Stream of consciousness is a useful tool when you write a blog.
One bookish thought leads to another and before you know it I'm scurrying to my shelves for a pile of books to share on here and, love them though I do, it really helps if the house is empty and the thoughts flow unhindered
Last Saturday morning and Bookhound is out for the day helping the Gamekeeper do what the Gamekeeper does.The Kayaker, currently between rivers, is in residence but has headed off to Wales for the weekend. West Country rivers are disappointingly low for his liking so a trip in search of white water has guaranteed us a day and a night of torrential rain here.Then he's off to something called The Hurley Rodeo where they ride kayaks instead of horses but probably shout yeeee-haaaaah giddy-up neddy just the same.
In amongst the post was one of those catalogues from a second-hand bookshop, this one Bow Windows in Lewes, Sussex. I'm not a collector of rarities any more, so nothing seems affordable, but one book catches my eye, The Wood Engravings of Gwen Raverat published in 1959, a first edition going for £200.
Still not affordable but I had a quick covet.
Anything by Gwen Raverat now fetching good prices and mention of Frances Spalding earlier this week leads me immediately to her biography, Gwen Raverat, Friends, Family & Affections.
I'm sure I must have mentioned it here before, ( in fact I know I have because idly typing Gwen- Raverat- woodcuts into google images flags up just about every picture I have ever put on this blog, it's on here somewhere ) and many will have read Period Piece, Gwen's own account of her childhood, but if you missed the biography and want a page-turningly readable and informative account of a woman you may know little about this one is not to be missed.
Born in 1885, Gwen was the granddaughter of Charles Darwin and thus part of a well-established and highly respected Cambridge family.What radiates from the pages of Frances Spalding's book is a fascinating character, hugely resilient, devoted to her loved ones and immensely talented. Moving on the edges of the Bloomsbury Group, Gwen enrolled in the Slade School of Painting and Drawing; wood-engraving of little interest when she first sharpened her chisels but her talent soon became apparent.
Much more to it than cutting a few lines in a bit of wood as I first thought, woodcuts follow the grain of the wood, wood-engravings are cut on the end grain.The illustrations are plentiful, page after page of Gwen's work and if you are near Cambridge, and can find the Broughton House Gallery , you can indulge in some reasonably priced books of the engravings as well as browsing The Gwen Raverat Archive.
I never tire of looking at them and would like to think I could now spot a Gwen Raverat at twenty paces but that might be a bit ambitious.However the book opened my eyes to the whole craft and I went through a very dodgy patch of wanting some chisels to have a go until 'someone' tactfully reminded me that it helps if you can draw in the first place, which I can't.
It's probably infringing all copyright rules to add a woodcut here but how can I not share The Land of Storybooks? The photo, of the photo of the copy of the original is mine if that helps and I can only beg forgiveness from Family Raverat, but I'm sorry I just have to do it. I'll go to prison and help in the library, that's fine.