Click on this Logo for a larger version (54kB)
Nursery Rhymes

Home Contents Search Feedback Site History

Nursery Rhymes
Greetings Cards
First and Last
Named after
About Us
Find out more

This page shows more examples of Randolph Caldecott's pictures, from some of his sixteen "Picture Books".  These were published annually, in pairs, from 1878 until his death in 1886, always in time for Christmas: they were forerunners of the later Christmas Annuals.  They were originally priced at One Shilling (5 pence in today's British currency).

Randolph Caldecott is believed to be the first author/illustrator to have negotiated with his Publisher to receive, instead of a fixed fee, a "Royalty" per book sold: he received one old Penny per book (there were 12 Pence to the Shilling).  The first print run was a cautious 10,000 copies.  They were so popular that by July 1886, 5 months after his death, over 800,000 copies had been sold.

The books were originally published by George Routledge & Sons, and great care was taken to reproduce the colours exactly as the artist intended.  In later years, the books were re-issued by Frederick Warne & Co - but by this time, Randolph had died, and the colours used were brighter but lost the subtlety of the originals.
To reduce download time, each picture is shown in "thumbnail" size.  Click on it for a larger version.  Some of the 16 "Picture Books" are not really Nursery Rhymes, but for completeness we have listed them all here, in order of publication.  Those in italics on this page are (or will be) described more fully on the "Works" page or elsewhere: click on any underlined title for more info.

Nursery Rhymes

John Gilpin (1878)
Click here for larger version (174 kB)The House that Jack Built (1878)
The Frontispiece is shown here. Compare it with our photo of the house which Randolph used for his pictures in this book: click here.  For another picture from this book, click here.
If you can download pictures quickly, click on the one to the left and look for the artist's initials.  "R C" is at bottom left - and another set of initials, "E E" is at bottom right.  Edmund Evans was the engraver and printer whose careful work (in the original Routledge editions) ensured that Randolph's pictures appeared as intended.
Click here for larger version (163 k)The Babes in the Wood (1879)
In the Frontispiece, shown here, Randolph has depicted himself "Sore sicke...and like to Dye". Humorous to those who recognised him - but sadly all too prophetic of his early death only 7 years later.

The Mad Dog (1879)
This, with the previous 3 books, was re-issued in Randolph Caldecott's Picture Book.
The Three Jovial Huntsmen (1880)
The original pictures from which this book was published were bought by Beatrix Potter's father for GB£ 80.
When Randolph published his book, there was some controversy about the text.  Had he plagiarised someone else's work?  Why had he not given due credit to the author?  The truth was that he used an old Lancashire dialect version of a rhyme which, in various versions, had been circulating for centuries.  For two of the pictures, a comparison of original and later editions, and a sample of the text, click here.  Another picture is on one of our Postcards pages: click here.
Sing a Song for Sixpence, front cover, Routledge ed, showing 8 of the Blackbirds and a Sixpence dated 1880.Sing a Song for Sixpence (1880)
Sing a Song for Sixpence: the Fowler's snare (click to enlarge) When Randolph Caldecott produced this book, the Nursery Rhyme on which it was based seemed to be just a children's song.  But, only 60 years previously, when the rhyme about "four and twenty black birds" first appeared, it was full of political significance, based on the "Cato Street Conspiracy" (1820) in which 24 men (one of whom was black) plotted to murder the entire Cabinet at dinner one night.  When they were discovered, many of them began to tell about the others in the hope of saving their own lives - hence "the birds began to sing".  Acts of Parliament had just been passed to restrict public meetings and to take action against any literature considered "seditious", so there was an upsurge in innocent-seeming poems (or actions) with hidden meanings.
(This Picture Book, unlike all the others, has its date of first publication on its front cover - on the Sixpence.)
Click to enlarge (30 kB)The Queen of Hearts (1881)
This, with the previous 3 books, was re-issued in Randolph Caldecott's Picture Book No. 2.  
For another illustration, together with a modern parody of it, click here.
Click to enlargeThe Farmer's Boy (1881)
This is the final picture from the book and the rhyme.  It is clear that the hero of the rhyme is now much grander than the Farmer's Boy that he used to be!
Click to enlarge (only 24 kB)The Milkmaid (1882)
For reproductions of some pictures from this book, see our Postcards page.
Hey Diddle Diddle and Baby Bunting (1882)
An interactive version of this, showing all the illustrations with sound and music, is available on a Japanese Web-site (in English or Japanese). To visit it, click here.

A Frog he would a-Wooing Go (1883)
FrogWooing.jpg (7795 bytes) The illustrations in this book, showing animals clothed and behaving like humans, indicate clearly how Randolph Caldecott influenced the work of Beatrix Potter.  Two of Randolph's pictures still hang in her house in the Lake District, UK.
For a watercolour sketch used for this book, click here.
Front cover of The Fox Jumps over the Parson's Gate, by Randolph CaldecottThe Fox Jumps Over the Parson's Gate (1883)
A detail from a colour picture in this book is on our "Family" page: click here and then click on the small picture to see the whole, enlarged, picture.
For the last picture from this book, click here.
(This photo of front cover: Robin Castle.) 
Come Lasses and Lads (1884)
This was a traditional song, dating back to around 1670.  The original had more verses than are reproduced in Randolph's book.  The phrase " 'Twas the Fiddler Play'd It Wrong" is a line from the song and was the subject of an oil painting by Randolph; see our "Buying" page.
Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross and A Farmer Went Trotting (1884)
For one of the illustrations to the first of these rhymes, click here.
Mrs Mary Blaize (1885)
The Great Panjandrum (1885)

Click here for larger version (132 kB)Jack and the Beanstalk (1886, published after Randolph died).
The words of this version were written, in "English hexameters", by Hallam Tennyson.  Randolph Caldecott had only produced rough sketches by the time of his early death, but the book was published with these sketches.  Randolph was better known than Hallam Tennyson, and so Randolph's name on the cover is larger than Hallam's.  
All the sketches are black-and-white only, and the book is not at all like the "Picture Books", being -

much longer (70 pages compared with about 30 for the Picture Books), 

smaller in format (214mm high x 170mm wide, compared with 230 x 210 mm), and

published by Macmillan & Co (London & New York) instead of Routledge.

For other pictures, see our "Works" page.

Source of info at top of this page on copies sold: Obituary article by William Clough published in The Manchester Quarterly, July 1886, quoting the publishers, Messrs. Routledge.   Compare this with the figure of 867,000, from another source, for sales of only the first 12 of the books by 1884.

Return to Top of page    HseJackBuilt

Questions or comments about this web site?  E mail  with "Caldecott" included in the "Subject" line of your message.  (Sorry, but to protect ourselves from SPAM we have to ask you to type email addresses and subjects manually.)
© 2000, 2004 Randolph Caldecott Society UK.  
Unless otherwise stated, material from this site may be freely copied and reproduced, but please acknowledge where you got it from!           Last modified:  01 Dec 2005