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Vera Bock


The name Federal Project Number One may have been an uninspiring one, but throughout the 1930s this project - established as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programme to help Americans out of The Great Depression - became an important patron of the arts.


Alongside creating employment for people in the creative industries, it also had the responsibility of giving fine art mass appeal by integrating it into everyday life. It is not then surprising that one of its most important activities became the production of posters to promote other government sponsored works and initiatives.


One important illustrator affiliated with The New York poster division was Vera Bock (1905-1973). Headed by the internationally renowned German industrial designer Richard Floethe, who gave his artists the freedom to experiment with bold colours and different styles, it was the perfect environment for Vera to flourish. There she produced numerous silkscreen posters, noted for their distinctive Germanic influenced wood-block designs that also drew on her previous experience as an illustrator of children’s books. The quality of the posters produced by artists, such as Vera, was so high that it led Floethe to reflect that the "government unwittingly launched a movement to improve the commercial poster and raise it to a true art form."


As well as continuing to illustrate children’s books, in the 1940s Vera went on to produce illustrations for Life and Coronet magazines. Her work has been included as part of two exhibitions at nypl and many of her drawings for children’s books are housed in the Kerlan Collection of Children’s Literature at the University of Minnesota.


The book in the photographs, illustrated by Vera Bock, is Arabian Nights, collected and edited by Andrew Lang, and published by Franklin Watts, inc. in 1946.


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Lavengro by George Borrow


George Borrow (1803-1881) described his romanticized autobiography, Lavengro: The Scholar, the Gypsy, the Priest (1851), as 'a dream of study and adventure.' The curious blend of fact and fiction, travel and philosophy, aristocrats and gypsies, baffled critics when it was released. Blackwood’s Magazine wrote that: 'The adventures, though interesting in their way, neither bear the impress of the stamp of truth, nor are they so arranged as to make the work valuable, if we consider it in the light of fiction.' If also failed to impress the public: as after an initial print-run of 3000, it was not reprinted again for over 20 years.


Lavengro, the gypsy word for Word Master, describes two of Borrow’s greatest passions: languages and gypsies. Whilst he was considered a poor student and his early career in law floundered, Borrow was a prodigious linguist who by the end of his life is estimated to have acquired knowledge of around 100 languages. His great affinity for gypsies runs through all his works and his vivid depictions of them in his earlier novel A Bible in Spain: or the Journey, Adventures, and Imprisonment of an Englishman in an Attempt to Circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula (1843) also went on to influence Prosper Mérimée, who after reading the book used one of its characters as a basis for Don Jose in his novel Carmen that was adapted by Bizet for opera.


It was not until after Borrow’s death that Lavengro finally began to garner praise and find an audience. Described as having passages that are 'unsurpassed in the prose literature of England,' it was included in the Oxford University Press World’s Classics series in 1904, and in Everyman’s Library in 1906.


The book in the photographs was published by Macmillan in 1896 and is a first edition with illustrations by E.J.Sullivan.


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Philip Castle
The cover for the Penguin book in the photograph, The Wanderer by Fritz Lieber, is one of many quirky illustrations created by British airbrush artist Philip Castle. Among Castle’s list of high profile achievements is a cover illustration for Time magazine and artwork for musicians, including David Bowie, Pulp, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney’s Wings and, more recently Metronomy. His best known work, however, is for film posters, in particular the iconic images he produced for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket. They were produced by working in close collaboration with Kubrick, who on both occasions decided a hat would be a key feature of the image.
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Philip Castle


The cover for the Penguin book in the photograph, The Wanderer by Fritz Lieber, is one of many quirky illustrations created by British airbrush artist Philip Castle. Among Castle’s list of high profile achievements is a cover illustration for Time magazine and artwork for musicians, including David Bowie, Pulp, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney’s Wings and, more recently Metronomy. His best known work, however, is for film posters, in particular the iconic images he produced for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket. They were produced by working in close collaboration with Kubrick, who on both occasions decided a hat would be a key feature of the image.


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Walter Crane


Walter Crane (1845–1915) was an important figure in the Arts and Crafts movement and a highly influential illustrator of books. As a socialist (and something of a utopian idealist) he abhorred the methods of mass production that had taken root during the Victorian era, believing them to be responsible for distorting “man’s artistic abilities by motivating him to devote himself to material gain at the expense of beauty.” He believed the decorative arts could achieve equality in society by becoming an integral part of everyday life. In accordance with his ideals, he devoted much of his time to the design of household items, including textiles, pottery and stained glass. He also became a prominent figure of the Socialist movement, and between the 1880s and the First World War, he developed much of its iconography for use on posters, pamphlets, membership cards and trade union banners.


It is, however, for his illustration of children’s books that Walter Crane really left his mark. Like household items, he believed art in children’s books was essential as: “We all remember the little cuts that coloured the books of our childhood. The ineffaceable quality of these early pictorial and literary impressions affords the strongest plea for good art in the nursery and the schoolroom.” His colourful and detailed illustrations contributed to the development of picture books and his child in the garden motifs for nursery rhymes inspired many generations of illustrators that followed.


The book in the photographs, containing classic nursery rhymes, such as Three Blind Mice and Baa! Baa! Black Sheep is a first edition of The Baby’s Opera (1877), illustrated by Walter Crane and engraved and printed in colours by Edmund Evans. It was published by George Routledge and Sons and the rhymes were edited by Crane’s sister Lucy.


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