Amy Edith Steedman (1867-1939) was born in Capetown, South Africa and lived for many years in Edinburgh where she wrote books and stories for T.C. & E.C. Jack and then Thomas Nelson and Sons, when the two firms merged. She was a prolific writer for children who wrote much of the text and verses for Blam's Book of Fun.
Nelson's published annuals for three age groups of children. This was the predecessor to The Nursery Book, an annual for the youngest children. It contains three original double page drawings in flat colours by Blampied. How these came to be commissioned is worth describing. Edwin Jack wrote to Blampied on 13th December 1918:
Will you kindly let us know whether you have at any time done any drawings in flat colours for children’s books? If you have we should be much obliged if you would let us see some examples of your work in this style. What we are looking for, we may say, are drawings of a fairly bold style for large children’s picture books of the most juvenile kind. . . We think that we ought to be able to get a lively result in colour from 4 printings at most we should not care to run beyond 5. . . It is most important that the drawings should be very bright in colour.
Blampied submitted a drawing but Edwin Jack was not impressed and wrote on 10th January 1919:
The example you were good enough to send us of flat colour work is very striking but it is, of course, much too bizarre for a book for little children. Something much more natural would be necessary. . . perhaps a good subject might be a baby’s handicap; children at different ages from six downwards, say running a race with perhaps the youngest of all in front led in leading strings by nurse or mother. If a really jolly picture could be made of this we might run it across two pages. . . The colours we would use would be red, blue, yellow and say green and a black. Five printings in all. We are a little doubtful whether you can give use quite the natural touch we want and should like to feel free to decline the subject if sketch does not please us.
At this time Blampied was working on the drawings for John's Visit to the Farm so there was some delay, but Jack wrote to Blampied on 13th February 1919:
I must write to you personally to say how much delighted I am with your drawing of the children’s race. It is one of the most delightful children’s drawings I have seen for a long time – so breezy and sunny. I shall want several more of these drawings from you.
The drawing is shown below. It was also used later on the cover of the book Hush-a-Bye Baby and was reproduced across two pages within the same title.
Double page illustration between pages 18-19 (click to enlarge)
Jack wrote again soon after to suggest more subjects for this new title:
We have been thinking over subjects for Baby’s Annual to be done in same style as the one you have already sent to us. We shall require at least other two subjects . Kindly note: 1. That the size of these subjects should be 9” x 16”. 2. That they should be capable of being printed in the same range of colours as the one you have done. 3. We are aiming at very simple book and the drawing should appeal to very young children. If practicable we should like animals introduced in these two subjects. We would suggest 1. Children feeding an elephant. The elephant could be on the pathway at the zoo, not within bars. 2. Ride on a cow with pond and ducks seen. 3. Very little children with snow-man. 4. Swinging. Children having a swing. Swing suspended from tree. Perhaps doggie and one or two sheep in the vicinity.
Blampied did as he was asked and two of these subjects are shown below.
In addition to the above two subjects we shall require a cover design for the book to be worked in the same 5 printings. Size for cover are as follows: front board and back board 11⅛” by 8½”. Design for front board. We want something very striking for this, an arresting piece of colour; perhaps two very little children. It might be an advantage if the background were more or less a solid tint so that the book would not soil easily. Leave at least 3” on which to put lettering. We should like to see sketch of this before you proceed with finished drawing. On the backboard we thought of having a picture which did not extend all over the board. Perhaps an oval of about 5” placed lengthwise. A very little child asleep on a rug or any other subject which strikes you. Here, too, it might be well to have a solid tint covering the board. The back of the book will be 1” broad. It will be blocked on cloth, not printed on paper and we think it could be quite effectively treated in two blockings, perhaps black and red or black and green. All that is wanted is some little sketch that will run up the back and support the lettering. A child with balloons might do. Our public is not educated up to anything very much out of the common. The treatment of your first subject went far enough in this direction but we are hopeful that you will be able to give us, both for cover and the pictures, something that will please us very much.
Blampied produced a drawing that met these specifications except that there was no blocked drawing on the spine, perhaps because it was narrower than planned.
Bibliography code: NEL-20.4
Publisher: Thomas Nelson and Sons
Binding: printed boards backed with cream cloth
Size: 285 x 230 mm
Cover: signed Blampied, lower margin
Internal illustrations: original double page colour illust of feeding an elephant (pp 4-5); original double page colour illust of children running with balloons (pp 18-19); line illusts from Two Little Scamps and a Puppy (pp 20, 22, 31, 34, 45, 61); line illust from At the Farm (p 44); original colour illust of children playing on a tree swing (pp 46-47); colour illustration of letter I from The Jolly ABC; line illust from John's Visit to the Farm (p 69); original colour illustration on rear cover.
Price: 3 shillings 6 pence
Printing history: not stated
Printed by: Printed in Great Britain at the Press of the Publishers
Dust jacket (click to enlarge)
Notes: The design for the cover was used again on Baby's Book, which was issued in 1921, but with Blampied's signature removed.
Double page illustration between pages 4-5 (click to enlarge)
Double page illustration between pages 46-47 (click to enlarge)