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Collection Overview

Shepard, Mary, 1909-2000 and Travers, P.L. (Pamela Lyndon), 1899-1996
Princeton University Library Collection of Mary Shepard and P. L. Travers Materials
Cotsen Children's Library
Permanent URL:
1900s (mostly 1960-1996)
7 boxes, 2 items, and 11.0 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxc): Box 1-7


A collection of correspondence, sketches, proofs, notes, personal writing, photographs, and legal documents related to the life and careers of P. L. Travers (1899-1996) and Mary Shepard (1909-2000).

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

A collection of correspondence, sketches, proofs, notes, and legal documents related to the lives and careers of author P. L. Travers (1899-1996) and illustrator Mary Shepard (1909-2000).


Box 1: P. L. Travers correspondence, drafts, and notes. Box 2: P. L. Travers correspondence, drafts, and notes. Box 3: Mary Shepard sketches and drawings for Mary Poppins books. Box 4: Mary Shepard sketches and drawings for Mary Poppins books. Box 5: Mary Shepard sketches and drawings for Mary Poppins books. Box 6: Mary Shepard sketches and drawings for Mary Poppins books; Mary Shepard correspondence. Box 7: Mary Shepard sketches and drawings for Mary Poppins books; P. L. Travers family photographs.

Collection Creator Biography:

Shepard, Mary, 1909-2000

Biographical Note on P. L. Travers from "Guide to the papers of P L Travers in the Mitchell Library State Library of New South Wales":

P L (Pamela Lyndon) Travers, the creator of the well - known nanny Mary Poppins, was born Helen Lyndon Goff in Maryborough, Queensland on 9 August 1899. While the name Travers is a family name which she adopted, there is no explanation for her other adopted name, Pamela, which she rarely uses preferring to be known as P L. Little is known of Travers' family and personal life despite the fact that she stems from a long established family. Her great grandfather, Robert Archibald Morehead, came to Australia in 1841 as manager of the Scottish Australian Company. His considerable holdings eventually included Bowen Downs, the largest pastoral station in Australia. Morehead's elder son Robert was Travers' grandfather. Robert's daughter Margaret was Travers' mother.Travers' father, Travers Robert Goff, died while his three daughters, of whom P L Travers is the eldest, were quite young. Irish born, he had migrated to Australia after a period spent tea picking in Ceylon. After her father's death, Travers moved with her mother and sisters to New South Wales. She went to school at Normanhurst in Sydney. While still in her teens, Travers' poems and articles began to appear in Australian newspapers and magazines. She later wrote for both the Bulletin and Triad. For approximately two years she wrote a human interest column for a daily newspaper. She worked in the cashier's office of the Australian Gas & Light Company and, briefly during the early 1920s, she toured New South Wales as an actor and dancer with the Alan Wilkie Shakespearean Touring Company. In 1924 Travers left Australia for England. Since that time she lived in England and, periodically, in the United States. Around 1960 she made her only return visit to Australia. In Ireland in 1925 she met the poet George Russell (AE) who, as editor of The Irish Statesman, had accepted some of her poems for publication and invited her to Dublin. Through Russell, Travers met W B Yeats and other Irish poets who fostered her interest in and knowledge of world mythology. Many of her own poems appeared in The Irish Statesman and a number of anthologies. Travers' first real literary success was the 1934 publication of Mary Poppins. Like later books in the series, Mary Poppins was illustrated by Mary Shepard, the daughter of Ernest Shepard who illustrated A A Milne's Winnie the Pooh books. Translated into more than a dozen languages, Mary Poppins was popular throughout the world. It was followed in 1935 by a sequel, Mary Poppins Comes Back. The tetralogy was completed with the publication of Mary Poppins Opens the Door (1944) and Mary Poppins in the Park (1952). Four other Mary Poppins titles have been published, the latest Mary Poppins and the House Next Door, in 1989. Although unhappy with the 1964 Disney film version of Mary Poppins, despite her own involvement with the production, the film stimulated wider public interest in P L Travers and her work. It is from this time that articles by Travers about her work began to appear in magazines and journals. She received invitations to lecture in the United States and was Writer in Residence at Radcliffe Hall, Harvard University (1965 -1966) and at Smith College (1966). Travers made frequent visits to the United States where she lived during World War II, and from 1969 until 1977. Myth and fairy tale, important elements in the original Mary Poppins books, recur in Travers' later works, notably Friend Monkey (1971), a novel in three parts based on the monkey god Hanuman from the Indian epic Ramayana; and About the Sleeping Beauty (1975) containing six versions of the fairy tale including one by Travers herself. P L Travers was honoured with an OBE in 1977 for her contribution to literature. In 1978 she was installed as a Doctor of Humanities at Chatham College, Pittsburg, USA. She died in 1996.

Travers, P.L. (Pamela Lyndon), 1899-1996

Biographical note on Mary Shepard from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, by Roger T. Stearn:

Shepard [married name Knox], Mary Eleanor Jessy (1909–2000), artist and illustrator, was born on 25 December 1909 at Red Cottage, Shamley Green, Wonersh, near Godalming, Surrey, the only daughter and younger child of Ernest Howard Shepard (1879–1976), painter and illustrator, and his wife, Florence Eleanor Chaplin (d. 1927). She enjoyed a happy childhood at Red Cottage, attended St Monica's, Tadworth, near Epsom, Surrey, and was 'finished' at the Villa Ste Monique in Auteuil. In 1926 she and her brother Graham accompanied their father on his sketching trips to A. A. Milne's home in the Ashdown Forest, Sussex, and played with Christopher Robin. For her, he reacted as someone who had never known 'anyone older than himself actually playing games with him' (The Independent). She trained at the Slade, London, under Henry Tonks and Randolph Schwabe. She worked as an artist, had two exhibitions in London, and won a prize for etching in Paris. Pamela Travers, an Australian then unknown, had her children's book, Mary Poppins, accepted by the publisher Gerald Howe and they hoped E. H. Shepard would illustrate it, but he had too much work. P. L. Travers saw a Christmas card designed by Mary Shepard, then aged twenty-three, and chose her to illustrate the book, published in 1934. P. L. Travers was demanding—she insisted that the pictorial Poppins resemble the peg doll she had as a child and 'have no figure' (Daily Telegraph)—and Mary Shepard's drawings defined the image of Mary Poppins and contributed much to the success of the book and its sequels, all of which she illustrated: the last was Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane (1982). The illustration of Mr Banks was based on a family friend, Edmund George Valpy Knox (1881–1971), editor of Punch, whom she married on 2 October 1937. She inherited her father's confident line-work and feeling for the integration of drawing with the text, and she was meticulous in research. Her work of the 1930s indicates that she could have become a prominent book illustrator, but after her marriage she did little such work and became somewhat depreciatory of her talents as an illustrator. She had no children, but she was a second mother to her two stepchildren, Rawle Knox, journalist, and Penelope Fitzgerald, the novelist. They lived at St John's Wood, London, and during the Second World War she served as an air-raid warden, kept chickens, and grew vegetables. After the war they moved to Hampstead, London, where Knox died in 1971 and where she continued to enjoy entertaining family and friends. Following a long illness she died on 4 September 2000 in Highgate Nursing Home, 12 Hornsey Lane, Islington, London.

Collection History


Artwork and some correspondence purchased from: Aleph Bet, 16 Feb 1999; and David Miles, 1 November 1999 and 21 November 2002.


Four collections were combined to create this archive in 2015. No materials were separated during 2015 processing. The orginal order and organization of the items was maintained.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Miranda Marraccini in 2015. Finding aid written by Miranda Marraccini in 2015.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Credit this material:

Princeton University Library Collection of Mary Shepard and P. L. Travers Materials; Cotsen Children's Library, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-1148
Storage Note:
  • ReCAP (scarcpxc): Box 1-7