Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Good to See You Again, Mother

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Good to See You Again, Mother

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Whetstone Arts & Entertainment Editor

Amid the many huge and brightly-coloured picture books targeted at modern children, a tiny book of nursery rhymes could easily get overlooked.

But there is excitement in the publishing world at the reissue of Mother Goose's Melody: or, Sonnets for the Cradle, a book which first came out in 1780 with illustrations recently attributed to the celebrated North-East engraver Thomas Bewick.

According to Nigel Tattersfield, a London-based Bewick expert, it is "one of the earliest and far and away the most comprehensive and influential" books produced for children.

He says it also helps to draw attention to the fact that, centuries before the Centre for the Children's Book was dreamt up in Newcastle, the city had a thriving children's book publishing industry.

Mother Goose's Melody includes familar nursery rhymes including Hush-a-by-baby, Ding dong bell and Jack and Gill but to a modern young reader might look drab.

However, Mr Tattersfield insists that in the 18th Century children would have feasted their eyes on the thumbnail illustrations.

"In those days the only pictures most people saw were in churches or on the swinging signs on taverns," he said. "The impact of illustrations, particularly in children's books, was huge. Children would have pored over illustrations like these because they didn't see anything else."

Mr Tattersfield has spent a decade sifting through the engraver's 5,000-or-so proofs which were left to the British Museum in the 1880s by Bewick's daughters, Jane and Isabella.

When Mother Goose's Melody was first published, Berwick hadn't yet become famous and his beautiful and intricate woodblock prints were not credited.

So, having found the proofs of the illustrations, it took some sleuthing by Mr Tattersfield to track down the book they had appeared in. …

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