Today is the centenary of Captain Scott’s last journal entry, and therefore in all probability of his death. To mark the occasion a service was held in St Paul’s cathedral, from which I have just returned. It was a magnificent affair, with powerful singing (including ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’, Scott’s favourite hymn) and moving readings – David Attenborough read the final Message from Scott’s Journal and Falcon Scott, grandson of the explorer, read the passage from Tennyson’s Ulysses which culminates in the words ‘to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’, which were inscribed by Cherry-Garrard on the memorial cross on the edge of the Beardmore Glacier. A lone piper from Captain Oates’s regiment accompanied the placing of a wreath by the Scott memorial plaque.
© The Fitzwilliam Museum, 2012
A letter came in from one of our members last week extolling the beauties of The Metz Pontifical – a manuscript dating from around 1310 belonging to The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge – and suggesting we publish it in facsimile. A single, top-class artist worked on the illuminations, but it seems that he ran out of time because in the last few pages the illustrations are drawn but not coloured or gilded, thus giving a fascinating insight into the creative process. The first image here shows a spread from the completed part of the book, while the other two pages in varying states of completion. The script is also extremely fine.
© The Fitzwilliam Museum, 2012
I spent an afternoon with Quentin Blake planning his new book, The Fables of La Fontaine. Fifty fables will be included, all of them illustrated, mostly full page and in colour. Quentin has been busy with preliminary pen-and-ink sketches – here are a few of them.
One of the most successful titles in our current programme has been Selected Poems and Prose by Gerard Manley Hopkins, which was beautifully illustrated with paintings by Elizabeth Magill. Now Elizabeth has reworked the cover image ‘Blue Hold’ as a nine-colour lithograph which is being published by Manifold Editions in an edition of 75 copies. The full price is £900 but the publishers have kindly agreed to make the print available to our members at the special pre-publication price of £750. For full details, please click here.
Doughty’s Travels in Arabia Deserta is one of the undisputed classics of travel literature, yet has never appeared in a photographically illustrated edition. Doughty was no photographer, but enquiries at Harvard have revealed a rich collection of largely unpublished photographs many of which are almost contemporary with Doughty and cover significant parts of his route. Here, for instance, is Doughty’s description of Mount Hermon: ‘There arose the high train of Hermon aloft before us, hoar-headed with the first snows and as it were a white cloud hanging in the element,’ and here is a contemporary photograph by F. M. Good. The other photo, of a Bedouin encampment at Jericho, is by Félix Bonfils.
Further to my note on Leonard Rosoman, it has been brought to my attention that he had a walk-on part in another Folio Book, in his capacity as fireman during the blitz. London, Portrait of a City, published in 1998, contains an extract from William Samson’s short story, ‘The Wall’, based on a true incident in which two firemen were killed by a collapsing wall, while two others, standing right by them, were unharmed. The fortunate pair were William Sansom himself and ‘Len’ – who was in fact Leonard Rosoman. Here is Leonard’s painting of the event.
Leonard Rosoman 1913–2012
Leonard Rosoman, who died a few days ago aged 98, was one of the most distinguished artists to illustrate for Folio. In addition to book illustration, he was a painter, printmaker, teacher (David Hockney was one of his pupils) a Royal Academician and an official war artist during the Second World War. Leonard’s first book for us was Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point in 1958 and this was followed by Brave New World in 1971, which stands out from the books of that period with the futuristic style of its typography and binding design as well as its striking illustrations.
I first got to know Leonard when we commissioned illustrations to Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks in 1989, and this was followed by Brideshead Revisited in 1995 and The Magic Mountain in 2000. The latter two books were in colour, and exemplify Leonard’s distinctive palette, dominated by shades of yellow and green.
Although he was an old man by the time I came to know him, he resolutely refused to act his age, and he retained the chirpy enthusiasm of a college-leaver to the end of his days. Each commission was given the same serious attention as though it were his first – when he took on Brideshead Revisited at the age of 87, he rushed off to Yorkshire with his sketch pad to draw Castle Howard – working from a photograph would have been unthinkable to him. Hard to think that he was old enough to have experienced English country house life before the War, and had also served as a war artist, which made him uniquely well equipped to illustrate Waugh’s masterpiece.