Fish and Flight

It is always interesting to look at how an artist illustrates a book, what scenes are chosen for the dust jacket. Normally when a book goes into paperback form the publisher either uses the same image from the hardback copy or gets another illustrator in, but with this Iris Murdoch book Edward Bawden would do two covers. Once for Faber & Faber in 1952 and again for Penguin Books in 1962.


 Edward Bawden – The Flight From The Enchanter by Iris Murdoch, 1952

The design of the 1952 dust jacket is a mixture of collage of linocut and ink drawn design of cliffs and lettering. The colour was added by the printer under Bawden’s instruction

‘You get real fish here,’ said Annette. ‘Let’s see the real fish.’ She turned and suddenly made for the fish-bowl. Mischa followed her. Annette looked at him from the other side of the bowl. 


 Edward Bawden – The Flight From The Enchanter linocut design,
printed for Edward Bawden’s Book of Cuts 1978.


 Edward Bawden – The Flight From The Enchanter by Iris Murdoch, 1962

Then with a quick movement she kicked the chair away and hung stiffly in mid-air. The chandelier felt firm, her grip was strong, there was no terrible rending sound as the chain parted company with the ceiling. After all, thought Annette, I don’t weigh much. 


Iris Murdoch – The Flight From The Enchanter, 1952

Gwen Raverat in Colour

In a past post I wrote about the Cambridge Book of Poetry for Children, edited by Kenneth Grahame with 54 wood-engravings by Raverat. All of them black and white. This is a post about her colour wood engravings from The Bird Talisman.


Gwen Raverat, the granddaughter of Charles Darwin, was an English wood engraver and author. Born and raised in Cambridge, England, she studied art at the Slade School of Fine Art in 1908 and studied under Frederick Brown and Henry Tonks. She was inspired by Thomas Bewick’s wood engravings but the Slade at that time gave no opportunities to study wood engraving. When she left the Slade she went to Paris to the Sorbonne where she met and married Jacques Pierre Raverat, a fellow student and draughtsman.


These images come from The Bird Talisman is a story written by Raverat’s great uncle, Henry Allen Wedgwood, a London barrister. He originally published it with illustrations by the himself in The Family Tutor in 1852 and then later in book form in 1887.

Gwen took it upon herself to re-illustrate the book with her wood engravings.

She overcame her feeling of “sacrilege in tampering with a sacred work” and tried to illustrate it herself for Faber and Faber. It did not worry her that she had never visited India, where the story is set, for neither had her great uncle; and neither of them made any effort to be accurately Indian.

Her interest in colour printing, which had first appeared in the frontispiece to Four Tales from Hans Andersen, is here developed with rich effect in eight full-page colour plates. 


She held off agreeing to a contract until she had experimented one of these and settled how to do the various cuts. She decided in each to undertake the main block herself, but to hand over to a blockmaker those that would carry the colour. When de la Mare arranged for these to be done in Vienna, Gwen objected, owing to the German occupation of Austria, and asked to estimate the cost of Austrian blocks, postage and insurance against the of using either English or French blockmakers as she was willing to pay the difference.


In the end she used an English blockmaker she knew and trusted outlining for him the colour on the second block. She herself cut the plentiful smaller black-and-white engravings, in a variety of shapes and sizes, which help make this the most sumptuously decorated of all her books.It was contracted in February 1939 and due to be delivered in May of that year, but took longer, owing to the painstaking work involved.


At one point the imminence of war cast doubt over the book’s production. “It’s now so nearly finished that I do hope it will get actually printed and bound, war or no war,” she wrote to Richard de la Mare in late August 1939, “that is I should hope this, if I could think about anything but war.” More positively, she wrote: “I hope you will like the colour plates; they are, at any rate, just what I intended them to be.” She threw further encouragement his way, reminding him that in the last war people had bought a lot of books, “especially if they were absolutely non-topical – quite away from war subjects, which this is. And there’s always Christmas for children even in war. However,” she ended, unable to stem her own despair, “nothing really matters much does it?”


The book did, however, get published, though work on it was slow for by the time they started printing half the men at the Press had been called up. (This may have limited the number produced in 1939 and helps explain why a second edition was produced in 1945, soon after the return to peace.) †


Gwen Raverat: Friends, Family and Affections by Frances Spalding, p357, 2001.

The Ariel Poems

To my bias opinion, Faber & Faber have always seamed a more artistic publisher based on the work in the 1930’s and 40’s. The typesetting of the poetry to the beautifully illustrated dust jackets always seam to be ahead of other publishers when it came to literature and how to employ artists.

The Ariel poems were a series of 38 pamphlets that contained illustrated poems published by Faber and Gwyer and later by Faber and Faber.
Faber and Faber began as a firm in 1929. However, its roots go back further — to The Scientific Press, owned by Sir Maurice and Lady Gwyer and derived much of its income from the weekly magazine the ‘Nursing Mirror’.

The Gwyers aimed for trade publishing and this led them to Geoffrey Faber. The partnership was then founded in 1925 and known as Faber and Gwyer. It was at this time In 1925 that T.S.Eliot left Lloyds bank to join the publishing firm Faber and Gwyer, as an editor.

The partnership of Gwyers and Faber didn’t last for long, four years later in 1929, the Nursing Mirror was sold and Geoffrey Faber and the Gwyers parted company. Searching for a name with a ring of respectability, Geoffrey hit on the name Faber and Faber, although there was only ever one Faber.

In 1927, Eliot was asked by Geoffrey Faber, to write one poem each year for a series of illustrated pamphlets with holiday themes to be sent to the firms clients and business acquaintances as Christmas greetings.
This series became the “Ariel Series” and would amass 38 pamphlets from a selection of English writers and poets from 1927 through 1931. It was a mark of considerable taste by Faber & Faber as they paired their authors with modern artists.

 A detail of the wood engraving by Gertrude Hermes for Ariel Poem #23

The first editions of the Ariel Poems where released in numbers of 3000–5000 printings per copy. A set of limited editions where also issued in various printings of 250–500 copies each. These were signed and numbered by the authors and bound with thicker hand cut paper. Both versions of the editions had an illustration on the front cover, then a frontispiece by the illustrator that was sometimes coloured. Then the poems text. The pamphlets were bought back in 1954, when eight new publications were released in the New Series. These came with a colourful envelope from when they were posted.

The pamphlets, in order, are as follows:

  • Yuletide in a Younger World by Thomas Hardy, drawings by Albert Rutherston
  • The Linnet’s Nest by Henry Newbolt, drawings by Ralph Keene
  • The Wonder Night by Laurence Binyon, drawings by Barnett Freedman
  • Alone by Walter de la Mare, wood engravings by Blair Hughes-Stanton
  • Gloria in Profundis by G. K. Chesterton, wood engravings by Eric Gill
  • The Early Whistler by Wilfred Gibson, drawings by John Nash
  • Nativity by Siegfried Sassoon, designs by Paul Nash
  • Journey of the Magi by T. S. Eliot, drawings by E. McKnight Kauffer
  • The Chanty of the Nona, poem and drawings by Hilaire Belloc
  • Moss and Feather by W. H. Davies, illustrated by Sir William Nicholson
  • Self to Self by Walter de la Mare, wood engravings by Blaire Hughes-Stanton
  • Troy by Humbert Wolfe, drawings by Charles Ricketts
  • The Winter Solstice by Harold Monro, drawings by David Jones
  • To My Mother by Siegfried Sassoon, drawings by Stephen Tennant
  • Popular Song by Edith Sitwell, designs by Edward Bawden
  • A Song for Simeon by T. S. Eliot, drawings by E. McKnight Kauffer
  • Winter Nights, a reminiscence by Edmund Blunden, drawings by Albert Rutherston
  • Three Things by W. B. Yeats, drawings by Gilbert Spencer
  • Dark Weeping by “AE”, designs by Paul Nash
  • A Snowdrop by Walter de la Mare, drawings by Claudia Guercio
  • Ubi Ecclesia by G. K. Chesterton, drawings by Diana Murphy
  • The Outcast by James Stephens, drawings by Althea Willoughby
  • Animula by T. S. Eliot, wood engravings by Gertrude Hermes
  • Inscription on a Fountain-Head by Peter Quennell, drawings by Albert Rutherston
  • The Grave of Arthur by G. K. Chesterton, drawings by Celia Fiennes
  • Elm Angel by Harold Monro, wood engravings by Eric Ravilious
  • In Sicily by Siegfried Sassoon, drawings by Stephen Tennant
  • The Triumph of the Machine by D. H. Lawrence, drawings by Althea Willoughby
  • Marina by T. S. Eliot, drawings by E. McKnight Kauffer
  • The Gum Trees by Roy Campbell, drawings by David Jones
  • News by Walter de la Mare, drawings by Barnett Freedman
  • A Child is Born by Henry Newbolt, drawings by Althea Willoughby
  • To Lucy by Walter de la Mare, drawings by Albert Rutherston
  • To the Red Rose by Siegfried Sassoon, drawings by Stephen Tennant
  • Triumphal March by T. S. Eliot, drawings by E. McKnight Kauffer
  • Jane Barston 1719–1746 by Edith Sitwell, drawings by R. A. Davies
  • Invitation To Cast Out Care by Vita Sackville-West, drawings by Graham Sutherland
  • Choosing A Mast by Roy Campbell, drawings by Barnett Freedman

The 1954 series was as follows:

  • Sirmione Peninsula by Stephen Spender, drawings by Lynton Lamb
  • The Winnowing Dream by Walter de la Mare, drawings by Robin Jacques.
  • The Other Wing by Louis Macneice, drawings by Michael Ayrton.
  • Mountains by W. H. Auden, drawings by Edward Bawden.
  • Nativity by Roy Campbell, drawings by James Sellars.
  • Christmas Eve by C Day Lewis, drawings by Edward Ardizzone
  • The Cultivation of Christmas Trees by T. S. Eliot, drawings by David Jones.
  • Prometheus by Edwin Muir, drawings by John Piper.