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Friday, 29 June 2012
THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN...
It's no secret to those who know me that The WIND In The WILLOWS, by KENNETH GRAHAME, is my all-time favourite
'kids' book. I'm especially partial to the E.H. SHEPARD illustrated
edition, 'though I have quite a few other versions featuring the work of
different artists. Apparently, ARTHUR RACKHAM was the author's first choice to supply the visuals (if it had to have some - he actually
thought the book would be better without pictures), although the artist
didn't actually get around to the task until about 30 years later, after
Grahame's death. However, nice as Rackham's pictures are,
it is Shepard's which remain the definitive ones.
When Ernest Shepard accepted the commission on the book,
he was following three previous artists whose illustrations were
less than satisfactory. Shepard drew 'real' animals, whereas his pre-
decessors had drawn anthropomorphic ones. Grahame was delighted
with Shepard's interpretation and, a few years later, the artist was called
upon by the publishers, METHUEN, to provide eight colour plates for
a special edition of the book, complementing his earlier evocative
black and white line art which had preceded them.
As a special treat, here are those eight colour pages - plus a
copy of a letter from THEODORE ROOSEVELT which, although
written 22 years before Shepard's drawings were commissioned and
became such an indispensable part of the text, reveals that even
presidents were not immune to the charms of Kenneth