Clara Peck Lettering in The Prince of Mercuria

I recently picked up a copy of the novel The Prince of Mercuria by Atkinson Kimball with illustrations by Clara Elsene Peck.  When I saw it online I figured I had to have it to add to my collection of Peck-illustrated books, particularly because it has a particularly good set of samples of her calligraphy.

The novel is a reasonably good Graustark/Zenda type novel of the early 1900s, which I suspect was origianlly serialized in <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> or one of the other Hearst magazines.  This version is its first appearance in complete novel format and it suffers somewhat from the transition.  The great calligraphy, like that featured on the entirely handlettered frontispiece to the right, suffers considerably because of the inferior quality of the paper on which the book is printed.  You can see from the detail of the words “New York” (below) how the rough fibers and porosity of the cheap paper have caused the ink to break up and spread, producing a relatively poor representation of the original lettering.

In developing another font from these samples for our inevitable Peck collection to go with Peck Initials, Elsene and Peck Shields, I will kind of have to reverse engineer the characters, making them less blurred and broken and recreating their ideal forms.  There won’t be any simple importing and tracing with this sort of source material, unless I can find a copy of the serialized version which was almost certainly printed on much better paper.

Anyway, this will be one of the projects we have in the works in the next few months. The Prince of Mercuria also has some nice marginalia and borders which might end up in a font or at least be included in an eventual Peck package as graphics.

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