Clara Elsene Peck end paper illustrations for "In the Border Country" (1909): rare, beautifully framed antique


End Papers: In the Border Country
     Book by Josephine Daskam Bacon
     Illustrations by Clara Elsene Peck
     New York. Doubleday, Page & Company. 1909.
     Image Size: H 7.50” x W 10.00”
     Matted & Framed:  H 15.00” x W 17.50”
     Framed Price: $250.00
     Whiteglove packaging and shipping approximately $30.00

Given the magnitude of her talent, it is surprising that CEP did not achieve greater success. The reason she did not may be that she started her career doing book projects that served small audiences of women readers. By doing this, she may have branded herself as a producer of boutique books. This handicap may have been compounded by life decisions that moved her to the edge of the illustration community. 

CEP's career began in 1904 when publisher George W. Jacobs commissioned her to illustrate a vanity book by Philadelphia socialite Minna Thomas Antrim. Peck demonstrated her considerable talent as a graphic artist and book designer with two more projects for George Jacobs. 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 a set of beautiful illustrations for Rudyard Kipling's "The Adventures of Melissa." These pictures appeared in the 28 November 1908 issue of Collier's Weekly. CEP may have been pregnant with her first child when she began work on In Border Country by Josephine Daskam Bacon. This  commission came from Doubleday. Comments about this peculiar little keepsake book tend to focus on CEP's design and bewitching illustrations. Some, myself include, consider its end papers, which CEP filled with bright clear colors, its most appealing feature.

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