The Borrowers series: sketches, notes and drawings by Diana Stanley


The Clocks are like any other family except for one thing – they are about 6 inches tall, even smaller than a pencil!

Mary Norton had only planned to write one book about the Borrowers, but it was so popular that she wrote four more. These pencil and watercolour sketches show artist Diana Stanley trying out ideas before developing the final illustrations, so you won’t find them in the published books. Can you see the drawing of the Borrowers under the giant mangle? The Borrowers are hauling along a ‘soap dish with cargo’. At the top Diana Stanley added a note to herself to add ‘vast shadows on the ceiling’!

Who are the Borrowers?

Pod, Homily and their teenage daughter Arrietty live underneath the floorboards of a large house. In their miniature home, stamps hang on the walls like grand portraits and a cheese grater gate guards them. They venture out only to gather food and borrow things from the family of ‘human beans’. Arrietty is desperate to find out about the world upstairs but is stifled by her protective parents. Will her curiosity risk the family's safety?

Where did the idea for The Borrowers come from?

Mary Norton first had the idea for The Borrowers when she was a child. She often daydreamed about a family of tiny people and how they would live. She imagined our familiar world through their eyes and saw how strange and dangerous it would be.

After the end of World War Two in 1945 millions of families across Europe were homeless and vulnerable. Mary Norton found herself thinking about her miniature characters again. Like the war refugees, they were always seeking security and hiding from threats. In 1952 she published her first Borrowers story and won the Carnegie Medal.

What would the Borrowers make of your house?

The Borrowers are skillful inventors. In the book they borrow lots of things that were common household objects when Mary Norton was alive. Some are not that familiar to us now. How many match-boxes, hat pins and thimbles do you have in your home? But what would the Borrowers make with a USB cable, some lego bricks and a credit card?

Label by British Library Learning in partnership with Seven Stories.


‘Fortune favours

the brave’


Diana Stanley





v. dark

A. looking

up chimney.


Grouped on hearth




The Star A’s

Chap. end.


‘Silence broken by a faint tinkle of a bell ...

a slight scratching sound & the lightest most

delicate of Snuffles.  They all glanced

wide-eyed at the door, ^ which from where they sat,

was deeply sunk in shadow.’






vast shadows

on ceiling




Girder like structure


twine from grate


soap dish with cargo


C 10


Full title:
Pencil sketches and drawings in various stages of development illustrating scenes from The Borrowers Afield; Pencil sketches and drawings in various stages of development illustrating scenes from The Borrowers Afloat; Alternative and unused artwork for The Borrowers Aloft.
c. 1955–63; c. 1959; c. 1961
Original artwork / Sketch / Illustration / Image
Diana Stanley
Usage terms

No known copyright.

Held by
Seven Stories
DS/02/02/01/03; DS/02/03/01; DS/02/04/03/03

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