Tuesday, May 11, 2010
THE OTHER JAMES BALDWIN
Baldwin believed that moral instruction should come through a study of classical literature. Much of his output, starting with his first full length fiction for children The Story of Siegfried (1882), consists of retellings of well known stories. As he says in his introduction to his bestselling Fifty Famous Stories Retold (1896): "There are numerous time-honored stories which have become so incorporated into the literature and thought of our race that a knowledge of them is an indispensable part of one's education."
It was with this attitude that Baldwin wrote in 1897, the series known as The Baldwin Readers, which were used in many schools, and were one of at least three readers series that Baldwin either wrote or co-wrote. Other representative Baldwin titles include, Old Greek Stories (1895), Old Stories of the East (1895), A Story of the Golden Age (1902), and The Wonder Book of Horses (1903).
Most of Baldwin's work is now in the public domain, and much of it can be viewed online, often as scans of original volumes complete with their phenomenal illustrations. With such tremendous circulation, however, it is no surprise that Baldwin was often reissued and often re-illustrated. See my Flickr sets for examples of art by Peter Hurd, student and son-in-law of N.C. Wyeth, from later editions of The Story of Siegfried and The Story of Roland than the editions scanned by Google.
Volume 26 reprints "Alexander and Bucephalus" from Fifty Famous Stories Retold as "A Horse for a Prince" illustrated by Don Freeman, the creator of Corduroy. Because the illustrators' names are not included on the title page in Best in Children's Books (they only appear on the dust jacket flaps and at the actual entries), brilliant illustrators often have "lost" work hidden away in the forty-two volume series. I have found no other reference to this work by Don Freeman, and so I take this opportunity to share it now.
IN ANOTHER WE TOO WERE CHILDREN, MR. BARRIE chance meeting, Don Freeman, long before he invented his famous teddy bear with the missing button, wrote and illustrated several articles on Beauford Delaney, the mentor and father figure of the African-American writer James Baldwin. Freeman and Delaney maintained a warm relationship (and on Freeman's side, a deep respect for Delaney's art). For more on their relationship, and to see scans of Freeman's illustrated article on Delaney from the April 1944 issue of Newstand, visit Don Freeman's website, maintained by his son.
Biographical information was taken from The Baldwin Online Children's Project (where you can see a photograph of the educator himself), and from an article on the History of Literacy's website. A brief history and thoroughly cross-referenced index of the Best in Children's Literature series can be found here.
All images are copyrighted © and owned by their respective holders.