Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Off the shelf: Mervyn Peake 1

I first came across the work of Mervyn Peake, novelist, poet, painter and illustrator, while researching a talk I had to give at college on the illustrators of 'Alice in Wonderland.' No illustrations for 'Alice' were quite as strange and original as Peake's, and that sent me off to look for his other work and to read his 'Gormenghast' trilogy of gothic fantasy novels.
One of his books that I managed to get hold of (apart from his 'Alice') was 'The Hunting of the Snark.' First published in 1941 the drawings were completed while he was at Dartford army training camp, having been conscripted the year before. At the same time he was writing the first draft of his novel 'Titus Groan' and composing a set of poems entitled 'Shapes and Sounds.'
He made several applications to the Ministry of Information to become a War Artist but was turned down, and that, plus his 'unsuitability for army life,' led him to a nervous breakdown. He was eventually invalided out of the army in 1943 and became - a War Artist for the Ministry of Information. More stuff on Peake later.
My copy of 'The Hunting of the Snark' is a fifth impression published in 1958 by Chatto & Windus. I thought I'd post a few drawings from it this week. This one is the title page, which shows various members of the crew including the Bellman, the Beaver, the Baker, the Barrister, the Butcher, the Broker and the Banker.

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