Illustrations to the Classics
Beginning with the first gallery, the visitor has the opportunity of viewing a whole range of 1st editions placed, with clarity in mind, in chronological order of publication. With date tags placed on the outside of the display cabinets in line with the individual books, one is able to witness the developing artistry of, in some cases the writer, at others, both as writer and illustrator.
Into the first room, where the illustrations are exclusively to accompany the work of other writers, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass form the initial, highly impressive coup l'oeil.
As the exhibition continues, one is greeted in the many rooms by illustrations to other classics, such as Treasure Island, Grimm's Household Tales, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde all placed in such a way that each new drawing comes to life as though seen for the very first time. Left with an almost overpowering implosion on the eye as more and more tiny drawings seduce the viewer, what impresses most is the sharpness of observation, deftness of execution but above all the intuitive grasp on the part of Mervyn Peake, of the writer's intention. While the work in the last gallery is considered, there is the feeling of needing to come up for air almost following this luscious embarrass de richesse, where several of the minute illustrations require uber scrutiny, such are the plethora of ideas the illustrator gives us.