Friday, October 1, 2010

A is Not for Aubrey

Though Aubrey Beardsley is perhaps best known for his more grotesque and erotic works, many of which were featured in illustrated editions of Oscar Wilde's writings, he was also involved in numerous other influential projects.  One of these was the lavishly produced edition of Morte d'Arthur (London: J.M. Dent, 1893-1894) which was issued in 12 parts and included more than a thousand illustrations by Beardsley.  The text was a reprint of the original William Caxton printing from 1485 with text by Sir Thomas Malory, but the spelling in this edition was updated to a more modern style - presumably to allow for easier reading.

Shown here are both an original drawing and the final printed version of the illustrated chapter initial from book 13, chapter 1, which begins the story of the Grail and starts "At the vigil of Pentecost..."  Though the original is unsigned, there is a note on the reverse which reads: "In my opinion this is a genuine drawing by Beardsley.--R.A. Walker (authority on Beardsley)"

To see the original drawing, ask for Iconography 212.  To compare it to the printed version from the "superior issue", ask for Illus B38maja, vol 3. and turn to page 689.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Before the Lorax

Soon after Ted Geisel (Class of 1925), aka Dr. Seuss, graduated from Dartmouth, he worked in the advertising business. Among the more prominent clients he worked for was Standard Oil. He created ad campaigns for several of Standard Oil's products including an insecticide, "Flit," made primarily of mineral oil used to kill mosquitoes, flies, and other insects. Liberal spraying around the yard was encouraged. Dr. Seuss also created advertisements for Ex-Tane, a petroleum based cleaner, and and engine oil, "Essolube."  Our collection contains advertisement work for all three products including this jigsaw puzzle, just recently acquired. It is part of "The Five Star Theater Foiled by Essolube: A Jig-Saw-Melodrama." It features a family driving away from a hoard of automotive monsters: the Zero-Doccus, the Karbo-Nockus, the Moto-Munchus, the Oilio-Gobelus, and the Moto-Raspus.

The advertisements show the evolution of Seuss's style, but they also force you to think about the evolution of his environmentalist ethic. In the late 1920s and 1930s, when these ads were created, petroleum products were hardly a concern to most Americans: they offered cheap fuel for progress. Only later, when the impact of pesticides, harsh chemical cleaners, and automobile exhaust became apparent, would these ads seem out of character. Seuss, of course, went on to create, The Lorax, a cautionary tale about the dangers of pollution brought on by mass consumerism and industry.