If you are seriously (and I mean really seriously) collecting Frank Godwin books (and I don’t know of anyone who is, other than me), you are going to want to look for (among other things) the deluxe editions that exist of a few of his books. Most of his books probably appeared in versions of varying quality, but here I am really talking about a series that appears to have been called “The Winston Treasure Shelf.” But that designation won’t help much, because it is almost never seen in connection with the description of such books. I have seen it on the dust-jacket flap of one or two books, and I have seen a couple of passing references on the internet, so in this post I am actually generalizing from very incomplete information.
The Godwin books that appeared in this series were apparently The Swiss Family Robinson, King Arthur and His Knights, and Treasure Island. I this post, I am going to focus on Treasure Island, which is probably the most famous of the books written by Robert Louis Stevenson. Now there are quite a few different versions of Treasure Island as illustrated by Godwin, as you can see if you search eBay.
I suspect that these did not all include “all” of the corresponding Godwin illustrations. Some were a part of sets of books. At one time, many years ago, I thought that such sets were really cool, but now I consider them to be more a salvaging and repackaging, in inferior form, of books that had appeared earlier in much nicer versions. Here are a few eBay listings that show basically what I am talking about:
- The Children’s Classics (reddish-brown cloth, with little “torches” on spines). J.G. Ferguson and Associates were involved. The listing mentions Godwin in connection with four of the titles.
- The Children’s Classics (reddish-brown cloth, with little “American eagles” on spines). Encyclopedia Americana was involved. The listing mentions Godwin in connection with four of the titles.
- The Children’s Classics (multi-colored cloth, with little various images on spines). The listing shows two Godwin illustrations, one from Treasure Island and one from King Arthur and His Knights.
I do not know whether those are complete sets, and I cannot vouch for all of the dates stated. I know of a few other (similar) sets which probably have Godwin illustrations. In all cases above, I have no reason to believe that “all” of the corresponding Godwin illustrations (as found in early printings) are present.
Anyway, the following version is typical of the “early” versions—overall, a pretty nice book:
The cover-illustration used there is not really a super-typical Godwin illustration, and it is not altogether clear what it is depicting. The original painting does exist, and it is (or was) in an art museum in the east, if I recall correctly. Images of the original painting exist on the internet. They do not have the book title on them. (However, an image of the painting was used as the frontispiece of another Winston book I am about to describe, and that, too, does not include the wording).
The “what does it depict” question arises in part from the fact that, on the left, one cannot discern where the terrain (or ocean) stops and the sky starts. Also, though there is terrain and foliage on the right, one really has to use one’s imagination regarding the ground upon which the men are walking.
In the Winston book described below, the caption for the illustration is:
We made a curious figure, had anyone been there to see us
I’m not sure whether the illustration accurately portrays that segment of the text, but, oh, well. (Actually, I assume that the painting was not originally intended to illustrated that scene.) Some of this is easily contrasted with N.C. Wyeth’s treatment of almost the same passage of the book. First, the front cover of the Wyeth book (first edition, 1911), and then the illustration. I made these scans from an example in my collection:
Wyeth’s illustration shown immediately above is captioned as follows:
For all the world, I was led like a dancing bear
The Godwin caption and the Wyeth caption both come from the same paragraph. Although, as mentioned, Godwin’s painting does not seem to capture the scene too well, the same can be said of Wyeth’s painting, since the artist illustrated only two of the people in what was actually something of a procession.
Anyway, that all leads us to a discussion of the deluxe edition of the Godwin book. A picture of that is shown below. The very attractive filigree that surrounds the image and title was also used on other books in the series. There was also a similarly complex design that Winston used, and I think I have a couple of examples of that in my collection (probably not on Treasure Island). Sorry to be so vague, but if I tracked down every little thing, I would never finish this post.
The illustration is a cropped version of an illustration that also appears facing page 102 of the book. It is a nice illustration, and more representative of Godwin than is the other Godwin cover-illustration. Notice these features. First, clothing-folds quite typical of others found in illustrations by Godwin:
Next, a stooped figure, another often-seen aspect of Godwin’s art:
Additionally, the handling of this “back” is similar to that of certain clothing which I recently drew attention to, found in one of the Plumb advertisements:
As a reminder, here is an extract from the Plumb advertisement:
I don’t know whether I would say that the deluxe version of Godwin’s Treasure Island is “scarce.” It turns up from time to time. I have at least three copies, including one in a dust jacket. There may (or may not) be variations among the three copies, but that type of thing, although interesting to me, is probably far beyond the interest levels of most Godwin fans.
Books from the deluxe series are very seldom seen in dust jackets. Remember, I am not talking about the “ordinary” Winston books illustrated by Godwin, which are OFTEN seen in dust jackets. No, I am talking about the ones in the dark-green covers, with the elaborate filigree, and title and illustrator name in gilt on the front, and with smallish cover label.
I am also not talking about The Book of Courage, which (although it is normally seen with a fancy cover) I do not consider to have been issued in a deluxe version. The Book of Courage is often seen in the DJ, and indeed at this moment there are (based on my very quick count) 5 copies on eBay with dust jackets, possibly including more than one first edition. Additionally, there are perhaps 29 other copies, of various printings, without dust jackets.
February 23, 2018