Welcome to the Shire!

Howard Pyle, “The Young Knight of Lea Overcomes the Knight of Lancaster.” In The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, of Great Renown, in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883, p. 157.

American illustrator Howard Pyle (1857-1911) was fascinated with Medieval and Renaissance history and costuming. He wrote and illustrated a number of original works set in Medieval Europe and England, and adapted classic ballads to narratives for young readers. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, of Great Renown, in Nottinghamshire is an example of the latter. Throughout this work, Pyle strove to maintain an historic aesthetic in both, visual depictions and the language used to weave the tale.

Howard Pyle, “The Mighty Fight betwixt Little John and the Cook.” In The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, of Great Renown, in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883, p. 72.

His insistence on depicting historic dress as authentically as possible in his illustrations led him to collect period costumes, costume books, and historic manuscripts for reference (“Howard Pyle”). His models and students would pose in the costumes, especially when depicting intense action such as the fight scene between Little John and the Cook.

Howard Pyle, “Robin and the Tinker at the Blue Boar Inn.” In The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, of Great Renown, in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883, p. 12.

Pyle’s illustrations and decorative designs for this tale are done in a linear style reminiscent of traditional woodblock prints. He uses lines of varying thickness to differentiate between objects and he indicates mass through the artistic techniques of cross-hatching and placing lines parallel to each other, as seen on the curved lines that circle Robin Hood’s leg in the illustration “Robin and the Tinker at the Blue Boar Inn.”

Howard Pyle, “Merry Robin Stops a Sorrowful Knight.” In The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, of Great Renown, in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1883, p. 156.

This Medieval and Renaissance aesthetic can also be seen in the hand-lettered titles for each of the full-page illustrations. The text is meant to mimic the impression of 16th century typeface, going so far as to include the medial S — the letter that looks like an F without its crossbar.

Most strikingly, Pyle endeavors to recreate the feel of Medieval or Renaissance England in the language he uses for the characters’ speech. “Thou,” “dost,” and “thee” among other expressions are liberally used throughout the book. For example, in the story “Robin Hood Aideth a Sorrowful Knight,” Robin says to Little John:

Here is a fair day, Little John, and one that we can ill waste in idleness. Choose such men as thou dost need, and go thou east while I will wend to the west, and see that each of us bringeth back some goodly guest to dine this day beneath the greenwood tree.

To which Little John replies, “Marry … thy bidding fitteth my liking like haft to blade. I’ll bring thee back a guest this day, or come not back mine own self.”

Pyle’s modern reconstruction of Old English attempts to give authenticity to his retelling of Robin Hood through yet another level of aesthetic historicism.

His artistic interpretation of “Merrie Old England” is akin to the modern day Renaissance Festival, where you will surely find a lady dressed as an Elizabethan duchess linking arms with a Knights Templar, Robin Hood chatting with Shakespeare, and a young maiden pulling her little fairy child in a Radio Flyer wagon decorated with a silk flower garland. Like the costuming and setting of your local Renaissance Festival, the visuals and language used by Pyle simultaneously feel authentic because of their dependence on historical references and are fantastic interpretations of Medieval and Renaissance history. Both are meant to transport the reader-participate into a realm where historical accuracy is not as important as the story, itself.

As you plan for your next trip to your local Shire, let Howard Pyle be your guide through a world where Robin Hood and Little John once again escape the Sheriff’s grasp under the watchful eye Queen Elizabeth. Welcome to the Shire, one and all!

“Howard Pyle,” Illustration History, https://www.illustrationhistory.org/artists/howard-pyle. Accessed 7/31/19.

Cotsen Conference: Sept. 11-13 – “Putting the Figure on the Map”

On September 11-13, 2013 (Wed-Fri), the Cotsen Children’s Library will host the conference: “Putting the Figure on the Map: Imagining Sameness and Difference for Children” on the campus of Princeton University, Princeton NJ.

This interdisciplinary program co-organized by Emer O’Sullivan and Cotsen Curator, Andrea Immel will draw on the approaches in imagology, history, anthropology, psychology, and literary criticism.  It will focus on modes of expression arising within or without the classroom that either target children or appropriate discourses for them that create competing, complimentary, or contradictory images of foreign nations and their

The program will also feature a workshop featuring primary resources from the Cotsen collection.

Registration is free to Princeton University students, faculty and staff; $25 for all others.  You may register online at the conference site.

See below for the conference schedule.

For speaker biographies and abstracts,visit the conference website.

See the conference poster (in PDF format).

Conference Schedule:

Sept. 11 (Wed)

5:30-7:00 pm

Cotsen Children’s Library, Firestone Library


Sept. 12 (Thurs)

Rm 113 Friend Center, William Street

9:30 am

Registration and coffee 

10:15 am


10:30 am

Session 1: Ethnography on Display

Emer O’Sullivan  “Picturing the World for Children: Early Nineteenth-Century Images of Foreign Nations”

Gillian Lathey “Figuring the World: Representing Children’s Encounters with Other Peoples and Cultures at the 1851 Great Exhibition”

Silke Meyer (via Skype)  “Politics in the Children’s Perspective: National Stereotypes in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Prints”

12:30 pm


 2:00 pm

Session 2:  Images Instrumentalized

Martina Seifert “Appropriating the Wild North: The Image of Canada and Its Exploitation in German Children’s Literature”

Lara Saguisag “Foreign Yet Familiar: Theorizing the Immigrant Child in Progressive Era Comic Strips, 1896-1912”

3:15-3:30 pm  [break]

Amanda Brian  “Civilizing Children and Animals in Lothar Meggendorfer’s Moveable Books”

Eric J. Johnson  “Politicizing Childhood: Oncle Hansi and Alsatian Nationalism, 1912-1919”

Sept 13 (Fri) 

Venue to be announced

10:00 am

Session 3: Internationalism, Pacifism, and Tolerance, I

Nina Christensen “Education to Tolerance: Citizens of the World in Eighteenth-Century Children’s Literature and Children’s Literature of Today”

Cynthia Koepp “An Anthropologist Shows Children a World of Difference: The Pedagogical Imagination of Louis-François Jauffret”

Minjie Chen “Foreigners Not (Yet) in One Box: Discourse on Race and Foreign Nationals in Chinese Children’s Reading Materials, 1890-1920

12:00 pm


1:15 pm

Session 4: Internationalism, Pacifism, and Tolerance, II

Farah Mendlesohn “National Characters, National Character: Children in Pacifist and Anti-Militaristic Publications for Children Between the Wars”

Gabriele von Glasenapp “Information or Exoticization?: Constructing Religious Difference in Children’s Non-Fiction”

Margaret R. Higonnet “No Child Is an Island”

3:30 pm

Session 5: Primary Materials Workshop 

Cotsen Children’s Library, Firestone Library

 Jill Shefrin  “Pictures for Tarry-at-home Travellers”

 Setsuko Noguchi  “Around the World in One Game: Japanese Picture Sugoroku”

 5:00 pm

Closing words

 For more information, please contact Andrea Immel, Cotsen Curator.