Celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday with these fabulous Arthur Rackham illustrations from the 1909 Charles and Mary Lamb “Tales of Shakespeare”.
Romeo and Juliet
Arthur Rackham was born in Lewisham in 1867. At the age of 17, he was sent on an ocean voyage to Australia to improve his fragile health, accompanied by two aunts. At the age of 18, he worked as a clerk at the Westminster Fire Office and began studying part-time at the Lambeth School of Art. In 1892, he started working for the ‘Westminster Budget’ as a reporter and illustrator. His first book illustrations were published in 1893 in ‘To the Other Side’ by Thomas Rhodes, but his first serious commission was in 1894 for ‘The Dolly Dialogues’, the collected sketches of Anthony Hope. Book illustrating then became Rackham’s career for the rest of his life.
Arthur Rackham is widely regarded as one of the leading illustrators from the ‘Golden Age’ of British book illustration which roughly encompassed the years from 1890 until the end of the First World War. During that period, there was a strong market for high quality illustrated books which typically were given as Christmas gifts. Many of Rackham’s books were produced in a de luxe limited edition, often vellum bound and usually signed, as well as a smaller, less ornately bound quarto ‘trade’ edition. This was sometimes followed by a more modestly presented octavo edition in subsequent years for particularly popular books. The onset of the war in 1914 curtailed the market for such quality books, and the public’s taste for fantasy and fairies also declined in the 1920s.
Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!
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