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Hendrik Willem Van Loon typescript and 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

Hendrik Willem Van Loon was born on January 14, 1882, in Rotterdam (the Netherlands). As a child, he was interested in both art and history. After emigrating to the United States in 1903, he graduated from Cornell University and got a job at the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. During his lifetime, Van Loon worked as a correspondent for the A.P. throughout Europe; taught history at a number of American universities; and was a well-known radio personality, all in addition to his prolific writing career.

His first book, The Fall of the Dutch Republic (1913), was a nonfiction account for an academic audience, but by 1917 Van Loon had also started writing historical works for children. His first book for children, History with a Match: Being an Account of the Earliest Navigators was his debut as an illustrator. It was later republished under several titles, including The Romance of Discovery and A Short History of Discovery. He claimed to have illustrated the book, quite literally, with a match dipped in ink. In 1921 Van Loon’s most famous book, The Story of Mankind, was published. It won the very first Newbery Medal in 1922. The Story of Mankind was adapted into a Marx brothers movie of the same title in 1957, starring Hedy Lamarr, and the book remains in print today.

Van Loon’s reputation as a “juvenile author” grew, although not without controversy. Van Loon tired of being considered only an author for children and attempted to write denser historical works, with limited market success. Another Van Loon publication, The Story of the Bible (1923), caused some agitation as it portrayed Jesus Christ as a historical figure only. Between Van Loon’s histories, books for children, autobiographies, and works as an illustrator, he published more than fifty books. He died of heart failure on March 11, 1944.


“Hendrik Willem Van Loon.” Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2002.

Something About the Author, vol. 18.

This collection consists of an illustrated typescript for A Short History of Discovery: From the Earliest Times to the Founding of Colonies in the American Continent (1917) by Hendrik Willem Van Loon.

Free Library of Philadelphia: Children's Literature Research Collection
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Garrett Boos
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.
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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

Illustrated draft, revised typescript with paint and pen and ink on paper illustrations.
Box 1

Print, Suggest