Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Children's books from a century or more ago enjoyed the work of some of the most prestigious illustrators of the time: everyone from Gustave Dore and Arthur Rackham to H.J. Ford and William Robinson.

Some of the art they created probably would have horrified Disney and there's no way their art would make it onto the shelves of a modern school library. But Victorian children's books were filled with art depicting everything from nudes to rapes to what looks all too disturbingly like pedophilia. Mermaids—such as Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid—were a naturally favorite subject. No wimpy sea shell brassieres for these girls!

Here is a small gallery of art from Victorian children's books, just to show you what I mean. Let's start off with some mermaids...

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

When mermaids weren't available, the artist just didn't bother with putting clothes on people at all...

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

This is all well and good, of course, but there are those who might begin to raise an eyebrow at how often children are depicted in the company of nude adults, such as this lucky little guy in a Gustave Dore illustration...

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Or as simply being show in the nude themselves for no special reason. The second drawing down is from a Christmas card of all things while the third was accompanied by this description written by a clergyman: "One beautiful girl stood entirely naked on the sand...she was a model for a sculptor, there was the slender waist, the gentle dawn and tender swell of the bosom and the budding breasts, the graceful rounding of the delicately beautiful limbs and above all the soft and exquisite curves of the rosy dimpled bottom and broad, white thighs."

Oh dear...

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

The famed illustrator, Arthur Rackham, seemed to specialize in scenes absolutely filled with naked toddlers and adolescents romping through boskey dells with innocent abandon...

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Even Pandora is treated by Rackham as a girl barely out of her teens...

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Illustrators didn't think twice at the depiction of rape...

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

But there seems to be no explanation at all for these, the first from an edition of the classic children's fable, The Water Babies, and the last two from a collection of Hans Christian Andersen tales...

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)

Victorian Children's Book Illustrations Could Be Pretty Racy (NSFW)