Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Warwick Goble's Fairy Book in a Binding to Behold

by Stephen J. Gertz

Custom binding by Robert Porter, c. 1990,
for The Fairy Book, 1913.
"To many the best of all fairy books is 'The Fairy Book' by the author of 'John Halifax, Gentleman.' We are glad to see the Macmillans have brought out this collection in a handsome edition...The illustrations in color, by Warwick Goble, are as pretty and dainty things of the kind that we have ever seen" (The Nation, December 11, 1913).

"A young girl of wonderful beauty lay asleep on an embroidered bed."
(The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood).

Warwick Goble (1862-1943) was educated at the Westminster School of Art and, early on, worked as a assistant to a printer who specialized in chromolithography. During the early 1890s he contributed illustrations to British magazines, and in 1896 began to illustrate books. In 1909 he become one of Macmillan's resident artists.

"When the lady came she gave the handkerchief to the magician."
(Jack the Giant Killer).

He "was one of the busiest and most versatile British illustrators of the Golden Age, at home with any subject that came his way, from a battle scene to a tea party. He gradually developed into a notable specialist of Japanese and Indian subjects, with a distinctive style recalling both Edmund Dulac and René Bull

"And she climbed up and easily broke off a branch, with its silver
leaves and golden fruit, and handed it to the knight."
(One Little Eye).

"...Goble moved into the big time in 1909 when he became the resident gift book illustrator for the large publishing firm of Macmillan. The first of his classic de luxe volumes in the Macmillan series was The Water Babies, by Charles Kingsley (1912)…His second de luxe volume was the equally stunning Green Willow, and Other Japanese Fairy Tales (1912) by Grace James. In these 40 colour illustrations, Goble was allowed free rein with his first love, proving that he was second to none in his portrayal of Oriental subjects” (Richard Dalby, The Golden Age of Children’s Book Illustration, pp. 92-93).

"At last she remembered her dream, rushed to the grass-plot,
and there saw him lying apparently dead."
(Beauty and the Beast).

“Two influences on Goble’s work were his initial training as a printer specialising in chromolithography and his extensive travels through the Orient. He favoured soft, flowing watercolours with an oriental flavour which suited the atmosphere of the fairy tales and mystical settings in which he specialised. His understanding of design and the reporduction of colour is evident in his work, for example in his series of colour plates for Stories from the Pentamerone by Giambattista Basile (1911). His watercolours were also published in Gift Books and exhibited at the Royal Academy” (The Cambridge Guide to Children’s Books in English).

"'Is it very far from hence?' asked the wolf."
(Little Red Riding Hood).

The collected fairy tales in The Fairy Book are, Sleeping Beauty; Beauty and the Beast; Jack the Giant Killer; Little One eye, Little Two eyes, and Little Three Eyes; Hop-o'-My-Thumb; Cinderella; Rumpelstizchen; Fortunatus; Riquet with a Tuft; Snow-White and Rose-Red; Jack and the Beanstalk; Graclosa and Percinet; The Invisible Prince; The Woodcutter's Daughter; Brother and Sister; The Fair One with Golden Locks; The Butterfly; The Frog Prince; Prince Cherry; Little Snowdrop; The Blue Bird; The Six Swans; The Hind of the Forest; and The Juniper Tree.

"By the care of the fairy tulip, she was not wounded."
(The Hind of the Forest).

"Mr Warwick Goble's pictures are thoroughly typical of the high standard reached in the best colour illustration of to-day, and we are sure this volume will find favour with the best critics of books such as these, namely, the children who receive them as presents" (The International Studio, Vol. 51, 1914):

Original cloth binding, The Fairy Book, 1913.
Dinah Maria Craik (1826-1887), was a respected English novelist and author of childrens books. She compiled and adapted these English, French and German fairy tales and published them in the first  and non-illustrated edition of The Fairy Book in 1863, also issued by Macmillan; her husband, George, was Alexander Macmillan's partner in the firm.


[GOBLE, Warwick, illust.]. [CRAIK, Dinah Maria, text]. The Fairy Book. The Best Popular Fairy Stories Selected and Rendered Anew. By the author of 'John Halifax, Gentleman'.  With 32 illustrations in colour by Warwick Goble. London: Macmillan and Co., 1913.

First Goble-illustrated edition. Tall octavo (9 3/4 x 6 7/8 in; 248 xz 174 mm). xiii, [1], 378, [1], [1, blank] pp. Thirty-two full-color plates with captioned tissue guards.

Specially bound c. 1990 by Robert Porter in full, polished blue, levant morocco with gilt rules emanating from a gilt sun and three belts of tiny gilt stars and geometric forms in loose orbit, the design reiterated on rear board and spine in blind. Cockerell endpapers. Original cloth preserved at rear. Top edge gilt.

Images courtesy of David Brass Rare Books, with our thanks.


  1. beautiful piece of literature

  2. i have found 3 beautifull warwick gobil prints in my attic, didn't know anything about him, i do now. wonderfull colours, very beautifull prints.....

  3. i have the clasic book of fairy stories book with illustrations by Warwick Goble dated 1987, and i have had it since i was a baby. Is there any value in this book as it is read but in great condition. thanks

  4. Not enough info, Nanaki. Exact title, place of publication, publisher needed to answer your question in full. But, in general, you have one of many reprints and it really has little value to hardcore collectors.

  5. Hi Stephen I have a hard cover (still with plastic cover) called "The Fairy Book" Published by Macmillan and Co, Limited St. Martin's Street London in 1913. Written by "John Halifax, Gentleman" with 32 Illustrations in colour by Warwick Goble. Is it of any sort of Value? Also does it pay to have it rebound by a prefessional that deals with the original cloth binding or is it best to leave the way it is.

    1. Yes, it has some value, depending upon condition. Any restoration, repair, or rebinding will generally affect value.


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