A few reflections on books illustrated by Frank Godwin, particularly “Treasure Island”

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:

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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Next, a stooped figure, another often-seen aspect of Godwin’s art:

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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:

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As a reminder, here is an extract from the Plumb advertisement:

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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.

—Tom Sawyer

February 23, 2018

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The “Collier’s” versions of Frank Godwin’s illustrations for “When Crossroads Cross Again”

In the preceding post, I discussed the booklet When Crossroads Cross Again, which, as I mentioned, was based on the same work as it appeared in Collier’s. Below are the versions as of Frank Godwin’s illustrations for that story as they are found in Collier’s, via Google Books (digitized by Google, from an example at the University of Wisconsin, Madison).

These look much better than the booklet versions, but I presume that what you see below is, in turn, inferior to the way they would look in the actual magazine!

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—Tom Sawyer

February 23, 2018

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Regarding “When Crossroads Cross Again,” by Rupert Hughes, illustrated by Frank Godwin

When Crossroads Cross Again, by Rupert Hughes, was a nice little booklet comprised mainly of a short story of that title (with illustrations by Frank Godwin) which was originally published in Collier’s, January 29, 1921. The booklet was published by The Department of Ministerial Relief of the Church of the Nazarene, Kansas City, with the permission of Collier’s, Hughes, and Godwin. The booklet shows a copyright date of 1921, but based on the Foreward, by E.J. Fleming, it seems that the booklet was published somewhat later than that.

Both the booklet and the story as published in Collier’s carry the same illustrations by Frank Godwin. However, the booklet was printed on rather coarse paper, and based on a glance at the actual article in Collier’s, as shown on Google Books (digitized by Google, from an example at University of Wisconsin, Madison), it is clear that the booklet does not really do justice to the illustrations. In my next post, I expect to post the illustrations as shown in Collier’s.

Here are a few representative images of the booklet:

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I imagine that the booklet is fairly scarce, though I do see a copy of what appears to be the original printing (or at least an early printing if there was more than one) for sale on the internet. I also see a modern version, probably print-on-demand or the like.

—Tom Sawyer

February 23, 2018

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A few reflections on collecting Frank Godwin material

I suspect that these days, most people who are interested in Frank Godwin learned about him through his comic-strip work.  That was not the case with me.  I first saw his work in Treasure Island, in the early 1970s.  It was actually my dear sister who discovered him. She gave a copy of Treasure Island to my brother, but that book ended up in my collection, and I have never looked back.

At this point, today, apart from original comic-strip art by Godwin (of which I have a number of pieces), I have quite a bit of other original Godwin art, including three oil paintings, seven other paintings, and three pen-and-ink drawings. That’s off the top of my head. I could be forgetting a few things.  P.S.: I just conducted a brief tour of my little dwelling, and I think that is probably a complete listing of my original Godwin art, except for a little painting on a postcard, which I put in a safe place (meaning I have not seen it in eons).

Of course, these days, if one were to start with a lot of cash, one could probably build a nice collection of original Godwin non-comic-strip art within a few years (maybe significantly less), without a whole lot of effort. That was not always the case. (As to comic-strip art, by the way, with adequate money, you could build a large collection in a few weeks or less.)

But apart from original art, if one’s goal is to put together a really representative collection of Godwin material (assuming one is possessed of adequate funds), that would normally be expected to be an undertaking that consumes not years, but decades. The process has been  accelerated (or made more realistic) by the presence of eBay and certain internet book-searches (re dealers). In other words, before eBay and internet book-searches, it probably would have been impossible to gather a really super Godwin-collection. With those resources, it still ordinarily would take decades.

Why is this? Well, it is mainly because there is a lot of Godwin material which basically never comes on the market. And there is a lot of it which almost never comes on the market. I have a lot of Godwin items in my collection as to which I purchased the only example I have ever seen. In other cases, I have the only examples I have seen for sale, though I may have seen them elsewhere.

Even in cases where I have seen (say) two or three such seldom-seen items, that isn’t very many! The silver lining is that there really are not that many earnest, obsessive Godwin collectors.

What are examples of things that rarely come up for sale?

Well, in another post (or posts), I mentioned my five huge bound-volumes (of several rather short periods) of the Philadelphia Public Ledger, which are replete with early Connie episodes, examples Vignettes of Life, and Godwin’s Sunday “magazine” covers. A bunch of such volumes appeared on eBay maybe 20 years ago, but I have seen none since. (I just glanced at the post linked-to above, and it is worth looking at, in part because it shows Connie strips with more context than usual.)

Speaking of the Public Ledger, I have a Ledger Syndicate catalog that lists (and shows examples of) features that were available via syndication, including the daily Connie and the Sunday Connie, and it includes an article on Godwin, along with a picture of him I have not seen elsewhere. That’s the only Ledger Syndicate catalog I have even seen offered for sale, though I have seen a different Ledger Syndicate catalog pictured on the internet.

Recently I as able to purchase a Frank Godwin calendar with five illustrations (in color) by Godwin, from the early 1920s. It’s the only Godwin calendar I know of.

Now if YOU (or someone else) are collecting Godwin stuff seriously, would you (or someone else) be able to find those particular items? I suspect that if you collected for 20 years, you might have none of those items.

On the other hand, you might have found equally important and unusual Godwin items that I have never seen or heard of!

That’s the way “collecting” is!

But they key thing is, it normally takes years to locate a substantial number of such things. I am not talking three years, or five years, or even ten. I am talking maybe 20 or 30 years.

Another example comes to mind. Many years ago, I bought a half-dozen or so Frank Godwin Christmas-cards. (Actually, this might have been in two or so different purchases.) Yes, I think I have seen a couple of other examples offered for sale, and others will probably come up for sale, but it doesn’t happen very often!

I also have a couple of handwritten letters written by Godwin. I think those are the only ones I have seen for sale. Of course, others could appear—and it could happen tomorrow.

Nobody will ever have anything like a complete Godwin collection. But it is possible for more than one person to have a really nice, extensive collection—covering all major phases of his career in some depth. But if you are assembling such a collection piecemeal, one item (or a few items) at a time, it’s gonna take many, many years, and considerable wherewithal.

—Tom Sawyer

February 22, 2018

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An item extracted from “The Evening Star,” Washington, D.C., February 19, 1908

The following is from the Chronicling America website of the Library of Congress.

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Frank Godwin would have been 18 at the time.

—Tom Sawyer

February 21, 2018

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Still further Plumb-advertisements with art I am reasonably certain was created by Frank Godwin

This is a followup to the preceding posts. This includes additional unsigned images that I am reasonably certain are by Frank Godwin. These images are via the Hathi Trust Digital Library.

The Saturday Evening Post, June 21, 1919, University of Michigan (digitized by the same university)

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Further details, very typical of Godwin’s work:

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The Saturday Evening Post, January 3, 1920, University of Michigan (digitized by the same university)

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—Tom Sawyer

February 20, 2018

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More Plumb images almost certainly by Frank Godwin

This post is more or less a followup to the preceding post. This includes two further unsigned images that I am reasonably certain are by Frank Godwin. In my next post on this blog, I plan to post a few more. These images are via the Hathi Trust Digital Library.

The Saturday Evening Post, December 4, 1919, University of Michigan (digitized by the same university)

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The Saturday Evening Post, March 27, 1920, University of Michigan (digitized by the same university)

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Again, I am being very rigid in my criteria for determining my opinion that Godwin painted the original art for the above.

—Tom Sawyer

February 20, 2018

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