John Batten’s Indian Fairy Tales


I keep intending to write some longer pieces, including a review of Aleksei German’s unforgettable Hard To Be A God, but the workload has been heavy again so here’s another illustrated book.

Illustrations by John Dickson Batten (1860–1932) have appeared here before, all of them for collections of fairy tales compiled and adapted by Joseph Jacobs. Indian Fairy Tales (1892) is another Batten/Jacobs collaboration, and is as fine as their other books, with Batten enclosing many of his full-page drawings in elaborate frames. Most of the figures look nothing like Indian people but that’s standard for books of this period. The Internet Archive has several copies of this title, including a limited, numbered copy with hand-coloured illustrations. I prefer the illustrations in black-and-white, however, so that’s what you see here.



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John Batten’s Celtic fairy tales


Yet more illustrations from John Dickson Batten, the pages this time being from Celtic Fairy Tales (1892), and More Celtic Fairy Tales (1895). Once again, both books were written by Batten’s regular collaborator Joseph Jacobs. As is often the case where less familiar stories are concerned, they yield some striking imagery.





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John Batten’s English fairy tales


More from illustrator John Dickson Batten with pages from two further collaborations with writer Joseph Jacobs, English Fairy Tales (1890), and More English Fairy Tales (1894). The latter (on the lighter paper below) are much better than the earlier set. The second book also includes The Hobyahs, a surprisingly violent story about a gang of mischievous creatures that the artist illustrates in an almost comic-book style. There’ll be more Batten tomorrow.




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John Batten’s Book of Wonder Voyages


The book illustrations of John Dickson Batten (1860–1932) turn up in collections of Victorian and Edwardian art but his name isn’t as familiar as that of his contemporaries, possibly because he was also pursuing a career as a painter. Prior to finding this volume I’d only seen a couple of his drawings before.

The Book of Wonder Voyages (1919) was one of several collaborations with writer Joseph Jacobs, a retelling of mythic seafaring which includes Jason and the Argonauts but surprisingly omits other well-known examples such as Odysseus and Sinbad. In their stead we have The Voyage of Maelduin, Hasan of Bassorah, and The Journeyings of Thorkill and Eric the Far-Travelled. Batten’s drawings remind me of Patten Wilson, especially in the full pages, although Wilson was the more dedicated stylist. This isn’t necessarily the best of Batten’s work, however. Browse the rest of the book here or download it here. There’ll be more Batten tomorrow.




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