The time I nearly lost my purse to Rackham

12 May, 2008

When I posted my entry about the beautiful Amelie’s Petite Maison, I mentioned the Eumundi Markets and the story that I had to tell about our visit on that particular trip. On our visits to the Sunshine Coast, we seem to have fallen in to the habit of checking out the markets and luckily for us, we were staying mid-week so we could scope out the Wednesday morning market action. The markets are awesome, with lots of local makers, bakers, growers and sellers, and they totally beat any market I’ve seen happening in Brisbane for sheer scale and quality of the items available.

On this particular Wednesday morning, my husband (that’s still weird!) and I had strolled through almost the whole markets without spending very much, as we’d totally blasted our credit card and available cash money in the lead up to the wedding. And then I clapped my eyes on an amazing colour plate from an early Snugglepot and Cuddlepie printing, and it was all over.

Aleta Jansen, proprietor of awesome vintage ephemera
Aleta Jansen with a stunningly framed Tenniel illustration of the White Rabbit.

I spent the first five minutes gasping at everything I lay my eyes on… there were illustrations from so many children’s books that I grew up with (vintage books that belonged to my mother and my aunties and uncles). I was literally biting my knuckle as the proprietor, Aleta, came up to greet me. We struck up an amazing conversation with both of us talking about beautiful books and artists and illustrations. She kept tempting me with illustrations, like the beautiful Beardsley pieces; however when she found out about my love for Alice in Wonderland, my Achilles heel had been struck.

On the back wall were Arthur Rackham illustrations from the 1907 printing of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I am pretty tough, but tears sprung to my eyes! Rackham’s illustrations have entranced me for the longest time. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the cash to buy one of these beautiful pieces that were framed so lovingly however, there were a few smaller (and again, wonderfully framed) Alice pieces by John Tenniel from 1910, and while I don’t have the same emotional connection with Tenniel, they illustrate key points of the Wonderland story that have played in my mind since childhood.

These two illustrations from CHAPTER VIII: The Queen’s Croquet-Ground were the pieces we ended up buying. Ever since I was a kid, I was entranced by the thought of a woman who could intimidate people so much that they’d literally paint white roses red just to make her happy; and of course, the croquet match itself, with the flamingos and hedgehogs – we played mock croquet for our wedding photos, so I had to choose this one as well!

Aleta and her husband were in the process of putting up a website in order to sell her wonderful collection of ephemera, so I had wanted to hold out until was online before posting this entry. I checked again tonight, and they have put up a front page so hopefully this means a fully functional site is not too far away. Please bookmark it and check back in the future, because she has a formidable wealth of knowledge about books and illustration, and is very skilled at tracking specific things down for her clients.

Let it also be a lesson to those of us who have had very old books in our possession with delicious illustrations from the ye olde times, but let them fall into disrepair or thrown them out. You could’ve been sitting on a goldmine! Indeed the early printings of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are worth a mint!

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  • tee

    God, I am so obsesssed with Alice in Wonderland; though I think you might know this? I definitely would have sent myself broke if I had seen those Rackham illustrations, how divine are they!

    I loved Cuddelpot and Snugglepie as a kid too. A while ago, I hunted all over for my copies (I had various ones when I was little) and couldn’t find them, but thankfully have found the same versions at various places since. The Banksia Men always scared the SHIT out of me, and to be honest, they still do.