Mead Schaeffer end paper illustrations for "Tom Cringle's Log"(1927): rare, beautifully framed antique


End Papers for Tom Cringle's Log           
     By Michael Scott
     Illustrations by Mead Schaeffer
     New York. Dodd, Mead and Company. 1927.
     Image Size: H 9.375” x W 14.00”
     Matted & Framed:  H 16.375” x W 24.00”
     Framed Price: $285.00
     Whiteglove packaging and shipping
       approximately $35.00

While studying at the Pratt Institute between 1917 and 1920, MS gained a reputation as a gifted artist. The accolades he won as a student were reinforced by Harvey Dunn and Dean Cornwell, who endorsed him for his first commissions.

While still a student, A.L. Burt Company of New York hired MS to create covers and frontispieces for a boy’s adventure series L. P. Wyman was then writing. MS appears to have received a second commission as he was finishing Burt's project (c. 1921). This commission from Harcourt, Brace was to illustrate The Black Buccaneer by Stephen W. Meader. Significant questions surround this project because the illustrations MS created for the raucous sea adventure are in the style he used after studying with Harvey Dunn (c. 1920-1923) and Dean Cornwell (c. 1926-1927).

MS appeared to have worked with Dunn after completing his studies at Pratt. Dunn was an all-purpose artistic genius known particularly for the masterful way he applied pigment. It seems MS turned to Dunn in the early 1920s to improve his brush work and add motion to his scenes. 

Improvements in these painterly fundamentals led to the large commission from Dodd, Mead in 1922. This involved producing illustrations for a series of classic adventure novels. Over the next eight years, MS illustrated more than a dozen books for Dodd, including  Moby Dick (1923), Typee (1923), Omoo (1926), The Cruise of the Cachalot (1926), Tom Cringle’s Log (1927), The Count of Monte Cristo (1928), The Three Musketeers (1929), Lorne Doone (1930), Les Miserables (1930), and Wreck of the Grosvenor (undated). The last half-dozen these exhibit MS’s mature style, being  action-oriented compositions, a la Dean Cornwell, painted with flamboyant brush strokes, a la Harvey Dunn.

The end papers MS produced for Tom Cringle’s Log perfectly portray Michael Scott's piratical tale. It appeared originally in serial form between 1829 and 1833. Editor William McFee explained in his preface that Scott spent many of his early years in the West Indies while the things he wrote about were taking place. According to McFee, while Scott's stories were not deep, they were never dull. Schaeffer’s interpretations of them pull the reader into Scott's page-turning adventure. Like N. C. Wyeth, we sense that Schaeffer is aiming the cannon, clawing over the rail, and running the scoundrel through with his cutlass. We are in the thick of the action because MS was part of it.

The color scheme of the sea battle pictured in the book’s end papers is purposely subdued, being that M designed it to set the tone of the story rather than to tell it.  

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