This glorious collection of illustrations ranges from the Detmolds' 1899 debut, Pictures from Birdland, to a 1925 edition of the exotic Arabian Nights. Other selections include curious creatures great and small from Aesop's Fables and Fabre's Book of Insects. You'll encounter a meticulously rendered menagerie that includes a slithering python and fierce tiger from The Jungle Book, a vain jackdaw with beautiful plumage, a glistening lizard and butterfly in a garden, a lace-winged praying mantis, and so much more. Collectors of fine art and beautiful books, as well as animal lovers, will treasure this distinctive art from the Golden Age of book illustration.
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An Edwardian Bestiary
87 Color Plates
By Maurice Detmold, Edward J. Detmold, Jeff A. Menges
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Jeff A. Menges
All rights reserved.
The Detmold brothers—twins Charles Maurice and Edward Julius—were born in London in November of 1883. It was an ideal time and place for the duo to thrive and indulge their interest in drawing and sketching. Both brothers showed such an amazing proficiency for drawing that they were sent to live with an uncle who was able to tutor them and nurture their artistic talents. In the years that followed, it was not unusual to find the boys drawing at the London Zoo or the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. With promising artistic futures ahead of them, the Detmolds submitted pieces regularly to competitions during their early teen years, and in 1897, both brothers exhibited work at the Royal Academy.
These early accomplishments did not go unnoticed, and before long, innovative publisher J. M. Dent commissioned the brothers to produce a book with twenty-four color images. A beautiful collection of illustration and design, Pictures from Birdland (1899) shows a myriad of cultural influences, from Japanese prints to the Art Nouveau graphics of the day. Soon after, the brothers continued to experiment with various media, including etching, woodcuts, and watercolor. Macmillan championed their efforts in 1903, publishing a portfolio of imagery from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. It was a perfect fit for the brothers' interest in natural subjects, and was first issued as a large portfolio of sixteen plates before being reprinted in 1908 along with the full text. The Jungle Book established their fine reputation for precise illustration, particularly for themes centered on animals and botanicals.
Seemingly on their way to a swift commercial and artistic success, it was a considerable tragedy that in April 1908, Maurice took his own life at the age of twenty-four. To this day, the circumstances of Maurice's death are clouded in mystery, with little motive or explanation for his desperate act. The loss of his brother and creative partner crushed Edward, and it weighed heavily on him in the ensuing years.
Stunned by his personal tragedy, Edward immersed himself in his work, concentrating wholeheartedly on the projects that both he and his brother were to create together. In 1909 Edward went on to join Hodder & Stoughton, London's premier gift-book publisher, and while there, he added The Fables of Aesop, with twenty-five color plates and numerous line art pieces, to his list of works.
Over the next fifteen years, Edward produced project after project of naturalist studies— often depicting birds, sometimes insects and mammals, and occasionally, plants. These flora and fauna comprised the vast majority of his list of subjects, with few exceptions. The natural imagery he was so fond of drawing while still a young man soon became his singular area of expertise. Only on rare occasions, and toward the end of his professional career, did Edward venture toward more mainstream illustrative topics.
The Arabian Nights—his last published book of plates—appeared in 1924, and it relied heavily on the strength of Edward's penchant for animal illustration. After that, Detmold completed work for Hodder & Stoughton on an edition of Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales. Having already produced multiple illustrated editions of these tales, the publisher chose not to print Detmold's set, and that decision still holds true today.
Discouraged and unsatisfied by many of the commissions he had taken in the previous decade and distraught over the politics and social direction that had brought about World War I, Edward began to withdraw from publishing, and the world in general. By the mid1920s, still carrying the burden of his brother's loss, he retired to Montgomeryshire to live with his widowed sister. It was not long before he became completely reclusive, and he remained with his sister until 1957, when he also took his own life.
The impressive body of work that Maurice and Edward left behind shows a remarkably sensitive appreciation for living things. Their joint fascination with nature is evident in their choice of subject matter, which paired popular illustration with realistic, scientific study. Greatly admired the world over, the imagery of the Detmold brothers constitutes a unique treasury, and this volume showcases their very best.
JEFF A. MENGES
Excerpted from An Edwardian Bestiary by Maurice Detmold, Edward J. Detmold, Jeff A. Menges. Copyright © 2009 Jeff A. Menges. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of ContentsFrom Pictures from Birdland
The Crested Crane
The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
The Hang Nest
The Bateleur Eagle
The OwlFrom The Book of Baby Pets
The Green Tree Frog
The "Cordon Bleu"
KidFrom The Jungle Book
The "Council Rock"
"Akela" the Lone Wolf
Baloo in the Forest
The "Cold Lairs"
The Monkey Fight
"Kaa" the Python
Shere Khan in the Jungle
The Return of the Buffalo Herd
Rikki-tikki-tavi and Nag
Elephant-DanceFrom The Fables of Aesop
The Hare and the Tortoise
The Oxen and the Axle-trees
The Monkeys and their Mother
The Vain Jackdaw
The Grasshopper and the Owl
The Lion and the Three Bulls
The Eagle and the Beetle
The Goat and the Ass
The Fox and the Crane
The Owl and the Birds
The She-Goats and their Beards
The Eagle and his CaptorFrom The Book of Baby Beasts
From Birds and Beasts
The Captive Goldfinch
Strange Adventures of a Little White Rabbit
Misadventures of an OwlFrom The Book of Baby Birds
The Long-Tailed Tit
The Willow Warbler
The Blue Tit
The GannetFrom Hours of Gladness
Catasetum and Cypripediums
From Birds in Town and Village
Goldfinch and Blue Tit, "The desire for the companionship of birds."
Nightingale, ". . . the medicine of its pure, fresh melody."
Jay, ". . . inquisitve, perplexed, suspicious, enraged by turns."
Wren, ". . . mysterious talk in the leaves."
Heron. ". . . the streams are fished by herons."
From Fabre's Book of Insects
The Sacred Beetle.
The White-Faced Decticus.
The Field Cricket.
The Anthrax Fly.
From Our Little Neighbours
The Superior Cat
The Independent Goat
Mice, Plain and FancyFrom Rainbow Houses
The Spider and the Wasp
"Darling Sugar-Bird, Green and Red"
"Peep, Little Lizard, Through the Grass"
The Praying Mantis
From The Arabian Nights
The next day he sat me behind him on an elephant
The rukh, which fed its young on elephants
The wolf changed into a cock, which began picking up the grains