Clara Elsene Peck title page illustration for "In the Border Country" (1909): rare, beautifully framed antique
Title Page: In the Border Country
Book by Josephine Daskam Bacon
Illustrations by Clara Elsene Peck
New York. Dooubleday, Page & Company. 1909.
Image Size: H 7.50” x W 5.00”
Matted & Framed: H 15.00” x W 13.00”
Framed Price: $150.00
Whiteglove packaging and shipping approximately $25.00
Given the magnitude of her talent, it is surprising that CEP did not achieve greater success. The reason for this may be that, by starting her career with book projects that had small audiences of women readers, she branded herself as a producer of boutique books. This impression seems to have been compounded by life decisions that placed her on the edge of the illustration community.
CEP began her career in 1904 when publisher George W. Jacobs commissioned her to illustrate a vanity book by Philadelphia socialite Minna Thomas Antrim. Peck confirmed her considerable talents as a graphic artist and book designer with two more George Jacobs projects. Both these books were the work of Sara Hawks Sterling. The first was Shake-speare's Sweetheart (1905), which CEP designed and illustrated. She did the same for the second, whose title was A Lady of King Arthur's Court (1907).
In Imagining Shakespeare's Wife: The Afterlife of Anne Hathaway [Cambridge University Press. 2018.], Katherine West Scheil suggests that Sterling wrote the first of these books to explain Anne Hathaway’s life to “American women readers.” “At a time when women’s social and political roles were in flux,” Professor Sheil explains, "it is not surprising to see Anne take a larger role for women readers and writers . . . A cluster of American women writers in the first two decades of the twentieth century crafted extensive portrayals of Anne designed primarily for women readers, produce with generous illustrations and elaborate packaging appropriate for keepsake books.” [122.]
In 1908, CEP produced her beautiful illustrations for Rudyard Kipling's "The Adventures of Melissa," which appeared in the 28 November 1908 issue of Collier's Weekly. She may have been pregnant with her first child when she began work on Josephine Daskam Bacon peculiar little keepsake book. This time the commission came from Doubleday. Comments on the book tend to focus on CEP's designs and bewitching illustrations.