By: Sydney Vollmer, ARB Intern
It’s always a surprise what you’ll find when you go up to the rare books room. Last week, Kevin (our head here in the Archives & Rare Books Library) asked me to go find half-a-dozen beautiful Shakespeare volumes for a presentation given to the dean’s advisory committee. I went upstairs. There were the Charles Knight editions. They’re nice, but we’ve done so much with those already. I pulled the Rackham, Dulac, and Thompson volumes, because they’re classic illustrations that everyone enjoys seeing. I still needed at least three volumes…
Looking for books that are beautiful inside and out, I stumbled upon a book I had never seen before: Scenes from the Winter’s Tale. The outside was ornately embossed leather that has held up well over the years. Opening it, I found that the inside was even more beautiful and had been preserved in even better condition. In my experience with our Shakespeare collection, most of our illustrations are black and white. If there are editions with color, they are diluted, or there is not very much of it. Needless to say, I was blown away when I found this. These illustrations are full of color—all with a rich intensity.
Not every scene from the play is depicted in this book, but they cover all of the main plot points. At the very back of the book, the names of the illustrators appear on the last page: Owen Jones, Henry Warren, and on stone, A. Henry Warren. Owen Jones (1809-1874) worked by day as an architect. He liked to draw inspiration from the Islamic world, and dabbled primarily in Neo-Classicism and the Gothic Revival. Henry Warren (1794-1879) was an artist. Without doing a full-on investigation, there isn’t much else offered up on the fellow. And Albert Henry Warren (1830-1911) was a character with a much more accessible biography. He worked as a draughtsman on architectural jobs, designed and created picture frames, was a painter, and primarily worked in bookbinding.
Together, the three men have at least three volumes on which they worked together. The first is the book we are discussing today. The second is Joseph and his Brethren, and the third is Paradise and the Peri. Below, you can see an illustration from Joseph and his Brethren. Notice how similar in style this is to Scenes from the Winter’s Tale. Though I have not seen inside the third volume, I would assume that they created the work with the same spirit and artistic approach as the other two.
The Scenes from the Winter’s Tale edition was published in 1866 and is still highly valuable. We’ll be sending the book over to our preservation team in Langsam Library to make sure it is being cared for properly, but we would love to show it off when it’s all done. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a picture of a picture is only worth about five hundred.