Friday, August 29, 2008

The Willows

I've been fishing for Cutthroats the past two days. It's been a world way for me. No phones or computers just the soothing sound of the river, birds, animals and everything else that goes with a day on two on the river.
It got me thinking about "The Willows" and then I read Margaret's post about Tasha Tudor & I knew it was time for The Wind in The Willows (The Willows) by Kenneth Grahame, one of my all time favourite reads. It did and still does take me away, along the byways and the hedgerows of the English country side. I love the characters and I do like 'Ol Toad, the scoundrel. It's the story of Mole waking up out of hibernation and meeting Ratty & their madcap adventures with Toad . It's about boats and the river the discovery of the automobile and chance encounters during their many laughable adventures together and separately. I particularly like the corrupting influence of Toad over Ratty and Mole when before they know it he has talked them into hopping in a horse draw Gypsy style caravan and going on an adventure in the countryside.
The genesis of the Willows was the story letters from Kenneth Grahame to his entertain his son, Alister. Alister was a tempestuous boy by all accounts and sickly. Upon retirement as Secretary for the Bank of England he started to collect the ideas from the letters and write the book. There are some good reads on the letters and on Grahame who had somewhat of a tragic life. He also wrote other children's books including Dream Days,The Golden Days and The Reluctant Dragon.
The Willows was published October 4 1908, making this year it's 100Th anniversary. I've been planning around this for some time as I will doing a feature show in the gallery on 'The Willows" in October to co-incide with the anniversary. We are going to have a good selection of early editions including a 1st American Edition, The Nancy Burkhart illustrated edition, the 1st Edition illustrated by Earnest Shepard. We will also have illustrated editions by Inga Moore, Michel Plexis, Arthur Rackham, Tasha Tudor and Charles Van Sandwyk. If you have any suggestions for other illustrated editions please share.
Vancouver artist Charles van Sandwyk, was commissioned by the Folio Society of London to re illustrate the Willows on 2004. The book has won an award for cover design and comes in a handsome slipcase with a willows design by Charles. It was 2 years in the making and includes many line drawings as well as colour illustrations. The coloured illustrations are a mix of pen & ink and watercolour or sepia/handcoloured etchings. I think Charles has done the Willows proud. He has captured the characters so well and there is a wonderful warmth in the illustrations. He travelled to England and visited the Cookham Dean area and spent time on the river Thames there to do study sketches. An illustrators limited edition of this was issued by Charles with a signed etching bound in & they were snapped up very quickly. We will be exhibiting the original art of Charles Van Sandwyk from the Willows as a part of this show.
If you haven't read it lately I encourage you to pick up a copy, have a cup of tea (chocolate covered biscuits an essential accompaniment), relax by the fire (falls nip is in the air) and then drift away.

More to come on this.


willow said...

This is a lovely book! I have a collection of vintage books, as well as children's books, and often buy them just for their marvelous covers and illustrations. "Wind in the Willows" is one of my favorites! Delightful post, Stephen.

Your fishing trip sounds heavenly.


Margaret said...

Wind in the Willows is one of the best children's books of all time. I just love Toad! The entire story is so well done. My grandmother got me the Arthur Rackham illustrated version years ago, and I just love it. But if I were ever to get another edition, it would have to be the Charles van Sandwyk one! I saw his illustrations on a website the other day after reading about him on your blog. Such gorgeous illustrations, and what a beautifully made book!

Now I just have to convince my husband that it's a good investment!

A World Away said...

Willow, How could you not like the Willows!! Looking for illustrated books in quaint old bookshops is a favourite pastime of mine too. Yes the fishing was a blast

Margaret, The Rackham is wonderful and Rackham is one of the artists who have inspired Charles. If you are interested in a copy by Charles let me know I can probably get one inscribed for you. The printing is fabulous and the paper is a wonderful heavy weight French paper. There is some else in the wings I hope I can share with you soon.

acornmoon said...

I think I have found a kindred spirit! I will add your blog to my blogroll. I am very interested in the handmade illustrated book and admire the work of Charles van Sandwyk very much. I shall return many times to your blog I am sure.

lotusgreen said...

i love the cover decoration.