Wednesday 2 October 2013

Waistcoat Anecdotes and a Trip to the Moon: Baron Munchausen, Illustrated by Bichard, Warne, c1878

There are countless editions of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, illustrated by an equally innumerable crowd of artists (what is the collective noun for artists?), but this is surely one of the most attractive. There's no date printed inside, but the copy which has recently arrived at Withnail Books has a gift inscription from Christmas Day 1878. While it's not in absolutely mint condition, it would still make a pretty wonderful present 135 Christmasses later...

The 18 illustrations by Alphonse Adolf Bichard are fairly ubiquitous online (you can buy prints of them from the various 'it's out of copyright so we'll do what we like with it' art companies) but it's quite something to see them as they were originally presented, with colour printing which must have been top-flight, state-of-the-art stuff in its day. The photos below can't really do them justice, plus this is a big book, c13 inches x 9 1/2 inches.

Here's betting Terry Gilliam owns a copy of this edition: there's a lot in Bichard's art which appears to have influenced his ill-fated movie version. I really must watch it again. The first time I saw it, the projectionist missed out a whole reel, and I'm pretty sure mixed up the order of the others. That not many people in the audience noticed says something about the dreamlike nature of the film, and indeed the original tales.

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