Unpublished works | State Library of New South Wales

Unpublished works

Between 1905 and 1913, May Gibbs received illustrating assignments from various publishers and newspapers in London and Perth, including Western Australia's leading newspaper, the Western Mail. At the same time, she also began to write and illustrate her own stories for children, however had little success in attracting publishers with her own work initially.

 Nursery Rhymes from the Bush

In 1909 May completed 18 ink drawings which she bound together to form Nursery Rhymes from the Bush. Featuring comical rhymes and illustrations, the book was an Antipodean retelling of classic nursery rhymes. She could not, however, interest British publishers in the work at the time. Another early unpublished work John Dory – his story, set in an underwater fantasy world, was offered to publishers without success. In these early works she experimented with giving animals human characteristics. She later re-worked the main character of John Dory into Little Obelia and further adventures of Ragged Blossom (1921).

John Dory: His Story

In 1910 May wrote and illustrated Mimie and Wog: their adventures in Australia using the pseudonym Silvia Hood. Initially rejected by British publishers as too Australian, she reworked the story in an English setting. 'Mimie' was renamed 'Mamie', May's own childhood name, and transported from the Australian bush into London's grimey Chimney Pot Land. Published as About Us in 1912, May Gibbs' first book was released in England but never published in Australia.

 > View May Gibbs' illustrated manuscript for the unpublished Mimie and Wog Mimie & Wog

In 1913, May settled in Neutral Bay and supported herself through various commissions from publishers, designing covers for magazines such as the Sydney Mail and commercial work. During World War I she designed a series of popular postcards and bookmarks for soldiers overseas. 

 > For more unpublished works see May Gibbs papers, 1900-1969, via the Library’s online catalogue catalogue link


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May Gibbs
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