The art of Charles Robinson, 1870–1937


‘Fair and False’, Songs and Sonnets by William Shakespeare (1915).

More illustrated gems from the collection of books at the Internet Archive. Charles Robinson, as mentioned earlier, was the older brother of illustrator William Heath (there was also a third illustrator brother in the family, Thomas). Charles was so prolific it’s difficult to choose one work over the many examples available in the Internet Archive, so here’s a brief selection from different books. If you only look at one of these, his oft-reprinted edition of A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson is especially fine. There’s a distinct Art Nouveau flavour to much of Charles Robinson’s work and he also devoted more attention to page layout than his younger brother, many of his drawings being presented within sinuous frames and augmented by some very elegant lettering. If they haven’t been digitised already at Fontcraft’s Scriptorium, some of these type designs would make great fonts.


A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (1895).


Lullaby-land : Songs of Childhood by Eugene Field (1897).


Fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen (1899).


‘The Red Shoes’, Fairy tales from Hans Christian Andersen (1899).


The Story of the Weathercock by Evelyn Sharp (1907).


The Happy Prince and Other Tales by Oscar Wilde (1913).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Lalique’s dragonflies


Dragonfly woman corsage ornament (1897–1898).
Gold, enamel, chrysoprase, moonstones, and diamonds.

Seeing as dragonflies emerged as a theme this week I can’t resist mentioning my favourite of all, this bizarre confection by glass artist and jeweller René Lalique (1860–1945), a dragonfly with female torso and gryphon claws. This was owned by wealthy Armenian collector Calouste Gulbenkian (in whose museum it now resides) and was worn once by Sarah Bernhardt. You can barely tell from this picture but the delicate gold wings are hinged at several points so they wouldn’t be obtrusive for the wearer.


The Lalique company made more glassware than they did jewellery and these included a range of unique automobile mascots whose pedestrian-puncturing potential saw them banished to museum cabinets as road safety laws evolved. The dragonfly design was an especially splendid example, being placed above a multicoloured disc lit from beneath which rotated in accordance with the speed of the car. The faster the car travelled, the faster the colours changed.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Lucien Gaillard
Wesley Fleming’s glass insects
The glass menagerie

Lucien Gaillard


Two dragonflies (1904).

Art Nouveau insect jewellery by Lucien Gaillard (1861–1933).


Perfume bottle (?) (c. 1923).


Moth pendant (1900).

And while we’re on the subject, a display of precious stones and metals has opened at London’s Natural History Museum in a new gallery they’re calling The Vault.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Wesley Fleming’s glass insects
The art of Sergei Aparin
Insect Lab
The glass menagerie
The Museum of Fantastic Specimens

Stevenson and the dynamiters


The Dynamiter: More New Arabian Nights (Longmans, London; 1914).

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a sporadic collector of the Tusitala Edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s works, 35 small blue volumes published by Heinemann, London in 1924. I’ve found 15 of them so far and today turned up another one, volume 25, Virginibus Pueresque and Other Essays in Belles Lettres. Most of the ones I’ve collected are later reprints and this is no exception, being a sixth edition from 1928. The popularity of the series and the many reprint editions is the main reason they still appear with such frequency. Another reason is that these small pocket books, which were very common before and after the First World War, were well-made and have easily outlasted the first generation of paperbacks that eventually replaced them. I’d have no trouble ordering a complete set of the Stevensons from a book dealer but prefer to let chance find new additions. Given the dearth of good secondhand shops this is becoming increasingly difficult.


Also in today’s book haul was an earlier Stevenson, The Dynamiter: More New Arabian Nights, in a rather battered leather binding from 1914. I bought it almost solely for the Art Nouveau motif on the cover whose ship suits the author of Treasure Island but doesn’t really fit with the London setting of this particular book. I seem to recall having seen this design before which means it’s probably part of a uniform set like the Tusitala Edition, each volume of which bears a palm tree design on the spine and the signature of RLS blocked on the front board.

The only number of the Tusitala Edition I have in a leather binding is this book’s precursor, volume 1, New Arabian Nights. The Dynamiters is a collection of linked stories that Stevenson wrote with his wife, the Arabian Nights conceit being an attempt to transplant the telling of tall tales from medieval Baghdad to Victorian London. The dynamiters are a group of inept terrorists whose comic exploits were based on the real Fenian bombings that took place in London in the 1880s. A later attempted bomb attack on the Greenwich Observatory inspired the unsuccessful anarchists in Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent. Whatever some contemporary commentators might have us believe, terrorist attacks in cities are nothing new at all, only in Stevenson’s day they were labelled “dynamite outrages”. Stevenson dedicates his stories to the police officers charged with protecting the capital and apologises for making light of a serious matter. I have to wonder what he would have made of modern Baghdad being plagued by dynamite outrages on such a regular basis. And I also wonder how much real dynamite many of these Longmans’ books might have encountered, having been published just in time to be packed in the kit of soldiers going to the Western Front.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Chronicles of Clovis and other sarcastic delights



Advertising poster for Job cigarette papers by Alphonse Mucha (1898).

The law forbidding smoking in public places finally came into effect in England on Sunday, something that the nation’s smokers are still coming to terms with. I’ve never been a smoker but have always been easy-going about the activity, having had smoking parents and been around smokers for years. That said, it’ll be nice to go out now and not return home smelling like an ashtray.

To mark the passing of a nicotine-stained era, here’s a few of the many representations of smoking in the art world. Until I started looking for pictures today I hadn’t realised how many paintings there are of people (and dogs!) having smoke blown in their faces, like this one and this one.


The Opium Smoker by Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Noüy.


A Voluptuous Smoke by Charles Edouard Edmond Delort.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Perfume: the art of scent
German opium smokers, 1900