Did you know that November is international Picture Book Month? Since 2011, this annual event seeks to promote literacy while celebrating printed works that integrate visual and textual aspects of storytelling for their intended audience of children.
Inspired by this concept, I searched our online catalog for representatives of this genre; presumably a dark horse in a business history library. On a hunch, I decided to use “Caldecott” as a keyword and reined in a handful of relevant results.
Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) was an English illustrator recognized as the first “to elevate the image into a storytelling vehicle rather than mere decoration for text.”¹ In his name, the American Library Association awards a medal “to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the United States during the preceding year.”² The list of winners since 1937 extends an honorable mention to a number of also-rans as well.
So how did a Caldecott book make its way into the Hagley Library? One means is through the traditional transfer of personal holdings from members of the du Pont family. Their ancestral home and chemical business were founded on this site at the beginning of the 19th century.
As a Christmas gift in 1884 from her Nannie Gray, Sophie du Pont received a story about a heroic young soldier called Jackanapes, written by Juliana Horatia Ewing and illustrated by Randolph Caldecott. Although this item qualifies as an illustrated chapter book rather than a true picture book, it reveals the characteristic style of Caldecott’s work and closely resembles the scene depicted on the medal itself.
But for the most part, a Caldecott book enters the Hagley Library by virtue of subject matter relating to our interest in American enterprise. There are four items in our catalog that rank as Caldecott Medal Honor books, the ALA runners-up. Two of them arrived in a large accession from the Institute for Financial Literacy: A Chair For My Mother, a family saga about saving, and On Market Street, an imaginative, alphabetized shopping spree.
Another alphabet book comes to us from the John Margolies Collection of Travel Ephemera: An American ABC. And one book was acquired, evidently, for its focus on medieval trades and technology: Cathedral, the Story of Its Construction. We offer you a peek into the compelling visual imagery of these titles in honor of Picture Book Month.
¹ Popova, Maria. “A Brief History of Children's Picture Books and the Art of Visual Storytelling.” The Atlantic (Feb. 24, 2012). Accessed Nov. 11, 2018. “https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/02/a-brief-history-of-childrens-picture-books-and-the-art-of-visual-storytelling/253570/
² "The Randolph Caldecott Medal.” American Library Association, November 30, 1999. http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/aboutcaldecott/aboutcaldecott (Accessed November 11, 2018) Document ID: 1e80deab-77f3-c3b4-dd23-bdcad08542ad
Alice Hanes is the Technical Services Librarian at Hagley Museum and Library.