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10 Gorgeous Victorian Children’s Book Covers

Ashley Bowen

Staff Writer

Ashley Bowen earned a PhD in American Studies and Public Humanities in December 2016. Her research focuses on the history of health, medicine, and social services in the period from the American Civil War to World War I. When she isn't feeling existential angst about finishing her dissertation, she works as a part-time bookseller and plans adventures as a field agent for Atlas Obscura. A Texas native now living in Washington, DC, she has been known to travel long distances for a proper breakfast taco and Dr. Pepper. Her writing appears on Book Riot, Atlas Obscura, museum blogs, and in various "serious" academic journals. Twitter: @aebowenPhD

The University of Florida’s Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature has a collection of over 6,000 children’s books available to search and read online. While scholars, researchers, and serious types will find all kinds of information about how we understand childhood in these books, all laudable pursuits, I wanted to look at the cover art. Some Victorian-era children’s books used gorgeous, intricate art on the covers. Full-color or embossed with gold ink on cloth, the book covers below represent some of the prettiest I found in the Baldwin Library’s collection.

Aesops Fables cover (1884)

Aesops Fables, 1884

cover of Prang's Natural History Series for Children 1878

Prang’s Birds of Prey part of the Natural History Series for Children, (1878)

Aladdin Cover 1875

Aladdin; or the Wonderful Lamp, 1875

Cover of Childrens Airship Book c. 1900

Children’s Airship Book, c. 1900

Favorite Fables cover, 1870

Favorite Fables, 1870

Little Red Riding Hood cover 1875

Little Red Riding Hood, 1875

Hector Servadac Cover 1878

Hector Servadac, 1878

Humpty Dumpty cover 1869

Humpty Dumpty, 1869

Malcomb Manor cover 1875

Malcomb Manor, 1875

The Wonderful Kittens cover c 1883

The Wonderful Kittens, c. 1883

Blue and Red cover 1883

As beautiful as these books are, there are some that will haunt your dreams. For example, Blue & Red: or The Discontented Lobster. To me, this sounds like the kind of children’s book that Werner Herzog would write. Why is the lobster discontent? Has he confronted the futility of resisting the tides? Why is the lobster’s story told in verse? Also, why were so many animals discontent during the late 19th century? There is also a book about The Discontented Frogs from the 1880s.

These books and many, many more are available via the Baldwin Library’s website. You can search via keyword, country of publication, date, and other categories. So, if you only want to see books about animals from 1896, you can do that. If you find anything really good, leave a link for us in the comments!