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Picturing a World

Book and Illustration (1):The Wizard of Oz

As a lover of illustrated books, I've been thinking about how their stories and pictures relate. Which has primacy, the text or the illustration? One quick criterion: the text is likely to be supreme if it has been illustrated by more than one artist—even if the original illustrator worked closely with the author.
 
Take the example of L. Frank Baum and W. W. Denslow. They worked as a team on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and held joint copyright. An article in the online Public Domain Review, which publishes a selection of pages from that first edition, shows just how delightfully successful they were in blending story, picture, and page design. The edition I grew up with had a set of illustrations by Eveyln Copelman, which were commissioned by Bobbs Merrill after World War II to take advantage of the popularity of the Judy Garland movie. Even as a child, although I loved the book, I wasn't that crazy about these pictures.

 

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Herminie Waternau’s Paris

Blog post alert: Herminie Waternau (1862–1913) would be an almost exact contemporary of my character Jeanette in Where the Light Falls. Her courtyard study shown here was made in 1908, the year in which my work-in-(very slow)-progress about Jeanette's sister Mattie is set. You can understand why I was fascinated to learn about her this morning! Four of her Parisian pictures illustrate James Gurney's post on 100,000 high-resolution images newly released by Paris museums. Check out Gurney, check out Waternau's Paris.

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Scale-model hospital

Blog post alert: Another scale model! This one from 1932 of a London hospital. As a bonus, all the images at the History Blog's World's largest medical galleries open at London's Science Museum can be greatly enlarged. Click on the pediatric ward here, for instance, and then click again for a high-rez image of marvellous, story-telling tiles on the walls. Again, useful for historical fiction writers.

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Petticoat Lane diorama

Blog post alert: An illustrated Spitalsfield Life post on rediscovered dioramas of Petticoat Lane will delight anyone who loves scale models, dollhouses, miniatures, and such. They can also give valuable visual clues to historical fiction writers. Enjoy!

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Whole world kin

Blog post alert: Terry Windling's Myth and Moor post on The Language of the Earth explores with Robin Wall Kimmerer the need for English to fashion language that recognizes the animacy of the world and integrates humans into the continuum of life instead of dividing "us" from "it." The post is illustrated with many images from Catherine Hyde's new almanac, The Hare and the Moon—which I have just ordered for myself.

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2020—Think Global, Act Local

A cold has given me permission to lie back and read for the last couple of weeks, which might otherwise have been filled with more holiday activities. Over the last few days, it's been Barry Lopez's deeply thoughtful Horizon alternating with Arthur Ransome's gloriously escapist Peter Duck. As we head into the fraught new year, we all have to decide how much of the world's weight we can bear individually, what we can do to make life better for life on earth, and how to refresh our spirits in order to be able to carry on. Funny how the same old advice is the basic wisdom we need: We can't all be worldwide witnesses like Lopez, but we can each choose a few issues that matter to us and try to make a difference locally. And we can recognize the necessity to nourish our spirits by occasional dips into whatever sends our imaginations soaring. Gird up, everybody. Think global, act local, read well, and Happy New Year!

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Barry Lopez, Horizon

A Christmas present to myself was Barry Lopez's meditative Horizon. Early in the book Lopez describes going to the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York City to see the work of Russian artist Nicholas Roerich, who painted in the Himalayas. In Remember, Lopez was struck by all that is implied about the immensity of the mountains and what is happening between the people shown. To my joy, his publisher had the goodness to reproduce the picture as endpapers (the colors are richer than in this image). Even in reproduction, it is as suggestive as Lopez says. For more of Roerich's work, click here. And do read Horizon.

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Christmas in the Country

I still have my childhood copy of Christmas in the Country. It was garish when it was new. Now it is foxed and stained, but I read it every year. Maybe it's why I've always loved to imagine animals observing Christmas in the barn.  For grown-ups, here is Thomas Hardy's lovely, wistful version of the idea: 

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McCall's Christmas issue

I can't make out the name of the artist to supply any information. Please just take the image in the holiday spirit! The real Jeanette Smith was working at McCall's Magazine by the time it was published. Wish I had her copy.

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Chimbley sweepers

A Spitalsfield Life post on old London trade cards includes this image of a card for a "Chimbley Sweper." For an historical fiction writer, all the cards are worth looking at (who knew that chimneysweepers even had them?). But what struck me particularly about this one was the spelling chimbley. That pronunciation can signal lack of education; but like many non-standard pronunciations, it should instead raise interesting questions about regional dialects and word history. An article on "The Elizabethan Influence on the Ozark Dialect" notes that "[t]he Ozarker will often use an "l" sound instead of the "n" in chimney so that it sounds like chimley or chimbley. This is an old pronunciation, for Sir Walter Scott in Rob Roy refers to a "kirk with a chimley in it."

 

Aside from possible use in dialectical dialogue or historical fiction (and a loosening up of schoolmarmish value judgments), I find such old words good inspirations for rather Dickensian names. Nicodemus Chimbley, anyone? Maybe Nicodemus Chumbley?

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