Clara Elsene Peck illustration for "Shake-speare's Sweetheart" (1905): beautifully framed antique


"A health to - Shakespeare's freedom and - Shakespeare's Sweetheart!"

     Book by Sara Hawks Sterling
     Illustrations by Clara Elsene Peck
     Philadelphia. George W. Jacobs & Co. 1905.
     Image Size: H 8.75” x W 6.25”
     Matted & Framed:  H 16.75” x W 14.25”
     Framed Price: $175.00
      Whiteglove packaging and shipping approximately $25.00

Given the magnitude of her talent, it is surprising 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, CEP branded herself as a producer of boutique books. The limitations imposed by this impression may have been compounded by life decisions that placed her on the perimeter 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 three more early projects for Jacobs. The last two of these were works by Sara Hawks Sterling. CEP designed and illustrated Shake-speare's Sweetheart in 1905. She did the same for A Lady of King Arthur's Court two years later.

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 two 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.]

Having established herself as an expert practitioner in this boutique genre, CEP remained there through the best years of her working life. Finding examples of her work is therefore comparative hard. What a pity!



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