Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"A Child's Garden of Verses" and the work of Eulalie

The Platt and Munk Company apparently found great success over the decades in publishing editions of Robert Louis Stevenson's whimsical poetry collection, A Child's Garden of Verses. In fact, one statistic that's floating around the great unvetted Internet is that P&M sold in excess of two million copies of the book.

This hardcover edition was published in 1932, and I want to share some of the wonderful illustrations by Eulalie Minfred Banks (1895-1999), who went simply by Eulalie. According to her 1999 obituary in The Independent, she earned a flat fee of $950 for her work on this book, which I believe was first published in 1929. That's the equivalent of more than $13,000 in modern dollars, which is a pretty nifty payment. But, in taking a flat fee, she might have left a lifetime worth of much greater royalties on the table. Especially if the figure of two million book sales is accurate.

Of course, that wasn't the only work she did for Platt and Munk. She had a long relationship with the company. According to her Los Angeles Times obituary, she "churned out endless animals for books of nursery rhymes, fairy tales and folk stories that have been reprinted for generations of children."

She also painted murals for Hollywood stars, including Charlie Chaplin.

And there is this wonderful — and, for this blog, relevant — tidbit, also from her Los Angeles Times obituary:
Banks was outraged in 1983 when she was asked to remove gnomes, elves and fairies from a mural she did for a decorator's showcase house in Pasadena.

"They told me the children didn't know what they were," she told The Times afterward. "It's cruel [how] children don't read anymore. ... Now they sit and watch television."

Asked what she would say to a modern child, she said: "Do believe in fairy tales. Hang on to the magic. Never lose your sense of wonder and whimsy, or you'll lose a part of your soul."
When a woman who lived to age 104 says this, you should listen.

So here's a chance for you to enjoy and hold onto some of that whimsy, via Eulalie's work for A Child's Garden of Verses. Here are the endpapers, a pair of line illustrations and a gorgeous full-color work.

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