Monday, February 26, 2007

P. B. Hickling

A little while back, Kentuckian book collector Eric Schonblom compiled a small booklet of information from his collection of The Girl's Realm Annual in which he identified a number of contributing artists. The annuals dated from 1912 to 1914 and, I don't suppose it will be any surprise, a number of the artists proved to be quite obscure.

I was looking through this little booklet this evening, it having been buried for some time under a pile of other books and magazines which I've been trying to tidy up. The pages fell open at one P. B. Hickling and I spied the words "he/she left no biographical trail." Think "red rag" and "bull".

Hickling proved to be quite an interesting study. The name was always given in initials bar one early storybook published in the early 1890s which gave the artist's name as Percy B. Hickling.

Percy Bell Hickling was born in Nottingham, in 1876. His father, William Edwin Hickling, was an accountant born in Leicester who had married Mary Bell in 1865. Percy had at least two elder brothers (Herbert William, born 1867, and Henry Bailey, born 1869) and sister (Mabel Mary, born 1875) and a younger sister (Eveline Annie, born 1878). Percy grew up in Leicester, the family living in Knighton in 1891 where he was educated.

In 1901 he was living at 4 Museum Street in South Bloomsbury, registered in the census as an artist in black & white. He was still single at 24 and was sharing the address with one Joseph W. Carlton, a 25-year-old art student. He was married in 1904 in Westminster.

He illustrated for many of the leading magazines of the time, including Royal Magazine, Cassell's Magazine and The Strand. He also illustrated many books for girls published by Cassell and various other publishers as well as producing illustrations for numerous annuals.

Amongst the last of his known illustrations was the 497 series from Ladybird Books of animal stories, all written by Noel Barr. These proved very popular, particularly the Christmas story The Wise Robin, and remained in print for many years. A nicely illustrated article on the series can be found here.

The books must have been prepared some time in advance because Percy Hickling died in Lewes in 1951, aged 74.

Illustrated Books
The Fox and the Grapes and other fables. London, Dean & Son (Dean's Artistic ser. 6), c.1892.
The Three Clerks by Anthony Trollope. London, John Long, 1903.
The History of Henry Esmond by William Makepeace Thackeray. London, 1904.
True to His Nickname by Harold Avery. London, T. Nelson & Sons, 1907.
Veiled Hearts. A romance of modern Egypt by Rachel Willard. London, Religious Tract Society, 1908.
The Probationer by Amy Irving. London, S. W. Partridge, 1910.
The Strange Little Girl by Bella Sidney Woolf. London, Duckworth & Co., 1910.
Hope Glynne's Awakening by Jessie Goldsmith Cooper. London, S. W. Partridge, 1911.
The Wrath of Man by Silas Hocking. London & New York, Frederick Warne & Co., 1912.
Hepsy Gipsy by L. T. Meade. London, Everett, 1912?
Meddlesome Mattie by Agnes M. Miall. London, S. W. Partridge & Co., 1913.
Molly Angel's Adventures by Bessie Marchant. London, Blackie & Son, 1915.
The Testing of the Torment by Elsie J. Oxenham. London, Cassell, 1925.
The Guides at Calamity Hill by Nancy M. Hayes. London, Cassell, 1927.
Schoolgirl Rivals by Brenda Page. London, Cassell, 1927.
The Girl Who Wouldn't Make Friends by Elsie J. Oxenham. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, c.1927.
Tiger's First Term by Mary Gervaise. London, Cassell, 1928.
The Fifth Form Adventures by E. E. Cowper. London, Cassell & Co., 1929.
The Invincible Fifth by E. E. Cowper. London & Glasgow, Cassell & Co., 1930.
Dartmoor Legends by Eva C. Rogers. London, Pilgrim Press, c.1930.
Joan and the Scholarship Girl by Brenda Page. London, Cassell, 1931.
The Joker of Dormitory D by T. H. Scott. London & New York, Frederick Warne & Co., 1932.
As a Man Loves by Effie Adelaide Rowlands. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1936 [dust jacket].
Masked Danger by Ben Bolt. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1937.
The One Who Counted by Effie Adelaide Rowlands. London, Ward, Lock & Co., 1937 [dust jacket].
"This Time Next Term" by Nancy Breary. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1945.
Sea Rangers at Sloo by Geoffrey Prout. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1949.
Ladybird Book, series 497:
__The Inquisitive Harvest Mouse by Noel Barr. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth, 1949.
__Tiptoes the Mischievous Kitten by Noel Barr. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth, 1949.
__The Wise Robin by Noel Barr. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth, 1950.
__The Discontented Pony by Noel Barr. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth, 1951.
__The Conceited Lamb by Noel Barr. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth, 1951.
__Beaky the Greedy Duck by Noel Barr. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth, 1951
__Ned the Lonely Donkey by Noel Barr. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth, 1952.
__Mick the Disobedient Puppy by Noel Barr. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth, 1952.
__Cocky the Lazy Rooster by Noel Barr. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth, 1952.
__The Sleepy Water Vole by Noel Barr. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth, 1953.
From a Surgeon's Diary by Clifford Ashdown. London, Ferret Fantasy, 1975.


  1. You have in your introduction the wise Robin being written by Noel Barr. Howwever in your list of books below it is said to be writted by Noel Ranns. I think the latter is incorrect.

  2. Ray,

    Thanks for correcting the error -- now corrected in the text. One good thing about blogs -- everyone in the world is your proofreader!



  3. First of all, many thanks for your very interesting biography of P. B. Hickling.
    I would like to ask you, please, the source of the information that "True to His Nickname" by Harold Avery was published in 1907.(I am, by the way, in the process of reading it.)
    Thank you!

  4. That's the date given in the British Library catalogue for the book.

  5. Ah! A reliable source!
    The only sign of a date that I could see in the book is 1906, which Mr Hickling has added at the bottom of his illustrations.
    It's annoying when a book's date of publication is not stated.
    Many thanks for your response, and for its speed.

  6. very interesting

  7. I have a Collins Clear-Type Press edition of Jane Austen's 'Mansfield Park' (not dated, but with a title-page personal inscription dated 1927) with 7 black and white plates by PB Hickling. I also have Collins Classic edition of her 'Sense & Sensibility' with a single uncredited plate that also looks to be by Hickling, so maybe he illustrated all of Austen's works also.

  8. I have just found out that Percy Hickling was my great, great uncle. Most of my family still live near Loughborough close to where the Ladybird books were published. I've taken great pleasure in showing series 497 to my family. We would love to see a photo of him. Has anyone come across one, as I've not found one yet? Peter Hickling.



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