Today, December 30th, marks the 150th birth anniversary of renowned author Rudyard Kipling. Kipling was born in British colonial India and spent the first five years of his life and much of his young adulthood there. As such, a great number of his works are inspired by his childhood in India, including his arguably most well-known work, The Jungle Book (1894). The first edition of this work is particularly notable for its design.
In The Jungle Book, readers are introduced to a cast of colorful characters, some human, and some animal. Many of them have endured in the public consciousness to this day, such as the boy Mowgli, raised by jungle creatures, and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, a clever, cobra-slaying mongoose. All these characters are brought to life through Kipling’s imaginative poetry and prose.
Additionally, they are immortalized by the memorable illustrations from the first edition of the book, designed by illustrators W. H. Drake, P. Frenzeny, and John Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard Kipling’s own father, who collaborated with his son on many works. These illustrators also designed the images on the original publisher’s binding of the book, which features three elephants with riders and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi encountering a cobra. Though the RBC’s copy was rebound sometime after the 1930s, the original cover and its spine were preserved in the new binding.
Kipling’s prolific publishing career is well documented in the RBC, where English-language literature has long been a collection strength.