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The story behind the May Gibbs Collection


Pencil drawings Snugglepot and Cuddelpie
The timeless attraction of May Gibbs

May Gibbs has often been described as an "Australian Beatrix Potter". Certainly her imaginative stories set in the Australian bush have captivated and enchanted Australian children for many generations. 

When Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark and Princess Mary, his Australian-born wife, welcomed their first child in 2005, the Australian people gave a first-edition, 1918 copy of May Gibbs’s Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie as an official gift. In January 2015 the Perth Mint recently released a coin that celebrated Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Even after 100 years the folklore and legendary children stories that May Gibbs created still casts a thrall across the nation. Plays and musical versions of the stories constantly tour the country and visitors flock in large pilgrimages ot May Giobbs's home in Neutral Bay.

May Gibbs, author, children’s book illustrator and cartoonist, was born in Kent, England, on 17 January 1877. Her classic, much loved works include: The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot & Cuddlepie and it is still in print.  
She created many comic strips and books such as Scotty in Gumnut Land (1941), Mr & Mrs Bear & Friends (1943) and her last book, Prince Dande Lion (1953).


The online story collection

Through the generous help of numerous benefactors the State Library of NSW Foundation raised funds to support an online story of Australia’s foremost children’s author and illustrator. The Nutcote Trust and benefactors Graham and Charlene Bradley initiated and supported this endeavour. 

The Library holds a wide selection of illustrations, manuscripts and printed works of May Gibbs (1877–1969), including her literary papers deposited in 1970 by the copyright holders, the NSW Society for Crippled Children (now Northcott Disability Services) and the Spastic Centre of NSW (now the Cerebral Palsy Alliance), and substantial material acquired in 1998 from Dr Neil and Mrs Marian Shand (the latter is Gibbs’s cousin). 

The Library began researching, preserving, photographing and curating Gibbs’s extraordinary material to present an engaging online story. Interest in her life was sparked year with the publication of Robert Holden and Jane Brummitt’s book May Gibbs: More than a Fairy Tale. Selections from the extraordinary archive she left behind on her death that year will now be accessible online.

Through the kind support of the benefactors the Library was able to create a vivid and engaging online story that told the tale of May Gibbs' life and times. The online project was a comprehensive account of her career and her work from the early gumnut babies on WW1 postcards through to her later stories of Scotty the the dog. There was much painstaking work involved in digitising the original collection. The final result was an amazing and content rich collection with some little before seen gems.