Someone at publisher A&C Black has obviously been rummaging in the firm’s basement, where they found copies of the A&C Black series of ‘Sketchbooks’. These charming little books with their pencil drawings of scenes from British and European towns and cities were so popular that the series ran from 1913 into the 1950s.
Now they are likely to become popular all over again, as A&C Black have decided to republish some of them. And two of the books selected were illustrated by Dorothy Woollard. Good news indeed for DW fans.
The two books are ‘London’ from 1924 and ‘Brighton & environs’ from 1919 (Dorothy collaborated with H G Hampton on the illustrations for the Brighton book). Each contains 24 pencil drawings, capturing a bygone era where motor vehicles mingled with horse-drawn wagons, and buses had open staircases and open top decks.
Altogether Dorothy illustrated six of the Sketchbook series. In addition to the two that have just been reprinted, the others covered the Isle of Wight (she was stopped by the military on suspicion of spying when out sketching for the Isle of Wight book in 1916), Bristol (her home town), Riverside London (in collaboration with Percy Boxer), and Bournemouth & district. Original copies do turn up for sale fairly regularly, but rarely in good condition. So A&C Black’s decision to reprint at least some of them is a welcome move.
You can read more about Dorothy's illustrations for the A&C Black books, and her pencil drawings in general, in 'Dorothy Woollard and the etching revival'. Click here for more details.
Looking at a review copy of A&C Black's reprinted ‘London’ Sketchbook kindly provided by the publishers, it is clear that this is a faithful reproduction of the 1924 original, even down to the cloth-effect cover. A copy of the original 1924 publication is seen here on the left, with the 2009 republished version on the right.
This is a quality production, with stitched binding. The 24 illustrations - one to a page - cover many of London’s most famous and historic landmarks. But as usual it’s the human detail that makes Dorothy’s work stand out. In the drawing of St Paul’s Cathedral, for instance, it’s the three men sitting on a barge in the foreground that catch the eye. In the drawing of London’s Royal Exchange, the throng of people and traffic in front of the building captures nicely the hustle and bustle of Londoners going about their business.
Her drawing of Waterloo Bridge might be more accurately titled 'view of barges and jetties by the Thames, with a bridge just about visible in the background'. Dorothy was good at bringing a completely new perspective to well-known images. And bringing them to life in the process.
These are tremendous drawings, and the collection of 24 in the book can be yours for just £6.99 from any bookseller. The books would make perfect souvenirs of visits to London or Brighton, or an unusual gift for anyone interested in art and/or historic London. And of course, they are a must-have for collectors of Dorothy Woollard’s work.
The London and Brighton & environs sketchbooks are published by A&C Black Publishers, 36 Soho Square, London W1D 3QY. www.acblack.com. The ISBN numbers are: London sketchbook 978-1408111260, Brighton & environs sketchbook 978-1408115572.