Franklin Booth’s Flying Islands


I was rather aggrieved a few weeks ago when I found a copy of James Whitcomb Riley’s The Flying Islands of the Night (1913) at the Internet Archive. Nice to find a free copy of a rare book but the grievance came as a result of an intention to write something about its illustrator, Franklin Booth (1874–1948), and post a picture or two. It turns out that the scanned copy available is complete but all the colour plates have been removed, probably stolen during its career as a library volume. Riley’s story is a piece of light fantasy which might well have been forgotten by now if it wasn’t for Booth’s incredible illustrations; as a result it’s the illustrations that make the book worth seeking out.


Booth’s penmanship from Franklin Booth: American Illustrator.

Happily, and by coincidence, Mr Door Tree at the essential Golden Age Comic Book Stories has uploaded scans of his own in the past few days. Beautiful stuff and easily the equal of Booth’s contemporaries in Britain such as Charles and William Heath Robinson, Edmund Dulac et al. Booth’s colour work resembles similar watercolour book illustration of the period but his black & white work was quite unique, being done in a pen style derived from his boyhood interest in engraved magazine illustrations. His careful use of hatched lines went on to influence later American illustrators including Roy Krenkel, Mike Kaluta, Berni Wrightson and others. Golden Age Comic Book Stories has an earlier posting featuring one of Booth’s pen drawings here and a page of Mucha-esque women here.

Bud Plant’s Franklin Booth page
Franklin Booth: American Illustrator

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
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9 thoughts on “Franklin Booth’s Flying Islands”

  1. It amazes me the stuff you manage to find
    incidentally where did you come across “No Beast” ? (homoerotic tentacle sex) Ive done lots of web trawling to try and find more of his stuff to no avail….

  2. Franklin Booth is well-known in American illustration circles at least. Some other finds have surprised me as well so it’s good to be able to share them.

    The NoBeast pictures I found on a forum devoted to weird art and illustration which now seems to have vanished altogether. I searched in vain for any information at all about the artist and couldn’t find any more examples of his/her work either. Needless to say if I do discover more I’ll post the news here.

  3. I am so thrilled to discover Booth’s work, incredibly inspiring and magical.

    Do you know the work of Lenore Fini? She has some mysterious chiaro scuros that are very haunting in the Beardsley tradition.
    Thanks very much for your beautiful Journal.

  4. Hi Bryde. Thanks, and Leonore Fini has indeed featured here more than once, I like her work very much.

  5. I was interested to read your comment about the lack of pictures from this book on Internet Archive. I am frequently frustrated by the lack of pictures too. I noticed, however, that in virtually all of those publications without pictures (or very poorly scanned pictures) have all been scanned by a particular person.

    I was interested in Walter Crane’s ‘Line and Form’ and trying to read and understand it is impossible because the pictures are all blocked. I ran into the same problem with several illustrated magazines from the turn of the century; the text is complete, there are even captions for the illustrations. The only things missing are the illustrations!

  6. I have this book for sale(1913), and signed by Booth…email if interested>>I love this art work!

  7. There is a new biography of Franklin Booth that was just published as an eBook that contains over 200 of his illustrations.

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