Wednesday, 1 April 2015

All About: Pigs

After one month off, we are back to the All About series with a wonderful walk through the world of pigs! We will take a look at the Seven Stories archive, finding a piece of illustration, written archive and book to explore on our theme.
This is the dummy book for Garth Pig Steals the Show. It shows Rayner's preliminary sketches for the book, as well as page layout. This is important to create when working out how your book is going to flow.
This month's feature illustration is from one of our most recent acquisitions. It is taken from the well known series of books all about Garth Pig. Created by Mary Rayner in the 1970s, and filled with porcine humour, these stories focus on the anthropomorphic world of Garth Pig and his large family. They live in a world of pigs, with various other farmyard animals making an appearance, particularly the scariest of all in the eyes of little pigs - the wolf. The wolf appears in various guises throughout the books, always as the key threat to the young pig children, in a clever play on the old nursery rhyme.

Rayner's style was well sought after for book covers of children's books in the 1990s, and created new dust jackets for another famous pig you may have heard of, Dick King-Smith's The Sheep-Pig.

The collection consists of suites of final artwork for four of the books in the series - Garth Pig and the Ice Cream Lady, Garth Pig Steals the Show, Mr and Mrs Pig's Evening Out and Mrs Pig's Bulk Buy. It also contains preliminary work for the books, including hand sketched dummy books and amended proofs - all of which provide an insight in to how these books were created. The collection has only recently arrive at Seven Stories, and is currently waiting to be catalogued.

The archive holds some interesting contracts and correspondence about publishing the book beyond the UK, this contract and letter refer to publishing the book in Russia. Complications arose due to the USSR not being part of the Universal Copyright Convention, meaning they weren't signed up to paying writer's royalties on their work. There is talk of Nina receiving a "hand[ful] of roubles" should she go to Russia, in lieu of royalties.
The honour of this month's written archive and book falls to the same title - The Peppermint Pig by Nina Bawden. It was first published in 1974, and adapted for television later in the 70s.  It won the Guardian Award for Children's fiction in 1975, and has since become established as a real ‘modern children’s classic’.

Set in the early 20th century, it tells the story of Lily, George, Theo and Poll, who move from the city with their mother to live with their aunts in Norfolk, while their father seeks his fortune in America.  In typical Nina Bawden style, this is no cosy story: it is set in a world where children die of scarlet fever; blackmail and bullying are common occurrences; and poverty is a fact of life. Into this world comes Johnnie, a 'peppermint pig’ (the runt of the litter), who becomes the focal point for the children's happiness and sorrows.  Johnnie is their confidant and friend, and, despite his often outrageous antics, he is accepted as one of the family.  Returning from school one day though, Poll finds that Johnnie has ‘disappeared’ and the children have to learn to deal with the harsh realities of country life.

In 2005 Nina Bawden donated archive material relating to The Peppermint Pig to Seven Stories, along with four more of her published titles for children.   This archive consists of contracts, correspondence and pre-publication material for the five titles as well as multiple British and Foreign language editions of the published books.  

The Peppermint Pig was published in many different languages across the world.
Many of our book collections include copies of different editions of an individual title, allowing us to extend the story of the books writing and production from the author’s first notes. We are able to see the progression to its first paperback edition, subsequent reprints, TV/ film editions, and so on to its publication life in other languages and countries.  It’s interesting to note that after English, probably the most common foreign language evidenced in our book collections is Japanese, which reflects the interest in and respect for British children’s literature in Japan. It’s also fascinating to see how the various publishers (even within Britain) often re-illustrate the covers for their own editions of a title, and to follow changes in their marketing styles and approaches over the years.

While writing this month's blog post, we found out about the phrase 'peppermint pig' meaning runt of the litter when reading Bawden's book. To our surprise, there was a subtle reference to the same phrase in the Garth Pig series - in Garth Pig Steals the Show, Garth's brother offers him a peppermint!

If you'd like to find out more about the Seven Stories Collection, then 
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