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William Steig illustrations


Held at: Free Library of Philadelphia: Children's Literature Research Collection [Contact Us]1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19103

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Free Library of Philadelphia: Children's Literature Research Collection. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

William Steig was born on November 14, 1907, in New York City. He grew up in the Bronx and attended City College (now part of CUNY) and the National Academy of Design. The stock market crash put an end to his schooling, and his first cartoon was published in the New Yorker a few months later, in June 1930. He worked regularly as a cartoonist, primarily contributing to the New Yorker, as well as for various advertising agencies and greeting card companies.

Steig did not write his first children’s book until 1968, long after he had become famous as a cartoonist. His third book, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (1969), is not only one of his best-loved but also one of his most celebrated. It tells the story of Sylvester, a young donkey who collects unusual pebbles, and one day finds a magical pebble that grants wishes. Sylvester is then frightened by a lion and unthinkingly wishes he were a rock so he could remain safe. Now trapped, Sylvester must wait until his family picnics nearby, finding the magic pebble and restoring Sylvester to donkey form. Sylvester received seven honors, including a National Book Award finalist and the 1970 Caldecott Medal. He later received Caldecott Honors for The Amazing Bone (1976) and twice received Newbery Honors: first for Abel’s Island (1976) and later for Doctor De Soto (1982).

Steig wrote more than forty books and published hundreds of cartoons over his long career. Today, he is probably best remembered for one of his later books: Shrek! (1991) was adapted into an enormously successful film franchise. He continued writing for children well into his nineties, and died in Boston on October 3, 2003.


Angell, Roger. “William Steig.” The New Yorker, October 20, 2003.

Something About the Author, vol. 111.

“William Steig.” Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2007.

This collection contains one piece of preliminary art and a dummy for the Caldecott award-winning book, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.

The collection is arranged in order of probable creation. It is housed in the same box as the Reinhold Weimar Goll writings and the Kristin Hunter Lattany writings.

Gift of Robert Kraus, 1971.

Free Library of Philadelphia: Children's Literature Research Collection
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Lindsay Friedman
Finding Aid Date
February 2012
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers by appointment. Please contact the Curator for information.

Use Restrictions

The right of access to material does not imply the right of publication. Permission for reprinting, reproduction, or extensive quotation from the rare books, manuscripts, prints, or drawings must be obtained through written application, stating the use to be made of the material. The reader bears the responsibility for any possible infringement of copyright laws in the publication of such material. A reproduction fee will be charged if the material is to be reproduced in a commercial publication.

Collection Inventory

Preliminary art for page 6, pen and ink and watercolor on paper mounted to board, circa 1969.
Box 1 Folder 7
Dummy, pen and ink on paper with text pasted in, 32 pages, circa 1969.
Box 1 Folder 8

Print, Suggest