Friday, July 18, 2014

Kauffer Illustrates T.S. Eliot's Ariel Poems

Between 1927 and 1931, the publishing firm Faber and Gwyer issued a series of illustrated poems called the Ariel Poems, named after Shakespeare’s sprite. Several prominent English writers contributed to the series including T.S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, Thomas Hardy, G. K. Chesterton, D. H. Lawrence, Siegfried Sassoon, Vita Sackville-West, and Edith Sitwell. Each pamphlet had more or less the same simple format: a black and white artist print on the cover and a colored print inside followed by a poem.

What is most striking about these deceptively simple pamphlets is the role the illustrations play to complement and vastly enrich the poetry. Edward McKnight Kauffer, one of England’s most prolific and influential advertising poster artists during the 1920s and 30s, illustrated five of the poems T.S. Eliot wrote for the Ariel series. These poems were “The Journey of the Magi” (1927), “A Song for Simeon” (1928), “Marina” (1930), “Triumphal March” (1931), and later when the series was revived in the 1950s, “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees” (1954).

Kauffer was renowned for his avant-garde graphic design and poster art for companies such as London Underground Railways (1915–40), Shell UK Ltd., the Daily Herald and British Petroleum (1934–6). His work incorporated techniques and aesthetics from numerous modernist movements including cubism, futurism, and surrealism. These influences are evident in his illustrations for T.S. Eliot’s Ariel Poems with their whimsical play with geometric form and abstraction.
To see Kauffer’s illustrations of T.S. Eliot’s poems, ask for Val 817 E42 X3, Val 817 E42 W7, Val 817 E42 S2, Val 817 E42 P451, and Rare Book PS 3509.L43 M3 1930.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fleas

Yesterday we were giving a presentation to The Dartmouth Institute's Health Professions Educators' Summer Symposium on various plagues that are nicely documented here in Rauner. It was a room filled with death and despair: one section was devoted to a small pox outbreak that hit Hanover in 1777, another to the cholera pandemic of the 1830s, and another on the bubonic plague that devastated London in 1665. The London plague (alluded to in an earlier post) brings to mind Monty Python, of course, but also fleas. And fleas reminded us of one of our favorite books, Robert Hooke's Micrographia (London: J. Martyn and J. Allestry, 1665).

Micrographia was the first detailed account of life under a microscope. Hooke's meticulous descriptions and illustrations revealed a wondrous new world to behold. But it was the irony of the publication date that was a wonder yesterday. The book came out in September of 1665, right when London was in the throes of the Plague. Little did the original readers know that the marvelously illustrated creature made so utterly foreign by the microscope was the source of all of their current sufferings.

To see Micrographia, ask for Rare QH271.H79.