Book Excerpt

(King, Jessie M.).


With the CD "Illustrations: Supplement to the Book"
New Castle and London: Oak Knoll Press and the British Library, 2007. 7 x 10 inches. hardcover, dust jacket. 230 pages plus 8 pages of plates. With the CD "Illustrations: Supplement to the Book" Jessie M. King (1875-1949) was the foremost Scottish book designer and illustrator of the 20th century. Her work reflected the mixture of Symbolism and Arts & Crafts practiced by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the others of "The Four" in Glasgow where..... READ MORE

Price: $90.00  other currencies  Order nr. 93073


The following guide is an attempt to catalogue a major aspect of Jessie M. King's work, that of the printed material. The first notes for this were made soon after the publication in 1988 of my book, The Enchanted World of Jessie M. King. Although the check-list of Jessie M. King's books which it contained seemed comprehensive at the time it proved to have been no more than a prototype of the listings in this new volume.

In the intervening years many previously unsuspected titles, variant editions and alternative bindings have been discovered, together with completely new series of books with cover designs or page decorations by this artist. It is now possible to bring some order to two series which have previously been difficult to collate: those of the Routledge Prize books from around 1903 and, thanks to the work of Dr. A.D. Portno, the cover designs for Album van Berlin and the related albums of photographic views of German cities. Dr. Portno's research into the chronology and contents of this series now forms Appendix I to this guide. Perceptive readers will note occasional slight differences in the dates given in the body of the text and in Appendix I for the early volumes of Album van Berlin and Rund um Berlin. Failing the discovery of the Globus Stock-books my friend Dr Portno and I stick stubbornly to our opinions.

Problems of dating and content have always existed with the early Routledge Prize Books Series for which Jessie M. King designed the covers. Working through the Routledge archives in the University College Library, London brought to my attention the curious fact that Jessie M. King covers appeared on more titles than the original commission had called for - the actual contract is reproduced on the CD-ROM that comes with this book. Some of the confusion surrounding this series has now been resolved and an assessment made of the titles which actually exist. These have been listed in the main body of the text but the details of the investigation have been consigned to Appendix 2 in which all the main variants are given and a new way of classifying them is suggested.

The tangled assortment of covers for the various Foulis books has at last been put in order by Ian Elfick and Paul Harris in their admirable bibliography of the Foulis Press (TN Foulis/ the History and Bibliography/ of an/ Edinburgh Publishing House, Werner Shaw Limited., London 1998) (G134, below) and I have availed myself of their expertise. In addition, the previous attribution of some of the hand-bound and Vellucent books to Jessie M. King has had to be rethought. The question of the authenticity of the Jessie M. King cover for the Chivers Vellucent binding of 'The Holy Graal (see entry A13, below), was answered when a binder's ticket disclosing the name of the actual artist was discovered in one of the copies.

It has also been possible to solve a problem which had puzzled collectors for a considerable time, that of whether Jessie Marion King was the 'Marion' who wrote, as well as illustrated, Mummy's Bedtime Story Book (B 199, below). This was answered in 1999 when a number of mint copies of the book in their original dust wrappers were released by the real author's family.

In an attempt to present a more comprehensive survey of the printed material, this guide includes the bookplates, greetings cards, both commercial and private, and the many items of ephemera that Jessie M. King designed. The list of bookplates, which until recently, I had considered complete, has had to be extended by the discovery of a printed bookplate for William Rowat which was previously known only from the original artwork, and by the reported existence of three additional bookplates which the artist had designed around the turn of the century for German collectors. There might well be others, as well as unrecorded examples of the greetings cards and ephemera, still lying hidden in drawers and family scrapbooks.

There is one contentious point. For the issue of Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration of September 1902 the publisher, Alexander Koch, used a title-page designed and lettered by Jessie M. King. He reused the title-page in certain associated monographs with its banner wording altered according to the context. A further volume in the series had as its title-page a drawing by Jessie M. King, based on the nursery rhyme Banbury Cross, which had not been specially commissioned for the volume but which was possibly part of Koch's own collection. (see G22, below). Other volumes did not have any Jessie M. King decorations. Consequently, rather than split the series between Section B of the Guide (titles for which Jessie M. King did specific designs), and Section G (works containing items not directly commissioned from her), it is felt that it would be more sensible to keep all the Koch items together in Section G.

As a result of the many revisions a complete renumbering has had to be made of all the books on the original check-list of 1988 and I apologize for the confusion that will arise from this. I have attempted to forestall further disruption of the order by suggesting various sub-sections which could be used if additional examples of Jessie M. King's bookwork are discovered. The need for this open-endedness still further confirms my belief that what is presented here does not yet justify the confident title of 'Bibliography'. Nevertheless, it is hoped that the new Guide will be of value to all Jessie M. King enthusiasts and will help to promote an even greater interest in the contribution that this remarkable person made to the decorative art of the twentieth century.