This month's subject of our animals post is one our favourites - the dragon! We here at Seven Stories don't doubt the existence of the dragon, they are definitely a cornerstone of animals in children's books! There is also a Seven Stories touring exhibition all about dragons and Vikings currently making its way around the UK, having already visited Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Ulster Museum in Belfast, it will be showing in Kilmarnock, Norwich and Carlisle over the next year. To find out more about A Vikings Guide to Deadly Dragons with Cressida Cowell, click here.

Draft typescript for Peter Dickinson's The Flight of Dragons (Pierrot Publishing, 1979)
Our first showcase item this month is the collected correspondence, research and draft typescript from Peter Dickinson's The Flight of Dragons. This is a true gem of a book, where Dickinson deadpan's his belief in dragons, and calmly lays out the scientific basis for why dragons could have existed. The above image is a late draft of the main text of the book, where he lays his claim and sets out his thesis.

'I am not going to prove that ninety-foot lizards once floated in the skies of earth and scorched whole villages with plumes of flame, because I don't think it can be proved... But I can put together a coherent theory which is at least as probable as the theory that dragons are completely legendary.'
Extract from above image, Peter Dickinson, c. 1979

Dickinson carried out huge amounts of research for the book, some of which is evidenced within the archive. He hunted out many mythical stories, from around Britain and the rest of the world. Included was also a map of dragon myths from around the UK, including one very near Seven Stories Collection home, the Lambton Worm (less than 10 miles away!). The book covers many points in an attempt to persuade the reader of the existence of dragons, as is shown below.

'How they breathed fire, why they dieted on princesses but were able to go for such long periods between meals, what they actually used all that gold for, why Chinese dragons look different, why there are no fossils found so far, and so on.'
Extract from the first letter sent to Pierrot Publishing, outlining his idea for a new book on dragons, Peter Dickinson, 16th March 1978

The Dickinson Collection is extensive, constituting a complete record of Dickinson's work as a children's writer spanning from the 1960s until 2006, and provides information on all aspects of writing, editing and publishing books for children during the period covered. As the majority of Dickinson's children's titles were published in both America and Britain, the collection provides a great deal of information on the publication of children's books in both countries and illustrates some of the differences in attitude and approach between British and American editors and publishers. The collection also documents the relationship between the author, illustrator and publisher/editor in the production of illustrated titles, and the complications which can arise in such collaborations. 

Felt model of 'R. Dragon' from Rosemary Manning's Dragon series, c. 1980
The vast majority of the Seven Stories Collection contains 2D works, a huge amount of archive and artwork material, and so it is a treat for us to find any 3D objects lurking amongst the stacks in the store. This is a particularly beautiful handmade example of the limited number of objects in our collection. Although sadly we don't know who made this dragon, we do have a photo of Rosemary Manning holding a very similar model, and it was donated to the collection alongside rest of Manning's estate in 2007. Lis Whitelaw, the executor of the estate, said the model was created to celebrate the publishing of the final book in the series, Dragon in the Harbour, in 1980.

R. Dragon is the star of the Dragon series, the first three of which were published in the late 1950s and early 60s, and the final book, after a reasonably long hiatus, in 1980. It follows a young girl, Susan, who is on holiday at the beach when she discovers a dragon in a cave. She befriends him and he tells her many stories of his past adventures, and they occasionally go out together too. He is not the kind of dragon that goes around eating knights, or at least not any more (having lost his teeth...), and is one of the most well mannered dragons you are likely to meet after learning his manners at the court of King Arthur. He isn't a huge fan of all the tourists, but that can be counteracted by bringing him something to eat - which is why in the model above he is shown holding an almond bun!

The Manning Collection, other than model dragons, contains a collection of drafts, correspondence, and a small amount of original artwork and other associated material relating to some of her books for children. We also hold first editions of all of Manning's books for children, along with some American and foreign language editions, and inscribed first editions of several books by Catherine Storr, who was a close friend of Rosemary Manning.  

The Dragon by Archibald Marshall, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone (Hamish Hamilton, 1966)
Finally, this month’s featured book from our collection is The Dragon published in 1966. The story was first published 36 years earlier in Punch magazine, and then appeared in Archibald Marshall’s Simple stories from Punch in 1930, illustrated by George Morrow.

The quotation from the jacket flap tells us this story for children is a rather unusual version of the 'traditional tale of the beautiful princess, the dreadful dragon and the princes who came to kill it, told with several hilarious differences and the drawings of Edward Ardizzone at his wittiest.' Although Seven Stories does not hold any of the original artwork for The Dragon, fans of Edward Ardizzone might like to know that we do have artwork for two of his titles Tim in Danger, Tim and Charlotte and for Graham Greene's, The Little Train.

This copy of the The Dragon is taken from the Elaine Moss Book Collection. A personal collection - from the 1977 winner of the Eleanor Farjeon award - it consists of 773 children’s novels, picture books and books about children’s literature. Donated to Seven Stories by Moss in 2003, most were published between the 1950s and the end of 1990s, and is particularly strong in titles published in the 1970s and 1980s.

'Elaine Moss is a British critic and librarian whose work as a commentator and reviewer brought serious attention to children’s books. Moss trained as a librarian and worked as a teacher and in publishing before becoming a freelance journalist and broadcaster. As selector of the annual Children’s Books of the Year exhibition and author of the accompanying catalogue from 1970 to 1979, she played an important role in recognising the trends and talents that developed in that period. She championed the promotion of picture books to older readers, overturning the traditional restriction of picture books to children who cannot yet read.'
Julia Eccleshare in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature 
(OUP, 2006)

To find out more about the Thimble Press, with whom Moss worked regularly, click here.

If you'd like to find out more about the Seven Stories Collection, then 
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