The Nursery Rhyme Book

Andrew Lang

Illustrated by Debra McFarlane and L. Leslie Brooke

Introduced by Michael Rosen

A lively collection of nursery rhymes, both familiar and little known, collected by Andrew Lang, the acclaimed folklorist and editor of the Rainbow Fairy Books.

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In his introduction to this collection, former Children’ Laureate Michael Rosen describes nursery rhymes as ’a gift we pass on to each other’; these verses, part of our shared literary heritage and oral history, remain as vital and engaging today as when they were first composed. This beautifully illustrated book of nursery rhymes, selected by folklorist Andrew Lang, is published in series with the enormously popular Folio editions of Lang’s Rainbow Fairy Books. It is an essential companion volume to a collection that celebrates childhood literature.

‘As the years go by, and the summers rush on while the winters lengthen, how greatly do we value the songs we read in what Mr Lang describes as “my first library, a wooden box full of loose, floppy picture-books”’

  1. Spectator, 1898

Production Details

Bound in metallic cloth blocked with a design by Debra McFarlane

Set in Founder’s Caslon

280 pages

Frontispiece and 106 integrated black & white illustrations by L. Leslie Brooke, and 6 colour illustrations by Debra McFarlane

Printed endpapers

Coloured tops

10" x 7½"

The last of the collection

Nursery rhymes, much like fairy tales, are part of our shared literary heritage. Although now traditionally sung or taught exclusively to young children, their roots – like fairy and folk tales – go deep, drawing on a rich and varied history. These songs, riddles, lullabies and stories are innocent and merciless by turns; they can be witty, sly, fantastic or banal. Many contain historical comment, political criticism or a piece of ancient wisdom, while others are simply a joyful expression of surrealistic nonsense or poetic charm. This beautifully illustrated collection has been produced in series with the enormously popular Rainbow Fairy Books. It is an essential companion to a collection that celebrates childhood literature.

Andrew Lang’s nursery rhymes

Lang’s Nursery Rhyme Book, first published in 1897, collects more than 300 rhymes and presents them in categories: Historical, Literal and Scholastic, Tales, Proverbs, Songs, Riddles and Paradoxes, Charms and Lullabies, Gaffers and Gammers, Games, Jingles, Love and Matrimony, Natural History, Accumulative Stories, and Relics. Within these sections readers will find old favourites such as ’Mistress Mary, quite contrary’ and ’Sing a song of sixpence’, as well as less familiar gems. Peppered throughout are over 100 black-and-white line drawings by L. Leslie Brooke, a leading children’s book illustrator of the period. These expressive illustrations bring the human and animal characters to life, and highlight the curious and contrary nature of nursery rhymes. Debra McFarlane, illustrator of the much-loved Pink Fairy Book, has supplemented these images with six colour illustrations and a delightful binding design that incorporates the characters from ’Hey diddle diddle’ and Mother Goose.

The original preface

Also included is Lang’s original preface, along with his notes on the rhymes, charmingly addressed to his young readers. Michael Rosen, a former Children’s Laureate and champion of poetry for young people, has provided a new introduction that comments on the social history of these rhymes, examining their origins and unique use of language. Lang’s scholarship, evident in his notes and his careful selection, makes this both a book for children to read, recite from and enjoy, and a fascinating text for anyone with an interest in oral history and folklore.


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