formerly Shakespeare and Company Books, now VIcarious Experience

Baby's Opera: a book of old rhymes with new dresss by Walter Crane

The Baby's Opera: a book of old rhymes with new dresss by Walter Crane. Mcloughlin Bros. No date. 54 pp. Illustrations in color by Walter Crane. Original cloth-backed boards. First American [Pirated] Edition. An unauthorized printing of Crane's popular collection of nursery rhymes set to music. Not Ex-Library, Not Facsimile, Not Print on Demand.  Book is not in good condition. There is wear to the cover edges and heavy scraping on the back cover.The pages, while still being held into the binding are almost completely separated from it. The pages are whole with no tears. The only real child markins I find are some pencil notations on the half-title page and the flyleaf facing it. There is some light smudging mostly from fingerprints and handling almost entirely on the page margins.

Nineteenth-century American publisher McLoughlin Brothers pioneered the use of chromolithography in the production of color picture books starting in the 1860s. Until that point, most children’s books were illustrated with wood engravings that were locked into the printing press form along with set type.Coloring these images generally entailed using hand-colored stencils or employing a system of printing with wood blocks inked with colors–a system that was labor intensive and frustrating..McLoughlin Brothers was among the earliest American children’s book publishers to experiment with the new chromolithographic technology. By the 1870s, McLoughlin Brothers also developed a notorious reputation as a publisher of unauthorized reissues of British picture books, including those issued by English picture book publisher Frederick Warne & Co., whose books were imported from London by Scribner, Welford, and Armstrong–a branch of Charles Scribner and Company. It is probably no accident that a vitriolic letter penned by English illustrator Walter Crane attacking the McLoughlin Bros.’ gaudy and unauthorized reproduction of his Baby’s Opera appeared in the September 1877 issue of Scribner’s Monthly.

(Pictuered beside the Mcluoghlin version) is the illustration and music for “I saw Three Ships” published in London George Routledge & Sons; the illustrations are engraved on wood and printed in color by Crane’s collaborator Sir Edmund Evans. It is an elegant piece of color relief printing; note the muted shades of yellow, violet, and peach worn by the three angels. In the hands of McLoughlin Brothers, Evans’ wood engravings are turned into chromolithographs, and the colors are robust shades of purple, orange, and green; the pale tint of the angels skin in Evans’ hands becomes a more life-like hue in the McLoughlin version, giving the angels the look of actual young girls dressed like angels. Both versions are beautiful, but they are an apple and an orange, and at a retail cost of 75 cents, the McLoughlin version was clearly cheaper to produce and purchase; the cost of the Routledge edition was probably well over a dollar and possibly double the cost of the McLoughlin copy. Posted by Laura Wasowicz for the American Antiquarian Society blog on 1/4/2013.

Walter Crane (15 August 1845 – 14 March 1915) was an English artist and book illustrator. He is considered to be the most influential, and among the most prolific, children’s book creator of his generation[1] and, along with Randolph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway, one of the strongest contributors to the child's nursery motif that the genre of English children's illustrated literature would exhibit in its developmental stages in the latter 19th century. AH15a