New Children’s Literature Collection | Avery Johnson Papers

We are pleased to announce that a new finding aid in our Children’s Literature collection is now available on Archives West.

The Avery Johnson papers (Ax 820) have been processed with an updated finding aid available online. The collection contains Johnson’s original illustrations for children’s literature publications and related correspondence and contracts.

Avery F. Johnson (1906-1990) was a children’s book illustrator who worked in a variety of materials including ink, watercolor, charcoal, graphite, and scratchboard. This collection of original illustrations and proofs includes Johnson’s work in these materials for publications on a range themes, primarily composed of juvenile historical fiction and folktales.


Figures 1-3
Figures 1-3


The process of designing an entire children’s book by Johnson is evident throughout the collection’s illustrative materials. Examples of this can be found, for instance, for The Boy of Ephesus (1960). Johnson created multiple illustrations on paper and acetate overlays for the creation of multiple color plates. The jacket illustration and separations can be seen in Figures 1-3. Johnson’s input on design did not end with the pictorial, however, and additional illustrative material includes hand-lettered titles and color swatches with notes regarding the appropriate shade of blue ink. Figure 4 shows these additional designs elements next to the final lithograph print jacket.

Figure 4
Figure 4


The collection also contains other examples of Johnson’s highly-detailed illustrative work, such as miniature chapter headings for The Mystery of the Mahteb (1943, Figure 5) and a map of Alexander the Great’s empire for Hostage to Alexander (1961, Figure 6).






Figure 5 – The Mystery of the Mahteb
Figure 5 – The Mystery of the Mahteb


Special Collections and University Archives is pleased to provide access to this rich collection of twentieth-century children’s literature illustrations and promote the study of the artist Avery Johnson.

No appointment is necessary to view the collection, but checking the calendar of current hours is recommended.



Figure 6 – Hostage to Alexander










By Alexa Goff, Student Processing Assistant


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