Picture books from 1810 to 1950 > Fantasy

Fantasy reigns supreme in countless picture books. The books chosen for this theme are populated by flowers, animals and toy figures that speak and act as real people. Old and new fairy tales and folk tales take the stage.

Hansje in Wonderland

Flower children
Influenced by the Art Nouveau movement, books with human-like flowers and plants appeared on the market at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1889, the Englishman Walter Crane’s ‘Flora’s feast’ was published and, in 1898, Die Blumenmärchen (‘The Flower Fairy Tales’) by Ernst Kreidolf came out in Germany. In Dutch and Flemish books, too, flowers with small, expressive faces began to appear. And it was not only flowers; vegetables and mushrooms also joined in. In some tales, children of flesh and blood are scaled down to the size of insects and become part of the world of flowers and plants. Since 1903, Hansje in bessenland (‘Peter in Blueberry Land’) , by the Swedish author Elsa Beskow, is considered a standard work in this genre. Many of these books were illustrated by well-known artists and are beautiful to look at.  View picture books in the category: Flower Children >>

Kleine tante Letje

Animals: dressed, talking and thinking
Anthropomorphism means attributing human qualities to animals and objects. In children’s books, it is a ‘normal’ phenomenon, encountered not only in old fables, but also in modern picture books, like the well-known Kikker (‘Frog’) by Max Velthuijs. The picture books in this category are overflowing with mice, hares, bears, elephants, ducks, cats, dogs and apes that can think and talk. Sometimes, the animals are made to represent human faults, as in the book Sint Nicolaas (‘Saint Nicholas’) - unrelated, this time, to Dutch children’s beloved St Nick. Farcical animals also get a turn, but the stories are not always all innocent fun; sometimes the fun is very much at others’ expense.  View picture books in the category: Animals: dressed, speaking and thinking >>

Levend speelgoed

Living toys
Apart from flowers, plants and animals made to resemble humans, ‘living toys’ also play a role in some picture books. A little plush horse takes off to the Land of Toys, coloured pencils take matters in hand, small dolls look after themselves and teddy bears throw a party. This category also presents girls playing with dolls (absolutely no boys here!). There is a great variety of styles and techniques in the illustrations. View picture books in the category: Living toys >>

Het boek van Luilekkerland

Going to the land of Cockayne
The Land of Cockaigne, or Cockayne, also called the land of milk and honey, is a nonexistent place overflowing with things to eat and drink. The theme is one that crops up frequently in children’s books. Tempting treats abound in the picture books shown here: loaves of cinnamon-sugar bread, piglets with knife and fork already protruding from their backs, roast chickens whizzing past and fountains spouting lemonade. View picture books in the category: Going to the Land of Cockaigne >>


Once upon a time
Everything is possible in the world of fairy tales. Pixies, speaking beetles, witches and little root men, elves and robbers, princes and princesses all populate the picture books on view here. Well-known fairy tales recorded by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen are represented. We see the swineherd (à la Art Nouveau), the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Puss in Boots, Ali Baba, the Town Musicians of Bremen, Little Red Riding Hood (in several versions), Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Tom Thumb and countless other fairy tale figures. Once familiar and now forgotten fairy tales are also on view. View picture books in the category: Once upon a time >>

Hier heb je 't leven en bedrijf

Folk tales
Old folk tales from Russia, England and the Netherlands are featured in this category. Most are so-called ‘stacked’ stories, or stories in which each new episode introduces additional figures; the English nursery rhyme The house that Jack built is a good example of a stacked story. View picture books in the category: Folk tales >>

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Examples from this collection Picture books from 1810 to 1950

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