Uncover the illustrated world of Arthur Rackham, with fifteen magical books full of his famous fairies and gnarled trees.
Arthur Rackham was one of the most celebrated artists of the British Golden Age of Illustration; an artist who still delights both young and old over a century later. Born on the 19th of September, in London, 1867, Rackham was one of twelve siblings. After a prestigious education at the City of London School, he began to work on his blossoming art career, reporting and illustrating for a number of London newspapers while studying at Lambeth School of Art.
By his mid-30s, he had secured a name for himself. His first widely distributed ‘gift book’ was Rip van Winkle, published in 1905. It contained fifty-one colour plates – all drawn by Arthur Rackham, firmly establishing him as the ‘leading decorative illustrator of the Edwardian period.’ Rackham created each plate by first painstakingly drawing his subject in a sinuous pencil line before applying an ink layer. He then used layer upon layer of delicate watercolours, reminiscent of the Art Nouveaux style, to build up the romantic yet calmly ethereal results on which his reputation was constructed. In the midst of his success, Rackham promoted each book with an exhibition at the Leicester Galleries in London. J.M Barrie attended the display for Rip Van Winkle and was so impressed by Rackham’s work that he asked him to illustrate Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens – a piece of work that really put him on the map.
From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm to Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, explore the book list below, featuring the finest work from Arthur Rackham alongside some of the classic stories of the 19th and 20th centuries.
This edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – with Arthur Rackham Illustrations was first published in 1907. In this text, Rackham portrays a wonderland that could disturb as often as it enchanted; a dark place depicted in dark hues of browns, greens and greys – giving a beautiful and ethereal nature to Alice’s imaginary realm. Presented alongside this classic story, his illustrations further refine and elucidate Carroll’s masterful storytelling.
The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm is a fantastic collection of stories, decorated with Arthur Rackham’s splendid illustrations. Included, are such well-known and loved stories as ‘Briar Rose’, ‘The Frog Prince’, ‘Rapunzel’, ‘The Valiant Little Tailor’, ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘The Robber Bridegroom’, ‘Tom Thumb’, ‘Aschenputtel’, ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’ and many more.
The Wind in the Willows is a true classic of Children’s literature. It was penned by Kenneth Grahame (1859 – 1932) and first published in 1908. Alternately slow moving and fast paced, it focuses on four anthropomorphised animal characters in a traditional bucolic version of the English Thames valley. ‘The Wind in the Willows’ is a novel notable for its adventure, mysticism, morality and unceasing camaraderie; loved and appreciated more than a century after its initial publication.
Peter Pan and Wendy, or Peter Pan; The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up is J. M. Barrie’s most famous work. It first appeared in the form of a play, in 1904, and was later transformed into a novel – written in 1911. Both versions tell the story of Peter Pan, a mischievous little boy who can fly, and his adventures on the island of Neverland with Wendy Darling and her brothers, the fairy Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys, and the pirate Captain Hook.
The tale of The Sleeping Beauty is here retold by C. S. Evans, and illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Charles Seddon Evans (1883 – 1944) was an immensely well-respected writer, editor and folklorist, who brings this magical story to life. He wrote this version of The Sleeping Beauty as a companion volume to Cinderella, also illustrated by Arthur Rackham, both featuring his famous silhouette illustrations.
Arthur Rackham’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is one of his finest, and most sought after works of illustration. Originally published in 1908, his Shakespearean fairies are some of his best-known work, with his ‘gnarled trees and droves of fairies, representing the visual reality of the Dream for thousands of readers… here, he excelled especially in landscape, and in reconciling dream and reality, giving himself to the luxury of rich detail with a rare generosity.’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comedy play – one of Shakespeare’s lighter works, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1597.
This wonderful book of English Fairy Tales was collected and adapted by Flora Annie Steel in 1918. It includes the tales ‘Tom-Tit-Tot’, ‘Jack the Giant Killer’, ‘Tattercoats’, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, ‘Catskin’, ‘The Three Little Pigs’, ‘Dick Whittington and his Cat’, ‘The Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Babes in the Wood’ and many more.
This wonderful yuletide poem, originally known under the title ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ is a Christmas classic. The poem is traditionally accredited to Clement Clarke Moore (1779 – 1863) and has been labelled ‘the best-known verses ever written by an American’. It is largely responsible for conceptions of ‘Santa Claus’ and his association with his reindeer and sleigh. Arthur Rackham‘s illustrations capture the legend of Santa and the magic of Christmas perfectly with his beautiful watercolours and line drawings.
This collection, Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen was originally published in 1932. It contains many of Hans Christian’s best-loved tales, and is illustrated by the charming colour plates and black and white drawings of Arthur Rackham. The stories include: ‘The Ugly Duckling’, ‘The Snow Queen’, ‘The Steadfast Tin Soldier’, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, ‘Thumbelina’, ‘The Princess and the Pea’, ‘The Little Match Girl’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, and many more.
The Arthur Rackham Fairy Book – A Book of Old Favourites with New Illustrations contains a truly wonderful collection of classic children’s stories. They include: Charles Perrault’s ‘Hop O’ My Thumb’, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Bluebeard’, traditional English tales such as ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and ‘Dick Whittington’, as well as tales from Arabian nights, and Hans Christian Andersen.
The Rhinegold and The Valkyrie – The Ring of the Nibelung – Volume I – Illustrated by Arthur Rackham
‘The Rhinegold and the Valkyrie’ was written by the German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883). The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas, and are here translated into English by Margaret Armour. The chief components include ‘The Rhinegold’ – the prelude, ‘The Valkyrie’ – the first day of the trilogy, ‘Siegfried’ – the second day of the trilogy, and ‘The Twilight of the Gods’ – the third day of the trilogy.
A Christmas Carol is a truly wonderful novella, written by Charles Dickens. It was first published in 1843, and met with instant success and critical acclaim. ‘A Christmas Carol’ is a perfect volume for inquisitive children, and tells the story of a bitter old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge, and his transformation into a gentler, kindlier man after visitations by the ghost of his former business partner, and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come….
‘Undine’ is a fairy-tale novella, written by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué (1777 – 1843). A true classic of the genre, it tells the story of Undine (a water spirit), who marries a knight named Huldebrand in order to gain a soul. It is an early German romance, which has subsequently been translated into English and many other languages.
Tales from Shakespeare is a collection of some of the Bard’s best known and loved narratives, compiled and edited by Mary and Charles Lamb. It contains his finest plays, re-produced for a younger audience, including ‘The Tempest’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, ‘King Lear’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, ‘Hamlet’, and many more. Mary (1764 – 1847) and Charles Lamb (1775 – 1834) were brother and sister, best known for this fantastic work of children’s literature.
Goblin Market (composed in 1859 and published in 1862) is a narrative poem by Christina Rossetti. It has a particularly curious history – it has features of remarkably sexual imagery, yet Rossetti often stated that the poem was intended for children, and indeed, wrote many other nursery tales. It essentially revolves around two close sisters; Laura and Lizzie, as well as the goblins to whom the title refers.