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  • Title
    May Gibbs papers, relics and pictorial material, 1900-1969
  • Creator
  • Level of description
  • Date

  • Type of material
  • Reference code
  • Physical Description
    Textual Records - typescript, printed

    May Gibbs, author, children's book illustrator and cartoonist, was born in Sydenham, Kent, England on 17 January, 1877. She was the only daughter of Herbert William Gibbs (1852-1940), public servant and artist, and his wife Cecilia Rogers. Preceded by her father, May Gibbs migrated with her mother and brother to South Australia in 1881. In 1885 the family moved to Harvey River homestead, Western Australia, where she spent two impressionable years in the Australian bush, and finally settled at 'The Dune', Perth.
    Demonstrating artistic ability at an early age with a penchant for fantasy and satire, Gibbs was encouraged to study art in England. Between 1900 and 1913 she thrice travelled abroad, became proficient in various styles of artwork and executed fanciful depictions of Australian animals. She received assignments to illustrate from Western Mail and the publishers George Harrap & Company, London amongst others.

    In 1913 she moved to Neutral Bay, Sydney, NSW, and maintained a steady livelihood with commissions from publishers, especially for the works she both wrote and illustrated. In 1916 Gum-Nut Babies, the first in a series of five 'Gum-Nut' booklets, was published by Angus & Robertson with whom she worked for over fifty years. The successful Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Their Adventures Wonderful was published shortly afterwards in 1918. In 1923-1924, The Story of Nuttybub and Nittersing and Two Little Gumnuts - Chucklebub and Wunkydoo, were published by Osboldstone & Company, Melbourne.
    In 1919 she was appointed a life member of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
    On 17 April, 1919, Gibbs married Bertram James Ossoli Kelly, a mining agent, who became her manager.

    The 1920s was a prolific and prosperous period for Gibbs as a syndicated cartoonist and columnist. In 1924 the first 'Bib and Bub' comic strip appeared in the Sunday News and other newspapers and continued until 1967. In 1925-1931, the Sunday Sun published 'Tiggy Touchwood' under the pseudonym Stan Cottman, and from 1925 to 1935 her weekly column, 'Gumnut Gossip - Extracts from the Daily Bark', ran in the Sunday Newsand Woman's Budget. Unfortunately her agent Special Press and friends Colonel Percy Kilkelly and Norman Warren Waterhouse, acting on her behalf, were unsuccessful in placing her work with overseas publishers. The Depression and the local nature of her work confined her popularity to Australasia.

    In 1925 Gibbs and her husband moved into 'Nutcote', the house they had built in Neutral Bay, set among eucalypts and banksias, from which she drew inspiration for the enduring 'Bib and Bub' comic strip.

    In 1953 Gibbs' last book, Prince Dande Lion, was published.

    Gibbs' contribution to children's literature was acknowledged in 1955 when she was appointed a Member of the British Empire, and in 1969 when she was granted a literary pension by the Commonwealth Literary Fund.

    May Gibbs died in Sydney on 27 November, 1969.
  • Scope and Content
    May Gibbs papers - Guide located at MLMSS 2048/1A

    SERIES 01
    Literary Manuscripts, 1901-1967

    SERIES 02
    Professional Papers, 1912-1967

    SERIES 03
    Personal Papers, 1900-1969

    SERIES 04
    Newspaper Cuttings, 1905-1967

    SERIES 05
    Printed and Miscellaneous Material, 1906-1967

    SERIES 06
    Microfilm Material, n.d.

    SERIES 07
    Illustrations, 1867-ca. 1968 / May Gibbs

    SERIES 08
    May Gibbs relics, 1900-1969

    SERIES 09
    Framed pictures and individual works, 1910-1930? / by May Gibbs or H.W. Gibbs
  • Copying Conditions
    Copyright restrictions may apply:
    Approval for reproduction required: For material in copyright, from the joint copyright holders: Cerebral Palsy Alliance and The Northcott Society
  • Finding Aids
    Click here to see extended guide to this collection in Guide to Australian Literary Manuscripts onesearch.library.uwa.edu.au/view/delivery/61UWA_INST/12364185420002101
  • General note

    An extended guide to the collection is available in the Mitchell Library Reading Room. The collection is also described on the Guide to Australian Literary Manuscripts website - use the internet link below to go to this description.
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