.
Not dated. $50 More details or buy now
Tom’s Nugget: A story of the Australian Gold Fields. By Professor J.F. Hodgetts. Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Hodgetts describes the vagaries of life on the diggings, experiences of a pioneering family, social conditions of the day (especially in Melbourne) and the prevailing economic climate, together with the contemporary language and speech that his literacy enabled him to capture .
H.M.Saxby ( A History of Australian Children’s Literature ) states that in writing for children, J. H. Hodgetts was the first to write a full length novel of the Australian gold fields with Tom’s Nugget.
London. Sunday School Union. Second edition.Circa 1897.
School prize label dated 1898 . $390 More details or buy now
Wallaby Hill: By Mary Bradford-Whiting.
London. The Religious Tract Society.
C.1895.Sydney school prize label dated December 1896.
The Bushranger’s Sweetheart:
An Australian Romance. By Hume Nisbet.
London. F.V. White & Co. 1892.
Captain Cub: By Ethel Turner (Mrs. H.R. Curlewis).
London Ward Lock & Co., 1917
A Bush Girl’s Romance: By Hume Nisbet.
An early account of Western Australia described by the author as “a romance with its gastronomic bushranger, lawless lover and daring minx of a bush girl.” Nisbet stated that in this work he tried his best to give a faithful picture of Western Australia. Describing his faith in Australia as unshaken, he wrote passionately about what he referred to in 1894 as this particular Australian State’s golden future. Illustrations are by the author.
London. F.V. White & Co., 1894. $500 More details or buy now
The Bushranger’s Secret: By Mrs. Henry Clarke, M.A. Described by H.M. Saxby (A History of Australian Children’s Literature 1841-1941) as a melodramatic and moralising story set in South Australia. Illustrated by W.S. Stacey.
London. Not dated. $120 More details or buy now
Author died in unspeakable happiness.
Eric Quayle writes in “The Collector’s Book of Boys’ Stories” of children’s author W.H.G.Kingston’s letter wishing goodbye to his youthful readers. Published in The Boys’ Own Paper in 1880 just after his death, Kingston’s letter said that he was leaving this life in unspeakable happiness.
The best of nineteenth century humanity and civilisation emerges vividly in W.H.G. Kingston’s writing. Sourcing sailing ships, pirates, storms and shipwrecks for his adventure stories, kind-hearted Kingston used his knowledge of the sea to write many bestsellers.
The South Sea Whaler transports today’s readers to an earlier era. The imaginative and sensitive can re-live adventures on a whaling ship experienced by the story’s two children 150 years ago.
Fourteen year old Walter and his twelve year old sister Alice accompany their widower father, Captain Tredeagle on his final but unpredictably perilous sea voyage before retirement. Dad is in command of the Champion, a 400 ton 50 crew south sea whaler in search of sperm whale. Because England remained at war with France the ship was licensed to attack and defend with the eight guns it carried. And it does.
Kingston’s story has remained in print to create a snapshot nineteenth century social history in the context of lounge chair travel adventure.
On finally reaching Sydney Australia, the Captain takes up a Government land grant to settle with his two children in New South Wales. Walter and Alice grow up, acquiring properties and spouses and narrating their experiences of the voyage to friends. Their greatest delight is urging their own children to have confidence in the guidance they themselves received through the darkness and trouble of their experience.
Kingston never emigrated anywhere. But his extensive travels and sea adventures led him to speak voluntarily on the British lecture circuit promoting emigration He expressed his strong belief in emigration as creating so much opportunity for the disadvantaged.
The author’s oblique intertwining of evangelism and morality with adventure and worldliness was a great character builder for his young readers.
His final single page account of settlement in Australia after several hundred pages of adventure subtly sounded his motivational call to prospective emigrants.
Above all, his writing contains those fascinating conversations of yesterday. Conversations we would not have today they may be, but they give us understanding.
An attractive, collectable Thomas Nelson Kingston Library series was published probably about forty years after the author’s death.Their five sumptuous full colour illustrations embellishing the narrative would have impressed the highly motivated author.