ART, TYPE & ORNAMENT OF ARTHUR RACKHAM

Arthur Rackham is probably the most famous British illustrator of the 19th and early 20th century. He was amazingly prolific, but remains best known for his 3-tint illustrations of fairy tales by Grimm, Perault and others. The Rackham vision of sprites and fairies has influenced succeeding generations of fantasy artists, and his overall style is still imitated by many childrens book illustrators, including Jan Brett and Michael Hague. Rackham is of particular interest to me because he fits in a cateogory with Howard Pyle, Kay Nielsen and William Morris as one of those special geniuses whose vision extended beyond the limits of illustration to include all aspects of the look of the books on which he worked.

Almost every Rackham illustrated book includes not only exceptional color plates, but also Rackham's marginal decorations, emblems and calligraphic titles and captions. His frontispieces are treasures of calligraphic ornament and decoration and the consistency of his style from letters to decorations to full-blown illustrations makes each book a unique visual experience.

One of our goals at the Scriptorium is to preserve Rackham's work and make it available to the public in a high-quality computer formast so that they don't have to go out and purchase rare illustrated volumes at hundreds of dollars each, or settle for inferior second-generation reprints.

We have been investing in Rackham's work for years and we may have one of the best collections of first edition and limited edition Rackham works in the United States. Translating these works into a permanent digital record is an ongoing process, but we already have close to 100 Rackham color and black and white illustrations available in TIFF and JPEG format and are adding more as we discover them.

In addition to our archive of illustrations we are creating fonts based on Rackham's work. Our first Rackham font, titled simply 'Rackham' is based on the lettering style which Rackham used in the frontispieces and titles of many of the books he illustrated. These rough, playful characters are somewhere between traditional calligraphy and modern printing, and really stand out when used for titles or for decorative text.

We have also already developed several art fonts based on Rackham's work. Silhouettes was derived from decorative silhouettes which Rackham did for an illustrated edition of Sleeping Beauty and Sangrael is based on marginal decorations Rackham drew for a collection of Arthurian legends. Also in development are a font of small, decorative fairy illustrations and a font of Rackham floral decorations.