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Ten Little Nigger Girls

  • Object:

    Illustration

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    ca.1895 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cubitt, Edith Alice (artist)
    Gunston, Audley (water-colourist)
    Nister, Ernest, born 1842 - died 1909 (publisher)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pen and ink and watercolour on card

  • Museum number:

    RENIER.263

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Ernest Nister (1842-1909) began his publishing career in 1885 when he acquired a lithographic workshop in Nürnberg and printed books for London publishers. In 1888 he became a publisher in his own right with offices at 24 St. Bride Street, London. He appointed the writer and editor, Robert Ellice Mack, as director.

Nister specialised in high quality colour printing for children in the last quarter of the 19th century. Movable books with various mechanisms became his speciality after 1890 (when be published his first stand-up book) but he also produced numerous picture books, annuals, poetry, nursery rhymes, calendars and greetings cards. He worked with a core of writers, including Clifton Bingham and Robert Ellice Mack, and illustrators, in particular Eveline Lance, Harriett M. Bennett, Edith A. Cubitt and Rosa Petherick.

Edith A. Cubitt produced this pen and ink drawing (hand-coloured by A. Gunston) as the cover illustration for the nursery rhyme, Ten Little Nigger Girls, published as an 'untearable' book by Ernest Nister in London and E. P. Dutton & Co. in New York, and printed in Bavaria in ca.1895. The nursery rhyme is a counting rhyme, beginning with ten little girls and ending with one.

This genre, which also included Ten Little Nigger Boys, was popular at the end of the 19th century. The term 'nigger' was used in Europe and America to describe a person of black (sub-Saharan) African ancestry from the 17th century. It began to gain pejorative associations from the 1800s but was used in book titles of the 19th century without racist intent. The term is repeated here in its original historical context.

Physical description

Pen and ink drawing, hand-coloured with watercolour, on stiff card depicting ten young black girls of African heritage holding hands dancing around a palm tree. In the distance a large bright orange sun sets behind a row of palm trees. The girls wear brightly coloured dresses and bows in their hair. Individual cut-out paper letters (coloured red with black outlines) forming the title, 'Ten Little Nigger Girls', are pasted across the drawing, partly covering the palm tree. The illustration has a thin black ink single-rule border and is mounted onto board.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)

Date

ca.1895 (made)

Artist/maker

Cubitt, Edith Alice (artist)
Gunston, Audley (water-colourist)
Nister, Ernest, born 1842 - died 1909 (publisher)

Materials and Techniques

Pen and ink and watercolour on card

Marks and inscriptions

Pencil note on recto of mount board reads: '8769'

Bookplate on verso reads: 'From the Library of Anne Renier and F.G. Renier'

Inscribed by Anne Renier in ink on verso: 'AR'

Inscribed in blue crayon on verso: 'XXVII / 8769', '4' and 'C/G'

Inscribed in pencil on verso: 'P&I by Cubitt colored by Gunston'

Ink stamp on verso reads: 'Ernest Nister / Order no 41029/5'

Dimensions

Height: 268 mm Mount, Width: 321 mm Mount

Object history note

Drawn by Edith A. Cubitt and hand-coloured by A. Gunston in ca.1895 as the cover illustration for Ten Little Nigger Girls published by Ernest Nister. Bequeathed to the V&A in 1970 by Anne Renier and Fernand G. Renier as part of the Renier Collection.

Descriptive line

Pen and ink drawing by Edith A. Cubitt, hand coloured by A. Gunston, ca.1895; cover illustration for the nursery rhyme, 'Ten Little Nigger Girls', published by Ernest Nister.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Ten Little Nigger Girls (London: Ernest Nister; New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., ca.1895)
Nister series no.: 1268a

Materials

Pen and ink; Watercolour; Card; Paper (fiber product)

Techniques

Drawing; Hand-colouring

Subjects depicted

Black History; Palm trees; Girls; Children (people by age group); Dancing

Categories

Drawings; Illustration; Children & Childhood; Black History; Books; National Art Library

Production Type

Unique

Collection

National Art Library

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