Cinderella – Told by Githa Sowerby – Illustrated by Millicent Sowerby – c1915
Everyone knows the story of Cinderella. The story, in one form or another, has been around for centuries and is the ultimate fairy tale. Who hasn’t, at one time or another, dreamed of being saved from their drab, dull or destitute life by a handsome Prince (or Princess) and whisked off to live in a palace?
Cinder’s name varies throughout Europe, all be it with a decidedly ‘ashy’ flavour; the Italian Cenerentola, the German Aschenputtel and the French Cendrillon (or, best of all, La petite Pantoufle de Verre. Isn’t that awesome? I’m wearing my furry pantoufles right now).
The early written stories varied too. Perrault added the pumpkin and Fairy Godmother. The aptly named Brothers Grimm added their own grisly twists – toes chopped off to enable feet to fit tiny slippers, eyeballs pecked out to punish the evil step-sisters, sleep well kiddies!
Githa Sowerby’s version of Cinderella is very close to Perrault’s, with pumpkin coach and glass slipper, Cinderella and her Prince marrying amid great rejoicing and living happily ever after. She is less forgiving of the Ugly Sisters, who are taught a lesson and turned away from the royal wedding. Thankfully their toes and eyeballs remain intact.
Githa’s book was one of many collaborations with her sister Millicent. This was the first book illustrated by Millicent Sowerby in my collection and I managed to pick it up cheaply as it’s a rather ‘well read’ copy. The front endpapers and copyright page are missing, some pages are loose and one of the prints has a tear. BUT it is an early copy with all twelve illustrations safely nestled within their guilt frames.
Millicent’s artwork is big and beautiful, befitting of this famous tale of magic. The illustrations, though a bit faded, have little of the yellowing old prints acquire and the colours, when corrected, are gorgeous – deep blues and purples for the night sky, pretty pastels for the ladies, the white silk of Cinderella’s ball gown.
The pictures below are the originals. Unfortunately, the gold frames appear brown after scanning.
The restored versions are available on cards, postcards, posters and a few jigsaws and notebooks. Please click below to take a look. Thanks for visiting!
The Return of the Great Auk
This month scientists announced that it may be possible to use DNA to reintroduce the Great Auk, a bird extinct since the middle of the 19th Century.
The Great Auk was great indeed, standing at over 30 inches. Get a tape measure. That is a big bird!
When not making baby Auks, these birds would hunt the North Atlantic, weaving gracefully through the water. Unfortunately, on the ground they shared the same failings as the Dodo; they couldn’t fly, they couldn’t run very fast and they were damned tasty.
The Great Auk is no more.
The last pair were killed in 1844 on an island near Iceland but a reliable sighting was reported in 1952 of a single bird off Newfoundland. Great Auks mated for life, and the thought of a solitary bird is especially sad.
I recently finished a set of Warwick Goble illustrations from Charles Kingsley’s ‘The Water-Babies – A Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby’. Mr Goble’s illustration below must undoubtedly be based on the last Great Auk, his ‘last Gairfowl’ sitting on the ‘Allalonestone’, all alone.
The announcement then is amazing news; the word ‘extinct’ may no longer mean ‘gone for ever’. That these impressive birds might be living and breeding again in the Farne Islands, (off the coast of Northumberland, England) towering over the Puffins and Razorbills that nest there, is incredibly exciting.
Please click on the cards below to see my Great Auk and Gairfowl products. Thanks for visiting!
OK, I’m over it.
For the past few months I have been sulking. Zazzle decided to change product creation without informing their sellers and we wasted a considerable amount of time contacting customer support and filling in requests for ‘further information’ and in the end, they could have just told us that things had changed. Thanks for that, Zazzle.
Anyhoo, as a result I have resized and remade the posters with a white border. Annoyingly, I really like them, and the fact that they are all the same height which means you can display them side-by-side as I always wanted. So, Zazzle, I forgive you.
In my excitement, I’ve made a lot of new stuff and have just scanned my newest book acquisitions which means there’s even more coming!
Please click on the Jolly Roger below for new Millicent Sowerby (Cinderella), Jessie Willcox Smith (improved Little Women), Alice B. Woodward (Peter Pan), E. J. Detmold (Baby Animals), wonderful Anne Anderson baby illustrations and (yey!) Hummingbirds.
The Four Gardens Illustrated by Charles Robinson
I love Charles Robinson’s art; his chubby pen and ink children and wonderful watercolours. His style and amazing use of colour are instantly recognisable. For me, he could do no wrong.
I particularly love Robinson’s illustrations of flowers and gardens and when a very resonably priced copy of The Four Gardens by Emily ‘Handasyde’ Buchanan came up on Ebay, I grabbed it.
The November 1912 edition of The Spectator contains a very kind review of the book itself;
“There is a wholesome fragrance about these garden sketches that is very pleasant. Each of the four has a character of its own, but each leads us naturally to the next, as do the colours in a well-planned garden.”
They could almost be talking about the illustrations, I think. I read on, expecting a glowing and flowery 1912 description of Robinsons art…
“We have nothing but good to say of the little black-and-white illustrations, but the coloured ones are sad examples of their process. What could be less like the clear red of a strawberry for instance, than those in the picture opposite page 124?”
“But they’re Charles Robinson strawberries!” I complain to the cat, who doesn’t seem to care. I realise, with surprise, that even an illustrator from such an artistically talented family (father Thomas, brothers William and Thomas Jr.) had to satisfy the critics of the time.
This critic though, was clearly an idiot.
Here are those strawberries along with my favourite illustrations from the book.
Please click below for cards, postcards and posters featuring illustrations by Charles Robinson. Thanks for visiting!
The Polar Bear in Art
Considering the great respect and spiritual attachment the polar bear has, I would expect it to be featured more often in Golden Age illustration.
The great white bear has been the subject of folk tales and legends told for centuries by the Inuits and other indigenous people of the Arctic. Their stories are of polar bears teaching men to hunt, a cub adopted by a childless woman and the terrifying Nanurluk, a bear the size of an iceberg.
The Norwegian folk tales tell of men transformed into bears by evil trolls, hags or witches, wandering the tundra in search of a true love who will break the spell.
Happily, two of my favourite artists provided polar bear illustrations for such tales, Kay Nielsen and Edmund Dulac.
The first is Nielsen’s White Bear from the Norwegian folk tale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon. The bear carries his future bride to a magic castle;
“Well, mind and hold tight by my shaggy coat, and then there’s nothing to fear,” said the Bear, so she rode a long, long way.
Eventually, through determination and a knowledge of how to remove candle wax from a shirt, the girl gets a prince and the bear gets the girl.
Below is Dulac’s Snow Maiden from The Dreamer of Dreams. The hero comes across a large number of polar bears.
They came slowly towards him, quiet and majestic, slightly swinging their heavy bodies as they glided onwards.
They accompany a snow maiden, gathering broken hearts;
Everything about her was white, glistening and shining ; so shining that the human eye could hardly bear the radiance. her long white hair hung about her ; a circle of glow-worms surrounded her forehead.
To see all illustrations by Kay Nielsen and Edmund Dulac, just click on the cards below – and thanks for visiting 🙂
It’s Darwin Day!
I can think of no better way to celebrate Charles
Darwin’s birthday than with his Galapagos finches, the
most famous birds in Natural History.
The illustrations below are from The Zoology of the
Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, under the command of Captain
Fitzroy, R.N., during the years 1832 to 1836, Part 3,
Birds. This five volume work was edited by Darwin, who
was the ship’s naturalist on the expedition to South
America, Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand and of course
the Galapagos Islands.
On Darwin’s return, the birds he collected were sent to
John Gould for classification. Gould’s wife Elizabeth,
by now a gifted artist, used her husband’s sketches to
draw and lithograph the new discoveries.
This is Cactornis scandens, now known as Geospiza scandens, the Common Cactus Finch. ‘Common indeed, I inspired the theory of natural selection!’
Above, Camarhynchus psittacula, the Large Tree-finch. Below, the magnificently beaked Geospiza magnirostris, the Large Ground-finch.
The next illustration – not a finch – is Tanagra darwini, named by Gould for Charles Darwin. This species is now known as the Blue and Yellow Tanager (Thraupis bonariensis darwinii).
Finally, I couldn’t resist this little Flycatcher eyeing up a bug. A nice touch by Mrs. Gould. Happy Darwin Day 🙂
This is the third and final piece of original artwork by Jessie Willcox Smith for the book Dickens’s Children. Here we have The Runaway Couple, Master Harry Walmers and Miss Norah, resting at the inn on their way to Gretna Green to be married. Poor little Norah is not used to being away from home and is exhausted from a long coach journey. Not even a Norfolk biffin is going to cheer her up.
‘So Boots goes up-stairs to the Angel, and there he finds Master Harry on a e-normous sofa — immense at any time, but looking like the Great Bed of Ware, compared with him — a drying the eyes of Miss Norah with his pocket-hankecher. Their little legs was entirely off the ground, of course, and it really is not possible for Boots to express to me how small them children looked.’ (Christmas Stories – The Holly Tree by Charles Dickens.)
Sadly, the union is not to be and the two go their separate ways.
‘…...I hold with him in two opinions: firstly, that there are not many couples on their way to be married who are half as innocent of guile as those two children; secondly, that it would be a jolly good thing for a great many couples on their way to be married, if they could only be stopped in time, and brought back separately.’
I can’t tell what Miss Norah is clutching along with her parasol, but for her wedding trip she also carried ‘a smelling-bottle, a round and a half of cold buttered toast, eight peppermint drops, and a (doll’s) hair-brush.’
Below is the reproduction from Dickens’s Children, 1912.
Please click on the postcard below to find the runaways and more – thanks for visiting 🙂
‘Lost’ Novel to be Published After 55 Years
A few days ago, the internet (and appropriately Twitter) was a flurry of excitement over the news of a sequel to Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. The rediscovered manuscript, actually written before Mockingbird, is called Go Set A Watchman, and takes place 20 years after the original story.
I would like to celebrate this exciting news, not with a Finch, Peck, rabid dog or chifferobe but with real Mockingbirds.
Firstly, a classic from the bird-meister himself, John James Audubon. This famous illustration of mockingbirds defending their nest against a scary rattlesnake caused Audubon a certain amount of trouble. Rattlesnakes, many naturalists mocked, do not climb trees, even on the promise of mockingbird eggs for breakfast. Audubon insisted that he had sketched the scene after witnessing it first hand. Whatever the truth, it’s pretty impressive.
Below is Mark Catesby’s Mock-Bird in a Dogwood Tree from his Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, published from 1729 to 1747. This two volume, 220 plate epic took Catesby seventeen years to complete, following four years of travelling and collecting, and was the first fully illustrated natural history of North America.
The last illustration is from Alice E. Ball’s A Year with the Birds, published in 1916; just one of fifty-six beautiful images of American birds by Robert Bruce Horsfall.
‘But hark! what is that? Distinctly we hear
The pop of a cork, a whistle clear,
A call to a dog, a whip-poor-will’s cry,
A phoebe’s hoarse note. Against the blue sky,
The same gray-coated, white-vested bird
Is uttering all the sounds we have heard.’
Alice E. Ball
Another piece of original artwork by Jessie Willcox Smith today. This is Little Em’ly, childhood friend and first love of David Copperfield; used and abused by Steerforth but eventually living happily ever after (we assume) in Australia.
‘She started from my side, and ran along a jagged timber which protruded from the place we stood upon, and overhung the deep water at some height, without the least defence. The incident is so impressed on my remembrance, that if I were a draughtsman I could draw its form here, I dare say, accurately as it was that day, and little Em’ly springing forward to her destruction (as it appeared to me), with a look that I have never forgotten, directed far out to sea.
The light, bold, fluttering little figure turned and came back safe to me, and I soon laughed at my fears, and at the cry I had uttered; fruitlessly in any case, for there was no one near.’ (David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.)
Again, this illustration is in ‘mixed media’; watercolour with oil and pastel.
Below, the reproduction from Dickens’s Children, 1912
Please click on the notebook below to find all kinds of Willcox Smith lovelies and again, thanks for visiting 🙂