British illustrator William Heath Robinson died in 1944 which means that 2015 will see his own books fall into the public domain in many countries. The books he produced during and after the First World War established his reputation as a creator of impromptu contraptions, to such a degree that the term “Heath Robinson” has the same currency in Britain as “Rube Goldberg” does in the US when describing an improbable mechanical device. Robinson’s whimsical drawings have always been his most popular works but I favour his earlier illustrations, especially his illustrated Poe and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The Talking Thrush and Other Tales of India by William Crooke and William Henry Denham was first published in 1899; the version linked here is a reprint from 1922. The fin de siècle is evident in the Art Nouveau styling of some of the borders, the kind of detailing that Heath’s brother, Charles Robinson, often deployed. Heath’s later illustrations dropped the decoration to concentrate on human figures, caricature and the positive use of white space.
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