The Charm of the Little Dumpy Book
It was idea of the publisher, Grant Richards, to produce small, pocket sized books for children. The tiny size and uniform covers of a little Dumpy book contain charming stories and poems, each one a little different. One of the most well known publications, “The Story of Little Black Sambo” by Helen Bannerman, was first published in 1899. The book was an instant success, running to four editions in its first year.
The Dumpy books were published by Grant Richards between 1897-1904. Forty of the little stories for children were released and seven larger Dumpy books were published later on. E.V Lucas, a writer and publisher, was the selector of authors and illustrators of the series. He clearly had a eye for good children’s books. His selection of the author and illustrator, Mary Tourtel for “A Horse Book” and “The Three little Foxes” is a good example as she later became the illustrator for the renowned Rupert Bear books. Also, Lucas went on to introduce his Punch colleague, A. A. Milne, to the illustrator E. H. Shepard who worked on the infamous Winnie the Pooh collection. A fellow critic, Frank Swinnerton, said of Lucas “Lucas had a great appetite for the curious, the human, and the ridiculous.” It certainly worked and the success of the Dumpy format encouraged other publishers to release small children’s books. For example, Frederick Warne, issued it’s Beatrix Potter series in 1902 with similar success even introducing a novel wallet format book.
We take for granted the range and format of children’s books today yet it is lovely to look through a collection of these little books as a small reminder of the history of publication history of children’s books.
To see more Dumpy books go here.