A little wander into town ….

…. is a rare treat these days, as I visit my mother in her nursing home on my two half-days off in the week and on Saturdays. But today I found a spare hour, the sun was shining, and so off I went. And it was a trip that brought rich rewards.

I went in search of the newest issue of ‘Country Life’, because I had learned from Marley that there was a lovely cover picture of a border terrier, and an article inside about Briar’s kinsfolk.

Briar was very pleased that the cover described her as ‘the thinking man’s best friend’ (though in this house it’s more a case of ‘the reading woman’s best friend’) and I was very pleased with the article which explained what wonderful dogs borders are, noted their growing popularity, and expressed concerns about some of the negative consequences of that popularity.

When I went out with Pip, who was dog of the house here before Briar, we rarely saw another border, but Briar meets borders, locals and holiday-makers, on a regular basis.

While I was in the newsagent I spotted the new, early autumn issue of ‘Designer Knitting’ (‘Vogue Knitting’ in most of the rest of the world). It’s not a magazine I’ve knitted much from, but the articles are well worth reading and even the patterns that don’t go into my ever-increasing Ravelry queue are interesting to study for stitch patterns, construction, unusual ideas …

This issue I have my eye on a checkerboard mesh raglan (I’d change the cuffs to something a little simpler and bracelet length), a cable cardigan (I’d lose what the magazine describes as ‘layering details’ and enlarge the shawl collar), and a couple of shawls, should the shawl knitting bug ever bite me again.

And then there was the bookshop …

I found, among the cards and artwork on the table outside, a print from 1907. ‘The Fairies of the Serpentine by Arthur Rackham. It was less than £10 and I couldn’t possibly have left it behind.

Inside I found a copy of The Story of Jessie by Mabel Quiller-Couch. I’ve been looking for a copy for ever since I read about it in the back of an elderly library book earlier in the year.  A Cornish author, the sibling of another author – literary families fascinate me, and such a pretty book.

(I should probably mention that Mabel Quiller-Couch was the sister of Arthur Quiller-Couch.)

And finally there was a little Orange Penguin. When I read Simon’s Five From the Archive Canadian books I noted the name of Stephen Leacock, I checked the library catalogue, and I added a couple of his books to my ‘maybe someday’ list – list making is a very useful feature of my library’s website and I’m hoping it will save me from ordering more book than I can possibly read at the same time. but then a copy of ‘Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town’ appeared on the Penguin shelves. Isn’t fate kind sometimes?!

Arthur Rackham: A Life With Illustration

Where I first saw Arthur Rackham’s illustrations is lost now, in the mists of time: I have loved them for as long as I can remember. So when I saw this book on the returns trolley in the library I just had to pick it up.

What makes these illustrations so wonderful? The introduction suggests that is the perfect balance of grace and grotesque. Yes it is, and the wonderful balance of the realistic and the fantastic too.

But I’m not inclined to analyse too much, I just know that they are wonderful!

Alice in Wonderland

So who was the man behind them?

A simple, quiet man it seems. His life is set out clearly, and with a wealth of fascinating detail.

Did you know, I wonder that the Mad Hatter in Rackham’s illustrations for Alice in Wonderland was a self-portrait?

At first the illustrator struggled for commissions, but soon he was in demand. He could pick and chose. Later he could even create his own projects. How many illustrators can do that?

Towards then end of his life his popularity dipped a little. Woodcuts were in vogue.

But Arthur Rackham never quite went away. His work is still in print today, seventy years after his death.

It’s quite a legacy.

James Hamilton’s book is beautifully written and clearly very well researched.

It is supplemented by a detailed bibliography, a chronological list of rackham’s work and a fascinating account of how an illustrator makes a living.

It feels definitive to me.

And best of all, it is packed full of wonderful images. And I really can’t resist posting a few!

Peter Pan

The Ring