John Windle Bookseller has issued his Short List 12, 25 Illustrated Books. Lots of books are illustrated, but these contain particularly notable artwork. However, the subject matter of these illustrations varies widely. There are kings and the desperately poor, real grapes and fake rabbits (talking about you, Peter). Lots of images can be squeezed into 25 items. Here are a few.
We begin with a unique item from perhaps the most notable of all wood engravers. Thomas Bewick was active in the late 18th and early 19th century. His engravings adorn many books, his work being in high demand, including a few books of his own. Late in his life, he planned to publish a book titled History of British Fishes. Due to ill health, the work was never completed. However, he did cut numerous blocks in anticipation of its publication, some of which were used in later books. Item 5 is an album containing eight proof prints of engravings intended for this never published book. Among the titles are "elderly gentleman angler on horseback," "angler disturbed while fishing when his dog barks at a bull," "heron catches an eel," "cows in the water," and a sow yoked with sticks watches as nine of her piglets run through an open gate." I'm not sure how that last one fits in. On the first plate is a handwritten inscription, "Thomas Bewick to Mr. Arkwright, 7 Aug. 1824".The recipient was Richard Arkwright. I imagine this must be Richard Arkwright, Jr., son of a British inventor who became a very wealthy businessman and later an investor. Priced at $9,750.
The next group of illustrations are far less light-hearted than those of Bewick's anglers. They are found in London. A Pilgrimage. This book combined the writing of English journalist Blanchard Jerrold and the drawings of French artist Gustave Doré. Item 10 is a copy of the 1872 first English edition, published four years prior to the first French. It is dark. Jerrold asked Doré to join him in this massive project, to scour the streets of London, including the places where the upper classes did not go. At times they had plainclothes policemen accompany them. Doré's illustrations in particular displayed the grinding poverty of some and the enormous differences between those who were wealthy and those who were poor. David Bland, in his History of Book Illustration, says, "If one book depicts Dickens' London in all its glory and especially misery, this is it; and it is hard to cite another book of any period which so perfectly defines a time and place in history as this book does." $3,250.
This is L. Frank Baum's first book, though not his first published book. There are no wizards from Oz, but it is filled with similar fantasy. The title is A New Wonderland, an obvious play on the popular Alice books written in a similar vein by Lewis Carroll. This appears in a catalogue of illustrated books because it features the fantastical drawings of Frank Ver Beck. Baum made up tales to tell his children, which his family encouraged him to write down. That he did, completing this work in 1896. However, a variety of issues kept it from being published until 1900. Meanwhile, his later written Mother Goose in Prose did make it to the press in 1898, thereby becoming his first published book. To be thoroughly accurate, Baum actually produced an earlier book, but it was about raising poultry, not exactly the sort of thing we remember him for. Item 3. $5,950.
Item 7 is a plate from Grapes and Grape Vines of California published under the auspices of the California State Vinicultural Association... published in 1877. It was published by Edouard Bosqui, but the artwork from the original watercolors was by Miss Hannah Millard. Windle describes this book which contains ten drawings of grapes as "the masterpiece of California color printing which is perhaps the rarest and one of the most expensive American color plate books ever published." Fewer than 15 copies are known to exist, only six of them complete. Despite its beauty, it was not a best-seller in its day. This plate apparently came from overstock purchased a few years later by California winemaker Italian Swiss Colony (perhaps by the "little old winemaker - me" in his youth). The plate was overprinted with "Italian Swiss Colony Asti Cal." and the grape, the Black Hamburgh, labeled "California Burgundy." The image was used as a promotional item. Italian Swiss Colony, which bought grapes from Italian (some Swiss Italian) immigrants to California, was formed in the late 19th century. By the middle of the 20th century, it was one of America's best-selling wine brands, a mass market, inexpensive variety. The brand has since disappeared with changing tastes. $9,500.
Here is the true first edition of the Beatrix Potter classic The Tale of Peter Rabbit, published in 1901. The first trade edition by Frederick Warne would come the following year, but when Potter first presented her creation to publishers, they turned her down. Part of the issue was Ms. Potter's demanding standards of how it was to look. Unable to find a publisher, she had it printed herself. The print run was 250 copies (she also printed a second run before Warne realized she had a winner on her hands). Unlike the trade edition with color illustrations, the privately printed edition has only a colored frontispiece, the remaining 41 images being in black and white. This copy is inscribed "For Miss Hutton with love from Beatrix Potter Christmas 1901." Caroline Hutton was Beatrix's cousin, with whose family she stayed during the summer of 1893. Caroline was a more mischievous, independent sort than the more conservative Beatrix, who found her fascinating. There is a bit of Caroline in the mischievous Peter Rabbit. Item 18. $125,000.