Saturday, August 20, 2011

Thomas MacKenzie, in with good company

Summer greetings to you all, especially those who signed on in the past few weeks! There's been a lot of activity in the studio, a few projects I can't discuss just yet, and some things coming together as we, err, speak.

I had thought to take a break from previewing Calla Editions, but then I got an advance copy of Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp, In Rhyme.

My first look at Thomas MacKenzie's illustration happened about three years ago. While working on Arabian Nights Illustrated in 2008, The good team in our acquisition office got their hands on a copy of this volume (Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp, In Rhyme, 1919) for me to consider adding the material to the collection. It was also about the time when the whole idea of reprinting beautifully illustrated books in near facsimile reproduction (The idea that would become the Calla line of books) was taking shape. What makes Aladdin a gem is not the 12 solidly stylish color plates—but add to that the line work that is woven into the text throughout the entire book—and while it's earlier printing was on a rough, porous stock that did not reproduce the blacks with great clarity, Calla reset the text, to match the spacing, but provide cleaner reading. I had not expected to be so impressed with this volume, but it really surprised me.

MacKenzie (1887-1944) was new to me. There is influence from the likes of Harry Clarke, and back to Aubrey Beardsley. Other names like Alistair, and Kay Neilsen aren't far from thought. Excellent company, to be sure. The next book he would illustrate was King Arthur and His Knights. Seven of those plates appear in Visions of Camelot. Though busy in the early twenties, his career was short-lived, and after a half-dozen titles or so, he did not return to illustration.
Spirit of the Ages offers a set of all twelve of the color illustrations, here. They appear a bit over-saturated to my eye, but that is a matter of opinion.

A full version of an early edition of the book can be seen here-


My newest book- Great Illustrations by N. C. Wyeth— has just been made available on the Dover site This week-
Want an idea of what's in it? check out the table of contents-
I'll be back next post, with a better look at this new collection- Til then-