Reviews 2014

Bildbibliografi. Astrid Lindgrens skrifter 1921-2010. [Picture Bibliography. Astrid Lindgren’s Works 1921-2010.]

Bildbibliografi. Astrid Lindgrens skrifter 1921-2010. [Picture Bibliography. Astrid Lindgren’s Works 1921-2010.]. Lars Bengtsson. Stockholm: Salikon förlag, 2012. 384 pages. $60.00 (hardback).

The name of Astrid Lindgren definitely strikes a chord of instant recognition in many people. Her stories about Pippi Longstocking, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, and Emil from Lönneberga belong on lists of favourite children’s books. The memories of having read or listened to these stories are often strongly tied to images: in addition to the black-and-white illustrations inside the books, (Swedish) readers usually remember the book covers that were created by renowned illustrators, such as Ingrid Vang Nyman, Ilon Wikland, and Harald Wiberg. Different generations of readers, however, recollect somewhat different book covers, because their designs have often been slightly changed in second and later editions without these changes being noted in the imprint. We still may believe that a facsimile edition or reprint of one of Lindgren’s classical books is a one-to-one reproduction of the original version, if the astounding scholarly work of Lars Bengtsson did not prove that this is very often not the case. The author is a passionate collector of all of Lindgren’s Swedish editions that have ever been published.

The book is organized into nine sections, complemented by the author’s foreword, a substantial introduction by Astrid Surmatz, a selected bibliography of secondary literature, and a comprehensive titles and people index. The nine sections present Lindgren’s works, starting with her children’s and youth books (1), then proceeding with picturebooks (2), anthologies and complete editions (3), miscellaneous (4), songs (5), theatre plays (6), diverse texts published before the appearance of Pippi Longstocking (7), translations of American and British, and German children’s books – for instance picturebooks by H.A. Rey, Tomi Ungerer, Garth Williams, and Ylla – and book reviews (8), and short texts published in the newsletter of the Astrid Lindgren society (9). This overview once again underscores how many texts, in addition to her renowned children’s books, Lindgren has written. She is author of more than 50 picturebooks, and has written autobiographical essays, journal articles, pedagogical pamphlets, and booklets, among others. Some of them appeared in essay collections and anthologies, while others were almost forgotten in newspapers and bulletins. Bengtsson even managed to discover several texts that were unknown to Lindgren researchers until now, several of them signed with the abbreviation “A.L.”, or the pseudonyms “Anna Ericsson” and “Emilia Ericsson”. During the time period from 1921 (when Lindgren published her first article in a newspaper at the age of 13) to 1944, Bengtsson has unearthed more than fifteen short texts (newspaper reports, fairy tales, and short stories) that precede the famous Pippi Longstocking-trilogy, and he is also able to show that an array of her children’s stories were partially pre-published in newspapers and magazines.

The books and articles in the sections are – against expectation – alphabetically arranged. Each book is introduced briefly with a focus on the noticeable changes in book design over the course of several decades. Subsequently, each book cover (both front and back) is reprinted in full color (with 3-4 books on each page), accompanied by all relevant bibliographical information, that is, title, illustrator, publisher, year of publication, size, edition, page numbers, and type of binding. The illustrations are in a perfect printing quality so that each pictorial detail is clearly discernible, which makes Bengtsson’s bibliography very different from the traditional reference list. The author even suggests a new Swedish term, “bildbibliografi” (Picture Bibliography), in order to categorize the novel book type.

I was stunned by the sheer quantity of material contained in this book, which serves as an eye-opener in many respects: it highlights the varied production of a prolific author, reveals surprising intertextual and intervisual connections between different book covers, and demonstrates the particular significance of paratexts, in this case, book covers and back covers, for children’s literature research. To give just one noteworthy example: The first book about the children of the Noisy Village has had numerous covers. While the original edition of 1947 depicts all six children, the subsequent 24 editions subtly diminish the number, just by gradually cutting the margins of the initial cover image. Finally only three and a half children appear on the book cover, whereas the anniversary issue of 2004 at least show four complete children and two half each. In addition, the background color changed from pale orange in the first edition to bright orange, red, white, and pale pink in ensuing editions; actually this image is gradually reduced in size by encircling frames, with different colors in various editions. In his discussion of the covers, Bengtsson points to possible reasons for the changes, such as the questioning of modernization, changing images of childhood, and adapting the images to conform to topical concepts of book design. These findings additionally go hand in hand with a partial revision of the publication history of Lindgren’s works.

Scholars of children’s literature in general, and Astrid Lindgren research in particular, will find much to admire and enjoy in this broad-ranging study. On the whole, Bengtsson’s picture bibliography contributes to the burgeoning field of book history and studies in paratextuality and should suggest to readers some intriguing paths to take in looking at Lindgren’s books in a new way.

Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer
Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany