Lionel's Longitudes

Occasional Nuggets CoverWalter Crane (1845 – 1915) was one of the most prominent and prolific artists of the Arts and Crafts movement, and one of the foremost advocates of the decorative arts and book illustration. In the mid-19th century, he designed and illustrated dozens of children’s books — known as “toy books” — which transformed the picture book genre. The Providence Public Library is fortunate to hold a number of Walter Crane’s picture books as part of the Edith Wetmore Collection of Children’s Literature.

Among the millions of children over the past century and a half whose imaginations have been thrilled by the illustrations of Walter Crane, there were three who held the privilege of having some of his wonderful images created exclusively for their private enjoyment; namely his children: Beatrice, Lionel, and Lancelot. In addition to his prolific published output, Crane found time to create informal books for his own young children, drawing pictures and making up stories about their daily lives, embellished with a liberal dose of make-believe. These illustrated stories were intended for family consumption; few were ever published in Crane’s lifetime. Crane asserted that the “little books were tossed off at odd moments. They were fun to make and were done just for the children. They gave me as much pleasure as they gave them.”

Several of these little picture books have been preserved and now reside in the collections of various research institutions. And one particularly intriguing tale made its way to the shelves of the Providence Public Library. Written in Rome in 1883, “Lionel’s Longitudes” is an interesting nugget that encapsulates many of the artistic elements prominent in Crane’s published work. It is also a charming example of a father’s effort to educate and entertain his children...

Read the rest of Kim Nusco's story of this amazing manuscript in Occasional Nuggets Volume 3, Issue 4. (Learn more about back issues and subscriptions at the Occasional Nuggets page.)

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