TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Randolph Caldecott

Randolph Caldecott

Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) transformed the world of children's books in the Victorian era. Children eagerly awaited the two books illustrated by him, priced at a shilling each, which came out each Christmas for eight years.

Randolph's output, however, ranged wider than this: he illustrated novels and accounts of foreign travel; he made humorous drawings depicting hunting and fashionable life; he drew cartoons and he made sketches of the famous inside Parliament and out of it; he also exhibited sculptures and paintings in oil and watercolour in the Royal Academy and galleries.

Randolph Caldecott was born in Chester, and taught himself drawing as a child. His father, a businessman, discouraged him from pursuing art as a career, and enrolled him as a bank clerk in Shropshire. He nevertheless continued drawing, and after some seven years, his first published drawings appeared in a Manchester paper. He began to illustrate for various journals, and in 1872 went to London, studying at the Slade School under Poynter. His career took off the following year with his illustrations for Washington Irving's Old Christmas, and Bracebridge Hall in 1874. From that year he was taken on by The Graphic, and he also made many pictures for Punch and other magazines. In 1876 the first of his Toy Books appeared, which were among the most popular of their type. In 1885 he made an ill-fated trip to America for the sake of his health. After a difficult voyage, he became sick and died in Florida at the age of 40.

In 1937 it was decided that a special medal should be given annually to the children's book artist who had created the most distinguished picture book of the year. The medal was named in honor of Randolph J. Caldecott.