The Water Babies was written as a serial for Macmillan's Magazine and first published as a book in 1863. It was written by Charles Kingsley (1819-1875), a university professor, social reformer, historian, novelist and poet.
This is a less expensive edition of the story, probably reduced in length, that uses some of the internal illustrations provided by A.E. Jackson (1873-1952) for an edition of the book published by Thomas Nelson and Sons in 1909. Nelson's had produced a slimmer edition in 1912, also of 64 pages with card covers backed with green cloth, which is typical of Nelson's inexpensive children's books, but had retained a colour cover illustration by Jackson. This was also published in French as Les enfants de la mer.
Nelson's decided in 1917 to ask Blampied to provide a new cover illustration, probably so that they could sell it as a new edition, but the letter commissioning the illustration is missing from the archive. The first letter that mentions the book is dated 17th January 1917:
I am sorry I did not make it clear about the size of the cover for Water Babies. I have now marked the sketch showing the exact size wanted. It is not to come round the back, simply to cover the side. I think the sketch very charming. It’s one draw back is that it is not nearly bright enough for a cover for this kind of book. But I note that you think you will be able to make it much stronger without impairing its charm. As to lettering, please make the lettering as bold and simple as you can. Simply The Water Babies and at the foot somewhere, the word Nelson. Kindly let us have the finished design at your earliest convenience.
Blampied sent the revised version very quickly as Edwin Jack wrote on 31st January 1917:
Many thanks for the finished wrapper for The Water Babies. We like the drawing very much as a drawing and it will make a very pretty wrapper but we think the interest in it is one the whole too much dispersed for a wrapper.
The rest of the letter was about a design for Alice in Wonderland, which was a more succesful design, according to Edwin Jack.
First edition, thus
Bibliography code: NEL-17.8
Publisher: Thomas Nelson and Sons
Pages: 64 pp, plus 4 unnumbered colour illustrations, bound in
Binding: Printed card backed with red cloth, stapled pagess
Size: 262 x 202 mm
Dust jacket: wrapper not seen, but letters indicate that it was published with one
Cover signed: Blampied, lower right
Internal illustrations: Yes: colour frontispiece and 3 colour plates printed on glossy card, bound in, by A.E. Jackson, plus 38 small line illusrations
Price: not known
Printing history: none stated
Printed by: Printed in Great Britain at the Press of the Publishers
Notes: The soft card covers of this book is easily damaged by children, so copies in good condition are uncommon. I obtained this copy from a book seller in Australia.
Cover of book (click to enlarge)