Monthly Archives: September 2013

Happy Birthday Arthur Rackham!

Last week marked the 146th anniversary of the birth of Arthur Rackham, illustrator extraordinaire. Best known for his work on children's books, fairytales, and classics, Arthur Rackham's distinctive style continues to be recognized and admired by modern illustrators, art lovers, and readers alike.

Arthur Rackham was born on September 19, 1867 to Anne and Alfred Rackham.  One of twelve children, Arthur grew up to follow in his father's footsteps and began work as a clerk with an insurance company when he was eighteen.  He soon grew bored with that and began taking night classes at a nearby art school.  In 1892, he began work as a full time illustrator with the Westminster Budget where his drawings of everyday life in London and famous personalities were a hit.  They were so popular that he often was assigned to draw royal events, such as the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1893, who would later be known as King George V and Queen Mary.

As photography began to become more popular in the newspapers, Rackham turned to book illustrations, contributing for several travel books and developing his style by contributing to other works before his first major success in the form of the illustrated Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales in 1900.  The book that really put him on the map, as it were, was his 1905 illustrated Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving.  In this book, Rackham's iconic style is fully developed and becomes enormously popular with each successive year seeing at least one new work published with illustrations by Arthur Rackham.

Rackham is known for various elements that combine in his work such as:

  • flowing lines
  • muted watercolors
  • backgrounds with hidden images or "surprising information"
  • a balance between sensuousness and chastity in his fairies and nymphs
  • just the right amount of ugliness to not be frightening in his trolls
  • forests filled with twisted trees
  • the juxtaposition of the frightening with the beautiful in a single image

In addition to his stunning watercolor prints, Rackham would more frequently do black and white line drawings.  Occasionally he would experiment with silhouette, and this is showcased beautifully in his illustrated The Sleeping Beauty (shown below).

The Sleeping Beauty

Rackham continued his illustrative work until his death from cancer on September 6, 1939.  His last work, completed just before his death, was an illustrated Wind in the Willows that was published posthumously in 1940.

We have a wide range of books and folios showcasing Arthur Rackham's work, including those from the Limited Editions Club and some first editions.  So if you get the chance, come celebrate the life of one of the most beloved children's/fairytale illustrators with us here at Special Collections.

Sources used:

"About Arthur Rackham." The Arthur Rackham Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. <>. 
"Arthur Rackham." Arthur Rackham. N.p., 1998. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. <>.
"Rackham 101." Aleph-Bet Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2013. <>.
Scott, LaRue. "Arthur Rackham Illustrations." British Heritage 24.4 (2003): 52. EBSCOhost. Web. 18 Sept. 2013. <>.

Author Self-Portrait:

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Unsolved Mystery #3: Extrait des Registres du Parlement

You might think I'm cheating a bit with this week's Unsolved Mystery.  After all, this manuscript is catalogued; it's even fully digitized!  We know where it came from, how we got it, and we have a general outline of its contents.  Not much of a mystery, right? 

Well, like most of our Unsolved Mysteries, there are more pieces of the story to uncover.


This manuscript on the laws of Paris and the French Parliament is attributed to Monsieur Drouyn de Vandeuil, the first President of the Parliament of Toulouse, and contains a history of France and a register of French royalty. There is also an extract of the minutes of the French Parliament.  The manuscript seems to have been written by two separate scribes.  We assume it's a fair copy of minutes and other working documents.

This manuscript belonged to the French lawyer and bibliophile Jacques Flach. His collection was purchased by the University of Missouri in 1920, and the manuscript has been here ever since.  It is available through the University of Missouri Digital Library.


To our knowledge, the manuscript has never been published or studied – so we have an outline of the text, but we don't know its contents in detail. 

How did Flach come across the manuscript? Is the attribution correct? Has the text ever been published?  What information does it contain?

If you have information about this or any other of our unsolved mysteries, email us at – and stay tuned for another Special Collections mystery next week.

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Unsolved Mystery #2: The Book of Ruth

IMG_6313Thanks for the interest in our first Unsolved Mystery post!  We're presenting these items as great opportunities for students or faculty to do some original research – so if you'd like to work on any of these materials, let us know.

The next item in the series is a small Hebrew scroll with a wooden handle.  We refer to it as the Book of Ruth, since that's the identification of the text on its label.  But since none of us reads Hebrew, we haven't verified whether Ruth is actually the text.  Mr. David Birnbaum, a Hebrew Biblical text scholar from the University of Chicago Law School, confirms that our scroll manuscript is indeed the Book of Ruth. [added 10/31/2013]

IMG_6305This Hebrew text is manuscript on parchment and is clearly the work of two scribes.  The entire piece measures about 7 inches tall, including the handle.  We assume that its small size and humble materials indicate that it was used for personal study, but that's just our conjecture. 

Where was the scroll produced?  How old is it?  And how did it get here?

As always, feel free to email us at with any information – and stay tuned next week for another Unsolved Mystery from the Special Collections vault.

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Special Collections and Rare Books

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