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Commissioned by Glasgow publisher Blackie & Son, it contains a short description and a full-page grisaille drawing for each animal, beginning with A for armadillo and ending with Z for zebra, with vignettes accompanying each letter. It was the first publication by Carton Moore Park, who specialized in animal subjects, and whose artistic style was strongly influenced by Japonisme.
The quirky drawings, with modern-looking crops and close-up perspective, made the book stand out from all other alphabets of the day. The plate of the hippopotamus, for example, conveys the great bulk of the animal by forcing it up against the frame, while the image of the bat has the creature flying almost in the reader’s face.
When the book was published, contemporary critics acclaimed the artist’s strong handling and accurate anatomical knowledge, as well as his appreciation of the habits and movements of the animals depicted. One wrote that “It is certainly the best book of the kind we have ever seen.” A hundred and twenty years after it was first published, this exquisite bookvery much of its moment but modern in spiritwill enchant and educate a new generation of children.
Carton Moore Park (1877–1956) was a British painter, illustrator and teacher. During the 1890s, he was best known for his illustrated books, such as An Alphabet of Animals, Book of Birds and A Book of Elfin Rhymes. He lived in London until 1910, when he emigrated to New York, where he spent the rest of his life.