Frank Godwin’s book-illustration work in perspective — a very brief and informal discussion . . .

Note:  This is a revised version of a post that I wrote about two years ago (and which I revised a few months ago).

Frank Godwin’s life as a professional artist spanned from early in the twentieth century until his death in 1959, something over five decades.  His first illustrated book was published in 1915, or thereabouts, and I his final illustrated book was first published in 1929.  So, unless I am overlooking something (and I may be doing so), Godwin’s career as a book illustrator lasted fifteen years or so.  And that is pretty interesting, because he did illustrate many books, and it is perhaps surprising that his involvement with book illustration did not span a longer period of time.

But no, that is an oversimplification.

For instance, when the Garden City Publishing Company published Robin Hood with his illustrations, it included illustrations from the McKay version, but Godwin painted two new paintings (including one for the front cover) and produced a drawing for the endpapers — and that Garden City book was first published outside of the span of years mentioned (in 1932).  And I have a couple of pamphlets reprinting articles that he illustrated, and at least one of those is outside that span.  And there are other items which blur the picture a bit. But basically we are talking about fifteen years, a relatively small period of time when judged against his entire career as an artist.

Nonetheless, during those fifteen years, he (as mentioned above) worked on many books. In at least two cases, the illustrations had been previously published in periodicals, but I am ignoring that fact for the moment, and simply treating them as books he illustrated.

To assemble a complete collection of books — especially a complete collection of his first editions — illustrated by Frank Godwin would be a daunting task, but thankfully it seems that most of his books are rather common (though I doubt that this can be said of many of his first editions), at least in relationship to the apparent demand. Right now, on eBay, there are literally scores of copies of books illustrated by Godwin.

Overall, the variety and number of Godwin’s books present a complicated and slightly bewildering picture.  However, his work can be viewed according to various categories, and then the picture becomes a little simpler.

I have never seen any attempt to create a complete list of books illustrated by Godwin.  Certainly no list I have seen has been anywhere near complete.  The following list is probably not complete, but I would think that it is nearly complete (except that, for Winston books, I refer to another post on this blog).  I have grouped the titles loosely into various categories.  I decided to list only the titles of the books, but in time I may expand on the information below. I have only listed books as to which I have at least one copy in my collection, though I know of a very small number of others, perhaps two or so.  For example, illustrations by him appeared in The Story of the States, which appears to have been published primarily to promote an advertising agency.

One other thing.  I have made the following list in a relatively brief period of time.  Ultimately, I will probably create a more detailed list.  But it is possible that I have inadvertently omitted a few items.  Nonetheless, the titles specified below total more than twenty.  And in an earlier post, I mentioned more than a dozen others.

1.  Early books:

Letters of a Self-Made Failure

Molly and I

Why Theodora!

Five Fridays

Trying It on the Dog

2.  Semi-early works for which Godwin contributed only the front-cover illustration (published by David McKay, Publisher):

The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments

Through the Looking-Glass

The Little Lame Prince

Andersen’s Fairy Tales

Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes

Mother Goose Fairy Tales

[Probably at least one other book in the series.]

4.  Other books published by McKay

The Blue Fairy Book

Robin Hood

The Black Arrow

5.  Books published by Winston:

[In another post, I name thirteen books published by Winston.]

5.  Other books:

Uncle Henry

Roughly Speaking (dust jacket only)

Robin Hood (Garden City)

6.  Large format books:

Some were published by Donohue.  Others were published by Murray.  There were probably about six or eight more or less different ones.  I hesitate to even list them, because the picture is a little unclear on them to me.  Some of the contents overlap to some degree. Below I’ll list most of the ones I have.  I don’t know that I really consider them to be “books illustrated by Godwin.”  At least two of the illustrations apparently appeared first in the Public Ledger, and I think the books are more like later compilations of art and text.

Stories the Baloonman Told [only one “l” in “Baloonman,” hard-cover book]

Stories the Balloonman Told [with different or overlapping content]

Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes [completely different from the McKay book of the same title listed above]


Stories the Sandman Told

[Also, at least one other.]

7.  Yearbooks of the Dutch Treat Club (various years, various titles).

Frank Godwin was a member of the Dutch Treat Club for many years.  I basically found that the only way I could figure out which of the club’s yearbooks Frank Godwin drew illustrations for was to collect as many as I could.  (I have since pretty much stopped collecting them.)  The earliest one I have is for 1923, and the latest is probably in the late 1960s.  I have more than forty in all, but that includes various duplicates.  (Godwin passed away in 1959.  He was definitely a member of the Dutch Treat Club as early as 1923, for his name is listed in the 1923 yearbook as a member.)

I don’t know exactly how many of the annuals include one or more pictures by Godwin — probably around twenty, but that is just a guess.

The only ones from the 1920s that I have are 1923, 1926, 1927, 1928, and 1929.  I don’t think Godwin drew anything for those.  During a quick look, the earliest I found with a Godwin illustration was the one for 1931.  There were at least three by Godwin in that book.  The latest I found with a Godwin illustration was 1956, and indeed that edition had a two-page spread of drawings by Godwin. 

8.  Other miscellaneous books with one or more illustrations by Frank Godwin:

There exist a number of books or the like with one or more illustrations by Frank Godwin.  Example:  The Iron Gate of Jack & Charlie’s “21.”  Another example:  The Eastern Edition of Advertising Arts and Crafts, Volume 1.  (Of course, many more modern books also show one or more illustrations by Godwin.)

Well, for the moment, I think I have said almost enough.  I am pretty sure there are other books with which Godwin was involved.  I am not including as “books illustrated by Godwin” the various editions of Caricature, which I think consisted principally of material from Judge magazine.

I think it might be worthwhile to realize that some of the books mentioned above are “books that happen to have an illustration or two by Godwin.”  Also, I think that certain works mentioned above, such as Stories the Balloonman Told, are compilations of illustrations that appeared elsewhere, so to me it might be a little unclear to say that he illustrated them.  Godwin did produce a frontispiece illustration for a book entitled Uncle Sam Needs a Wife.  I didn’t list that above (I guess I just overlooked it), but I do consider it a book illustrated by Godwin, even though it only has one illustration by him.  Of course, there are many relatively recent books which include one or more illustrations by Godwin, but I consider them far beyond the scope of this post.  I think sometime I’ll discuss some of these nuances in detail.

—Tom Sawyer

March 28, 2012

Revised April 1, 2014

Revised further on June 29, 2014

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