An Alphabet of Animals
This charming volume is a facsimile of a children’s ABC of animals first published in 1899. Commissioned by Glasgow publisher Blackie & Son, it contains a short description and a full-page grisaille drawing for each animal, beginning with A for armadillo and ending with Z for zebra, with vignettes accompanying each letter of the alphabet.
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It was the first publication by Carton Moore Park, who specialized in animal subjects, and whose artistic style was strongly influenced by Japonisme. The quirky drawings, with the modern-looking crops and close-up perspective, made the book stand out from all other alphabets of the day. The plate of the hippopotamus, for example, conveys the great bulk of the animal by forcing it up against the frame, while the image of the bat has flying almost in the reader’s face. The picture of the leopard is one of several plates that reveal Moore Park’s interest in Japanese art. When the book was published, contemporary critics acclaimed the artist’s strong handling and accurate anatomical knowledge, as well as his profound appreciation of the habits and movements of the animals depicted and his close sympathy with his subjects. One wrote that, ‘It is certainly the best book of the kind we have ever seen.’ A hundred and twenty years after it was first published, this exquisite rediscovered book – very much of its moment but modern in spirit – will enchant and educate a new generation of children.