I suppose I first knew about Arthur Rackham from an edition of Wind in the Willows that was published with his illustrations. His willow trees are unique and are really distinctive. The details in his pictures are extraordinary and I have always liked them as a result. As I have grown older I have come across more and now enjoy his fantasy pictures, the fairies with spiders and their webs and of course witches with their various familiars…there is a streak of darkness throughout most of them which makes them fascinating to look at – there is always something you haven’t noticed before. Born, Wikipedia says, in 1869
he died in
1939 and seems to have been a prolific illustrator – with a very individual style that has become very sort after. I buy second-hand and antiquarian books on various subjects (children’s books, natural history and falconry books, when I can afford them) and one of the greatest irritations I find when going around the book fairs is the cost of early editions of books published with his illustrations. If it has a Rackham, it seems you can increase the price exponentially – and so I have some modern reprints that often have poor quality paper and are not as well designed. When truly I’d like to buy a good quality print and hang it up – I must look into seeing if there are any reasonably sized pictures I can purchase off the Internet.

It is odd how the illustrators of your youth become the ‘right’ illustrator for a book. I grew up with Wind in the Willows illustrated by Rackham and by EH Shephard. – both editions are gorgeous and for some reason I am happy with and enjoy both.
This is unusual for me – usually I like books to be illustrated by the original illustrator and it is rare for me to like newer versions. I’m not sure of the two, who illustrated this classic first, but it is of no matter.

I do find thought that I have this problem with Paddington (Michael Bond) – not the bear of the film, but the younger abridged picture books, illustrated by R W Alley. 

They are nice enough, but they are not Paddington to me – and I don’t understand why it was necessary to illustrate these with a new artist’s work (however good), when Peggy Fortnum’s illustrations are sufficient and are in fact illustrations of Paddington and not some  bear attempting to stand in for him. Further more they are perfect. How can you not buy the original book and have this sort of picture on your bookshelves?

For that matter I feel the abridged books in themselves are not really necessary. Why not introduce the books and Paddington a little later, when the originals can be appreciated in all their glory? There is a plethora of picture books out there actually written for the younger age group and it seems a pity to change something that is nigh on perfect, if not actually so. My colleague at work would protest that there must be some later editions of titles with new illustrators that I must like. If so, I think they must be books I was introduced to at a later, possibly less impressionable age… Peter Rabbit,
and the World of Peter Rabbit are only Peter Rabbit and the Flopsy Bunnies etc, if illustrated by Beatrix Potter. ‘They have, of course, produced a number of television spin-offs. Though why it was necessary for the books to be put on television, I’m not sure. I am sure they are very nice, as far as they go and other people have illustrated the continued tales of Peter Rabbit – but however similar or not, they are not quite the thing – if you understand me, but that is just my opinion.

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