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, 1884
Prang’s Birds of Prey part of the Natural History Series for Children, (1878)
Aladdin; or the Wonderful Lamp, 1875
Children’s Airship Book, c. 1900
Favorite Fables, 1870
Little Red Riding Hood, 1875
Hector Servadac, 1878
Humpty Dumpty, 1869
Malcomb Manor, 1875
The Wonderful Kittens, c. 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!