Sunday, December 23, 2012

Edward Lear born in 1812

2012 has been the National Year of Reading here is Australia but until last week I did not know it was also the anniversary of the birth of Edward Lear.  He is best known for The Owl and the Pussycat but he wrote so many other nonsense verses and famous limericks. Something I did not know, he was also a very skilled illustrator of birds and mammals.

You can listen to a fabulous broadcast about his work here. I was interested to learn Lear painted some Australian fauna sent back to England by John Gould including budgerigars.  He also found inspiration for some of his character names from the local names given to specimens in the Royal Society collection.

Here is a quote from the radio program

A lot of the animals when they came in had really strange local names, like there was an eland that was called the Ging-e-Jonga, and other animals with really quite strange and exotic names; Whiskered Yarke, which I think was a monkey, the Aequitoon, I think they were deer. A lot of them were Indian actually but they were names given to them in their original countries, so when they arrived back they arrived with names like the Jungli-bukra. I think it's an antelope, again it's an Indian one.

Charles Darwin also used the drawings of Edward Lear.

 In my collection I have a copy of The new Vestments with illustrations by Arnold Lobel - marvelous black and white line drawings.

"By way of a hat he'd a loaf of Brown Bread
In the middle of which he inserted his head.
His shirt was made up of no end of dead Mice,
The warmth of whose skins was quite fluffy and nice."

I first encountered a picture book of this one with an altered title The old man and the edible suit. This is not in our library but I have included a picture of the cover below.

We have over ten editions of The Owl and the Pussycat in our library including audio versions and big books.  It is fun to read this famous poem and see the variety of ways illustrators have interpreted things like the pea green boat and the wonderful runcible spoo not to mention the owl and the pussycat themselves. I am sorry to have missed this, but May 12th was The Owl and the Pussycat day - Edward Lear's birthday.  By the way runcible is a word that if found in some dictionaries thanks to Edward Lear.

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