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Golden Age of Illustration

The Golden Age of Illustration is generally considered to have taken place between c.1875 & c.1925, during which there was an explosion in the production of illustrated books, brought about largely by the technological advances taking place in Europe and America at that time, particularly in regard to colour printing and high-quality reproduction.

Today we tend to associate this Golden Age of Illustration with the illustrators who became extremely popular in the early part of the 20th century, such as Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Maxfield Parrish and Key Nielsen. However, the epoch's origins can definitely be seen in the work of earlier illustrators such as Kate Greenaway, Walter Crane and Richard Doyle.

Rare Books from the Golden Age of Illustration

One of the great things about books from this era is the variety of entry-points for collectors on different budgets. Whilst the extremely deluxe, limited edition, vellum-bound works of Nielsen, Dulac and Rackham can be worth many thousands of pounds when in fine condition, there are normally 'trade edition' equivalents, suitably impressive in their own right, which can be acquired for a lot less.

For those with deeper pockets still, it is possible to find original artwork by the Golden Age of Illustration artists, with prices ranging from a few thousand pounds to multiple tens of thousands, depending on the scale, quality, fame and condition. Inevitably there are forgeries out there, so it would be wise getting the advice of a specialist if you are starting a collection of such artworks.

Golden Age illustrated books from the Victorian era can often be found, and are not always expensive, but condition is paramount. Books such as Kate Greenaway's Almanacs come up quite often, but if in excellent condition or even in their original printed dust-jackets the value can multiply exponentially.

Famous Golden Age of Illustration illustrators

Walter Crane (1845-1915) - works include Baby's Opera, The Shepheard's Calendar, Pan-Pipes, A Masque of Days and Beauty & the Beast.

Kate Greenaway (1846-1901) - works include The Language of Flowers, Mother Goose, Day in a Child's Life and her Almanacks.

Edward Austin Abbey (1852-1911) - works include Dickens' Christmas Stories, Shakespeare's Comedies, She Stoops to Conquer and King Arthur Stories.

Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) - works include Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, The Compleat Angler, The Vicar of Wakefield, The Wonder Book, as well as the various fairy tales he illustrated.

Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) - works include Arabian Nights, The Knave of Hearts and Dream Days.

Jessie M. King (1875-1949) - works include The Book of Bridges, The Grey City of the North, A House of Pomegranates and Budding Life.

Edmund Dulac (1882-1953) - works include Arabian Nights, A Fairy Garland, The Kingdom of the Pearl, Treasure Island, the Rubaiyat and Sleeping Beauty.

Kay Nielsen (1886-1957) - works include East of the Sun, West of the Moon, In Powder & Crinoline, Hansel & Gretel and Fairy Tales.

Others to look out for include William Timlin, Charles Robinson, William Heath Robinson (who, as well as his wacky inventions, also created great colour-plate illustrations for children's books), Ida Rentoul Outhwaite, the Detmold Brothers and even Beatrix Potter (not least for her contribution to the colour printing process).

 

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