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Lear, Edward, 1812–1888
Physical Description:
1 v. ([26] leaves) : ill. ; 36 cm.
Rare Books and Manuscripts
Folio A 2010 52
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Archives & Manuscripts
Edward Lear (1812-1888) was an English artist, illustrator, and author, perhaps best known for his nonsense verse and limericks. He often incorporated nonsense writing and drawings into correspondence with close friends and produced a number of manuscript alphabets for children of his acquaintance. The present manuscript was created for the children of Vandeleur Benjamin Crake (1816-1894), a Sussex county magistrate. Four other manuscript alphabets are recorded in: Noakes, Vivien. Edward Lear, 1812-1888. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1985.
Selected exhibitions: "Edward Lear and the Art of Travel" (Yale Center for British Art, September 20 1999 - January 14, 2000).
Cottage of content, or, Toys, games, and amusements of nineteenth century England, 23
Selected exhibitions: “The Cottage of Content : or, Toys, Games, and Amusements of Nineteenth Century England" (Yale Center for British Art, November 2 - December 31, 1977).
Fairman, Elisabeth R. Pleasures and pastimes, 248
Autograph manuscript alphabet, with original drawings, by Edward Lear, 1857. A hand-written label affixed to the verso of leaf 'Z' notes: "Alphabet, written & illustrated by Edward Lear for Winifred Williams & Barrington Crake. The book was made by their aunt Mary Ann Crake." On the same label, in a contemporary hand, the date 1857 is noted. The manuscript contains one leaf for each letter of the alphabet. Each letter is drawn in a bold capital, above a drawing and a four-line verse describing a subject whose first letter matches the featured capital. Each letter is drawn on a separate sheet of paper (32 x 20 cm) and mounted on the recto of a panel of linen (trimmed in blue silk). The sheets of linen are sewn together and bound within a final unmarked sheet of linen. Presumably, Mary Ann Crake was responsible for assembling the book in this form.
The content of the present manuscript alphabet appears to be unpublished. The rhymes and drawings echo Lear's multiple published nonsense alphabets (see Nonsense books by Edward Lear, 1904) but the variation is significant. Most, if not all, of the drawings resemble the forms used by Lear as alphabet subjects in his published works. The verse in the manuscript appears to deviate further from his published versions. The rhymes are frequently unpolished, with irregular meter, as in the entry for the letter G: "G was a goat, With horns all so curly, Sometimes he was good, And sometimes he was surly. G! Curly-burly goat!".
Subject Terms:
Alphabet -- Juvenile literature.
Alphabet rhymes.
Crake, Barrington.
Crake, Vandeleur Benjamin, 1816-1894.
Lear, Edward, 1812-1888.
Williams, Winifred.
Alphabet books.
Nonsense verse.
Ink drawings.
IIIF Manifest:

  • A were some ants
  • B was a bat
  • C was a camel
  • D was a duck
  • E was an elephant
  • F was a fan
  • G was a goat
  • H was a hat
  • I was an inkstand
  • J was a jug
  • K was a kite
  • L was a lily
  • M was a mouse
  • N were some nuts
  • O was an ostrich
  • P was a polly
  • Q was a quail
  • R was a rabbit
  • S was a swallow
  • T was a tortoise
  • U was an uppercoat
  • V was a veil
  • W was a whale
  • X was King Xerxes
  • Y was a yew tree
  • Z was a zebra.

Pleasures and Pastimes (Yale Center for British Art, 1990-02-21 - 1990-04-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Cottage of Content, or, Toys, Games, and Amusements of Nineteenth Century England (Yale Center for British Art, November 2, 1977-December 31, 1977) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

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