Nov 6, 2013

Arthur Rackham's Ingoldsby Legends

I'm a big Arthur Rackham fan.
I've loved his work for the better part of twenty years now and I go through bouts of collecting old copies of his books every now and then. The first book I ever picked up was James Hamilton's illustrated biography on him, back in the mid-ish 90's.

Since then, I've gone on to pick up some great old editions such as a delicious two volume set of Wagner's Ring, the 'Arthur Rackham Book of Pictures' and many others. I tend to opt for the older editions over the new stuff, as the recent publications just don't have the charm of the old books and their musty smell, stained paper and dodgy printing. I'd love to get my hands on a nice early edition of 'Undine' or 'Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens,' that would be nice.

Another book I've wanted to find is an old copy of an Arthur Rackham illustrated 'Ingoldsby Legends.' Well, that particular search is over...

A few days ago, I was in Charlie Byrne's Bookshop, just looking around at the 'books just in' section, when I saw a book that had a spine that looked very much like a Rackham image. So I pulled it off the shelf and, wouldn't you know, this is what I found-

Obviously, it's not in great condition, the mouldy staining to the covers ain't pretty, but that is where the damage ends, the interior is in good nick for a book that was published in...

Yep, you're reading that right, 1930.

I've wanted to get a copy of The Ingoldsby Legends for a long time for several reasons. Firstly, the sheer volume of illustrations Rackham provided for it, both black & white and colour plates, makes it one of the most densely illustrated books he ever produced. Secondly, The first Ingoldsby Legends featuring Rackham's illustrations came out in 1898, with an edition following in 1907 with even more illustrations. These years mark a period of Rackham's career that were leading to true greatness. I believe that Rackham peaked at about 1909-1910. Past that point, he was producing so much work that the quality of it began to suffer (he famously did a sketch of himself in a letter where he is drawing four pictures at once, one with each hand and each foot).

But in those early days, he could put in that extra bit of effort with his illustrations. Here are some of my favourites from Ingoldsby Legends-
 Just look at that goat! Now that is a goat.

 This is one of the reasons I love Rackham. He was obviously a great illustrator, but he was also a great designer and font creator.

Even the endpapers are fantastic-

And it only cost me €15! Total woot, I'm sure you'll agree.

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