London: Heinemann, 1908
[S.L.] IV [Rackham – 1908]
This edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is among the greatest work by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939), produced at the height of his career as Britain’s preeminent illustrator. According to ceramic artist William de Morgan, it was “the most splendid illustrated work of the century”. The book was clearly produced as a vehicle for the artist, with Rackham’s name appearing as prominently as Shakespeare’s on the title page, and to the exclusion of Shakespeare’s on the upper board. The work contains forty mounted, full-page colour illustrations and thirty-four line drawings which depict vividly, with an underlying sense of horror, witches, gnomes, fairies, and anthropomorphised trees, the latter of which became one of Rackham’s trademarks. Simultaneously, settings were recognisable: Wimbledon Park, Ruislip churchyard, and Walberswick, Suffolk. It is not the only time that Rackham illustrated the Dream – he was to do so again for a unique copy at the New York Public Library in 1930 and for the Limited Editions Club in 1939 – but it remains the one for which he is best known.