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  • Edward Ardizzone: A Bibliographic Commentary
  • Kristin R. Dorsey
Edward Ardizzone: A Bibliographic Commentary. By Brian Alderson. New Castle, Del.: Oak Knoll Press, and London: British Library, 2003. 309 pp. $75.00. ISBN 1-58456-103-3; 0-7123-4759-3.

Edward Ardizzone (1900-1979) began his career illustrating books in 1929. Over the next fifty years he worked vigorously, illustrating books for children and adults and for periodicals, advertisements, and other commercial commissions. During World War II he was made an official war artist, commissioned by the British government to make a visual record of the war. Brian Alderson's book provides an account of the printed work produced during Ardizzone's long and prolific career. The Commentary reconsiders and expands a handlist compiled by Alderson and David Chambers in 1972 for The Private Library that covers Ardizzone's print career from 1929 to 1970. Alderson expresses two purposes for the Commentary. First, he believes "it may be helpful to everyone who loves, admires, reveres [Ardizzone's] work to have a fairly systematic tally of its quality and of its variety" (11). Second, he hopes to convey a sense of the life of a working artist, using Ardizzone's body of work as an example. In particular, he demonstrates Ardizzone's "sustained professionalism in a craft" (13), constituted by his constant work and innovation, his willingness to take on most jobs offered to him, and his belief that not all his own work could or needed to be great art.

Alderson begins with an introduction explaining the history of the project and detailing the bibliographical elements within the entries that comprise the majority of the book. He arranges his descriptive entries by type: the longest section on illustrated books, then shorter sections on contributions to books; book jackets; commercial brochures and ephemera; drawings for periodicals; the wartime work; prints, posters, and bookplates; and adoptions. Entries within each section are chronological and made even easier to find by running titles giving both year of publication and item number. The entries themselves include publication information, description of format, paper identification, description of binding, number of illustrations, and some information about the artistic and printing techniques used to render them.

The first of the book's five appendixes of supplementary material reprints an article by Ardizzone about illustration as a profession. The second contains two short discussions on artistic technique, also by the illustrator. The third and fourth offer case studies of Ardizzone's illustrations for the books Peacock Pie and Peter Pan, comparing them to versions done by other well-known children's book illustrators. The final appendix reprints a memorial address given by Gabriel White in 1979. The two pieces by Ardizzone prove the most illuminating, particularly given Alderson's desire to present him as an example of a professional illustrator. The artist's discussion of his own relationship to his work and his [End Page 101] explanation of the technical aspects of his processes provide some context for and insight into the professional life that this book details.

Brian Alderson possesses unique qualifications for undertaking this project. As his preface and introduction make clear, he collects Ardizzone's work and considers himself a fan. Most of the reprinted illustrations in the book come from his own collection. Additionally, Alderson's passion for and knowledge about book illustration generally inform his descriptions of Ardizzone's work. Finally, in part due to his friendship with Ardizzone while he was alive, Alderson has incredible access to various Ardizzone materials, including direct access to and cooperation from the illustrator's family. The results of this availability and familiarity appear in italicized comments within entries in which Alderson incorporates pieces of trivia about publishers and the inspirations for drawings as well as other small details about the books themselves.

The Commentary contains four color reproductions and many additional plates, including examples of decorative initials, full-page illustrations, vignettes, title pages, and even a picture of a ceramic plate decorated with an Ardizzone illustration. These reproductions are clear, well placed, and plentiful. They help to break up the text and to demonstrate the variety of media in which he worked. Although Alderson focuses most...


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pp. 101-102
Launched on MUSE
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