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97/132/1 Book, alphabet, hand-drawn, hand-coloured, paper/cloth, made by William Harrison, [Melbourne], Australia, 1894, used by Maggie Harrison, Twerton on Avon, Bath, England, 1894. Click to enlarge.

Maggie’s ABC book

Made by Harrison, William in Australia, Oceania, 1894.
This hand-drawn children's alphabet book features delightful pen, ink and water colour drawings and was made in 1894 by 30-year-old William Harrison. (William went on to be an Art Director and later Advertising Manager for the Australian firm of Wunderlich, famous makers of terracotta roof tiles and stamped metal ceilings).

The ABC book was made for Harrison's young niece, Maggie Harrison, who lived near Bath in England. It includes a clever combination of British and Australian images such as drawings of a weather vane, robin, unicorn, ivy and Christmas pudding as well as a stockwhip, kangaroo, opossum (the correct name of a South American animal but sometimes mistakenly applied to the Australian possum), emu, and laughing jackass (kookaburra). While the subjects chosen for the ABC book illustrate the differences between Britain and Australia, many also represent their similarities and the close links between the two countries.

Many libraries and museums in this country hold numerous examples of published nineteenth century Australian and European children's literature, but there are few examples of more informal productions such as this one.

The ABC book provides an insight into the value placed on industry and learning in the nineteenth century, not only for the recipient of the book but also by its young illustrator and producer.

Margaret Simpson
Curator, Science & Industry
June 2008


Object No.


Object Statement

Book, alphabet, hand-drawn, hand-coloured, paper/cloth, made by William Harrison, [Melbourne], Australia, 1894, used by Maggie Harrison, Twerton on Avon, Bath, England, 1894

Physical Description

This hand-drawn and hand-coloured children's alphabet features pen and ink and water colour drawings. The book is cloth bound with the inscription on the cover : ABC Maggie Harrison 1894. Inside front cover is inscription : Miss Maggie Harrison Argyle Terrace Twerton on Avon England Bath. On facing page is globe showing England at top and Australia at bottom with ribbon with inscription : Maggie from Uncle Will 1894. British and Australian coat of arms have been drawn at opposite corners. The title page has inscription : Maggie's ABC.

Inside each page has a hand-drawn and coloured letter of the alphabet with accompanying illustration. Thus A : Apple, Ant, Australia has drawing of apple orchard and apples with tiny ants in the foreground. Australian/British themes are preserved throughout. After the alphabet comes a clock surrounded by examples of colours, numbers from 1 to 12, the alphabet in upper case, the alphabet in lower case, the months of the year and directions on a compass and finally 'Evening Prayer'. The last page illustrates a collection of children's toys including Noah's Ark, a boat and sailor doll, ball and doll.


Inscriptions, front cover, top left, hand printed black ink "ABC", front cover, bottom right, hand printed black ink "Maggie Harrison/1894", inside front cover, top left, hand printed black ink "Miss Maggie Harrison/Argyle Terrace/TWERTON on AVON/ENGLAND, BATH".



102 mm


155 mm


10 mm



The alphabet book was drawn by William Harrison (1864-1923) when he was 30 years of age for his English niece, Maggie Harrison, of Twerton on Avon, near Bath, in the County of Avon. William Harrison was born in England in about 1864 and arrived in Australia as a young man. He began his working career with the Melbourne furniture supplier, W H Rocke & Co Ltd of 247-249 Collins Street. In 1889 the Wunderlich brothers had sold their patent rights for pressed metal ceilings to this firm only to purchase it back again in 1893. The company merged with Wunderlich in 1908 and became Wunderlich Ltd. By 1904 Harrison had been transferred to Sydney with Wunderlich. He spent the rest of his working life with the firm and rose to become an Art Director and later Advertising Manager before he died in 1923 at the age of 59 years.



This alphabet book was made by 30-year-old William Harrison for his niece Maggie, the daughter of his older brother, Frank Harrison, who was then living near Bath, England. Maggie came out to Australia but returned to England as a young woman and died there of influenza. Maggie's sister, Kathleen, moved to Australia and brought the book with her. When she was in her 50s or 60s Kathleen gave the book to her cousin Helena Harrison, William Harrison's daugher, who treasured and kept it. The book was presented to the Museum in 1997 by Helena Harrison of Mont Albert, Victoria.

Cite this Object


Maggie's ABC book 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 15 August 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Maggie's ABC book |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=15 August 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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