A sketchbook of Randolph Caldecott – a new exhibition on Capital Collections

The featured exhibition on Capital Collections presents an example of illustration work by the artist Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) taken from a series of sketches collated into the publication `A sketch-book of R. Caldecott’s’.

Couples walking under umbrellas in a rain shower

April from ‘A sketch-book of R. Caldecott’s’.

This volume of sketches captures everyday life in the countryside through the passing seasons. Each sketch has a narrative quality with scenes of people – young and old – partaking in different activities, enjoying the natural scenery around them, as well as scenes of various animals interacting with humans. This sketchbook contains a mixture of vibrantly coloured and monochrome sketches with each image exemplifying Caldecott’s dedication to depicting detail and his clear fondness for depicting his subjects as they were, in their natural environment.

As the collection progresses through the seasons Caldecott reminds us all through these playful images of the circle of life and how the seasons will return one after the other.

The spectators from ‘A sketch-book of R. Caldecott’s’.

Caldecott is best known for his illustrations of nursery rhymes which brought him international acclaim. Despite his relatively short lifetime, Caldecott’s work is considered to have transformed children’s books during the Victorian era, a period which is considered the ‘Golden age’ of illustration with the influence of artists like Caldecott still resonating today. Caldecott is considered part of the influential ‘nursery triumvirate’, along with Walter Crane and Kate Greenway. Following the popularity of these authors it became the norm for children’s books to be dominated by image over text.

Quite a small party from ‘A sketch-book of R. Caldecott’s’.

Capital Collections provides a window into Edinburgh Libraries’ Special Collections and makes our photographs, illustrations and books much more accessible to a wider audience.

There are two other exhibitions displaying Caldecott’s illustrated story books to enjoy on Capital Collections:

The house that Jack built
A Frog he would a-wooing go.

Many thanks to our Art & Design Library volunteer Emilie Brown for curating this and other Caldecott exhibitions. For more information on our collections of illustrated books by Randolph Caldecott email the Art & Design Library.

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