Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Not So Obscure Illustrator

Old books over fireplace. Not anymore.
Time to start easing back into work life, including blogging.

In March and April, I wrote about the old books that I was literally...and that is literally...using as living room decor. I know Joanna Gaines does that all the time, but moldy old books are not that attractive. They get depressing after a while, too.

On Saturday I was with a group of relatives and tried to unload an 1898 edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin that my grandmother had written her name in in 1945. My Aunt Esther, her daughter, said, "Eh, I have a bunch of those," meaning, I assume, her mother's books, not copies of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Not only did my cousin Mary not want it, she said if I could get our cousin Bob to take it, she'd send him the grandmother book I sent her last year. Bob did take the book. He just moved, has 65 boxes of books, and just doesn't care about one more. Yeah, I did kind of take advantage.

So that's one book gone. But there are more!
The Little Browns

The Little Browns by Mabel E. Wotton, for instance. It caught my eye because it's 119 years old and  still very attractive. Okay, attractive in a dated way, in a way that a lot of 119 year old books aren't. The illustrator, H.M. Brock, is better known than some of the people I've been writing about. The University of Reading, for instance, has the H.M. Brock Collection, which holds 2,000 books that include his work.

Illustration from Little Browns
Unfortunately, H.M. Brock is often described as C.E. Brock's younger brother. C.E. was also an illustrator, who gets attention for illustrating Jane Austen's books, though it appears that H.M. worked with him on that. C.E. painted in oils and was elected to something called the British Institution. Poor H.M., on the other hand, worked in advertising in addition to illustrating. Advertising always gets a bad rap.

Illustration from Little Browns
Jeff A. Menges in a  selection in 101 Great Illustrators from the Golden Age, 1890-1925 says that C.E. accepted fewer illustration assignments and the ones he did take "included more literature." (Ah...what?) Our H.M. did more book work and more for the juvenile market. ( that supposed to be a bad thing?) H.M. also went into comics when book sales in the '30s and '40s meant less work for him. That may have been a sign of hard times in those days, though now it makes him cool.

Cooler. Coolish.

At the very least, he has left a bigger paper trail than some of the other authors whose books I had in my living room for several years.

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