Bloomsbury to publish classic Dorothy M. Wheeler-illustrated Nursery Rhymes collection

Classic Nursery Rhymes - Cover

 British publisher Bloomsbury currently has a number of beautifully-illustrated works in the works, including a stunning re-release of English Nursery Rhymes, as  Classic Nursery Rhymes, a book first published when World War One was at its height.

The new edition is the result of a chance discovery in company archives by Publishing Director Jayne Parsons and features some stunning watercolour art by Dorothy Muriel Wheeler (1891-1966) – an artist perhaps better known for her illustrations of many books by Enid Blyton, but whose work also featured on postcards and comic strips.

The nursery rhyme "Hush a Bye Baby", illustrated by Dorothy M. Wheeler

The nursery rhyme “Hush a Bye Baby”, illustrated by Dorothy M. Wheeler

First published by A. & C. Black (which was bought by Bloomsbury in 2000) in 1916 as a music book, the nursery rhymes featured were selected and edited by L. Edna Walter, and the harmonies the work of Lucy E. Broadwood.

The watercolours accompanying the text in the new Classic Nursery Rhymes – due for release in October and featuring an introduction from Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell – have been sensitively restored for this new edition and are quite beautiful, bringing classic rhymes to life such as “Little Bo-Peep”, “Jack and Jill” and “Oranges and Lemons”

Classic Nursery Rhymes also includes some of the musical arrangements created by Lucy E. Broadwood.

The nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty", illustrated by Dorothy M. Wheeler

The nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty”, illustrated by Dorothy M. Wheeler

Born in 1891, illustrator Dorothy M. Wheeler studied at the Blackheath School of Art, where her principal mediums were watercolour and ink. Among her numerous credits are illustrations for Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood (1939) and The Magic Faraway Tree (1943), published by George Newnes (and many others), as well as books written by Anne MacDonald. In the early 1950s, she and Blyton produced the London Evening Standard children’s strip “Mandy, Mops and Cubby”, probably Britain’s first comic created by an all-female team.


The original endpapers for the 1916 edition of "English Nursery Rhymes", sold at auction in 2015 for £1500. Art by Dorothy M. Wheeler

The original endpapers for the 1916 edition of “English Nursery Rhymes”, sold at auction in 2015 for £1500. Art by Dorothy M. Wheeler

A series of her works were used by Bamforth & Co Ltd, a publisher of fine postcards, for their Woodland Secrets and Fairy Series collections of cards, published around 1920. Her final work – illustrations for Enid Blyton’s The Ring O’Bells Mystery – appeared in 1965.

The original watercolours featured in Classic Nursery Rhymes were sold at auction last year for nearly £20,000 at Sothebys, including the original endpapers for English Nursery Rhymes.

• More about Dorothy M. Wheeler’s work for Enid Blyton’s books on the Enid Blyton Society web site

More examples of Dorothy M. Wheeler’s art on the Prints and the Paper web site

Categories: Art and Illustration, Books, downthetubes News, Other Worlds

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