Usually the title Tales of Mystery and Imagination is associated with Edgar Allan Poe, who wrote these famous dark short stories, now an American literature classic. So who’s Harry Clarke then? He was an Edwardian book illustrator and artist and he did a wonderful work illustrating Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination.
A careful reprint of a 1923 edition
A few years ago, Calla Editions – an imprint of Dover Publications – edited a reprint of the Tales of Mystery and Imagination with illustrations by Harry Clarke, initially published in a 1923 edition. The book in itself is worth buying: large format, clothbound, gilded cover… It is beautiful.
For the little story I first saw it in a Dover Publications shop in London (now closed, RIP), when I was a penniless intern. It took me some time to get back there and finally buy this book I was dreaming of. I brought it back to Paris and it proudly adorns my shelves (if not posing for this blog’s pictures).
The lavish style of Harry Clarke
What makes this edition so special? Harry Clarke’s delicate illustrations! 24 monotone images and eight colour plates accompanying the haunting texts of Poe’s tales. The colour plates came later at the time of publication in 1923. In an early Art Nouveau style, the illustrations are wonderfully meticulous and lacy. You can see the full set on 50watts.com, with scans of the original edition: gorgeous!
While Aubrey Beardsley and his work on Wilde’s Salome are often mentioned when evoking Harry Clarke’s illustrations, I am personally remembered of some of Gustave Moreau‘s rich paintings. Somptuous details, feminine themes… Art lovers, what do you think?
Available online at Dover Publications’