A witch advertising Pears Soap (1899-1900)

Witch in Pears Soap 1899-1900

“Wither! Oh wither! Fair maiden so high?

To write the name of PEARS on the sky.

Why go so far from the land of your birth?

Because it is written all over the Earth.”

A witch on her broomstick advertising Pears Soap (1899-1900).

“Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked. This is because most books on witchcraft were written by men.” ― Neil Gaiman

A griffin having a snack, probably created in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England (1200s)

A griffin - half eagle and half lion, probably created in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England - 1200s

A griffin – half eagle and half lion, carrying its prey in its claws. The image is taken from a Bestiary*. This manuscript was originally produced in England, probably in Salisbury, Wiltshire in the thirteenth century (1200s).

*To save you looking up “Bestiary” – it is a descriptive or anecdotal treatise on various kinds of animal, popular in the medieval period – and often having a moralising tone.

[Acknowledgement: British Library.]

The Monkey and the Dolphin (c.1868) by Gustave Doré

The Monkey and the Dolphin (c.1868) by Gustave Doré

The Monkey and the Dolphin (c.1868) by Gustave Doré (1832-1883), French artist, printmaker, illustrator & sculptor. Wood engraving – via The Met Museum.

A scene from the book: Fontaine’s Fables. The fables of Jean de La Fontaine were issued in several volumes, 1668-1694 and are considered classics of French literature. There are 239 fables in total. When he first wrote his Fables, La Fontaine had an adult audience in mind, but they came to be regarded as providing an excellent education in morals for children. Do we have a modern equivalent? Moral fables?


Boy Reading an Adventure Story (1923) by Norman Rockwell

Boy Reading an Adventure Story (1923) by Norman Rockwell

Boy Reading an Adventure Story (1923) by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978). Rockwell was a popular American author, painter and illustrator.

I wonder what the book is that the boy is so absorded by? It seems to be illustrated. Having been in the book trade, if I had to guessimate, I’d say it was something by writer and illustrator, Howard Pyle – “The Story of King Arthur and His Knights” (or one of it’s 3 sequels), 1903-1910.

The dog is dreaming of lunch.

1880s poster for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

1880s poster for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde

“Great God! Can it be” !!

Poster for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1880s), a novella by Victorian author, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).

It says something about this story that the phrase “Jekyll and Hyde” is now part of the English language – meaning a person who can be greatly different in character over a short passage of time.

I was interested to read that Robert Louis Stevenson (re)wrote his world famous story whilst suffering from tuberculosis (TB) – and in just three days! (See below)

This from the Guardian:

One of the enduring mysteries of English literature was solved last night when it emerged that the first, impassioned draft of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was destroyed by the author’s wife.

Fanny Stevenson burned it after dismissing it to a friend as “a quire full of utter nonsense”. She said – of what became the world’s most admired and profound horror story – “He said it was his greatest work. I shall burn it after I show it to you”.

Stevenson, an invalid almost deranged by tuberculosis and the effects of medicinal cocaine, had to spend the next three days feverishly rewriting and redrafting the 30,000-word story by hand.

Within weeks, the new version of his pioneering novel about split personality was in print. Despite Fanny’s view, it was an instant bestseller. Sermons were preached on it in thousands of churches, including St Paul’s cathedral, London. It was pirated in the US and in translation.

It rescued the Stevensons from acute debt. For the first time, the couple had enough money to live comfortably.

Some 115 years later, Fanny’s deed has been disclosed in a two-page letter on pages torn from a notebook. It was written by her in 1885 to Stevenson’s close friend and fellow poet WE Henley.

Fascinating fact:  The name “Jekyll” was borrowed from the author’s friend – the Reverend Walter Jekyll, younger brother of famous horticulturalist and landscape designer Gertrude Jekyll.