Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Rackham Book Added to the Library

by Frank Boles

The Clarke Library recently added to the Lucile Clarke Memorial Children’s Library a first edition of Two Old Ladies, Two Foolish Fairies and a Tom Cat, illustrated by Arthur Rackham and published in London in 1897.

"Go! Be a stray cat!"
Arthur Rackham is among the most famous illustrators to work with children’s books. In 2005, the Library made a major acquisition of over 100 Rackham illustrated volumes, creating one of the major Rackham collections in the United States. There are very few books illustrated by Rackham that are not already found in some form in the collection, but Two Old Ladies was one of the books we were missing. It was published in a relatively small press run in the years before Rackham became famous. Thus today it is a hard to find title. We were thrilled to be able to add it to the collection.

Arthur Rackham was born in 1867. Although he early on showed great talent as an artist, his father, who was a practical man, insisted that the boy learn a trade. Arthur eventually became a clerk at an insurance firm, but he was frequently bored and continued to take art lessons. In 1892, he resigned his clerkship to illustrate books. His first published work appeared in 1893. For the next decade he worked regularly, but relatively anonymously, with a reputation known mainly to people “inside the trade.”

A lavishly printed edition of Rip Van Winkle, illustrated by Rackham, proved his “breakthrough” book. The 1905 publication gave Rackham a public presence. In 1906, he secured his position with the public through the illustrations he created for Peter Pan in Kensington Garden. After these two books, Rackham’s name on a volume as the illustrator was enough to sell a book. Rackham remained active as an illustrator until his death in 1939. The last book Rackham illustrated, The Wind and the Willows, was published posthumously in 1940.

The Lucile Clarke Memorial Children’s Library was founded within the Clarke Library in 1971 by Dr. Norman Clarke, Sr., in memory of his deceased wife.