Friday, 23 July 2010

Books in pictures

On Wednesday, Cornflower talked on her blog about associating pictures with books. This is something I've done for a long time, and a number of my books have postcards tucked inside them which are somehow linked to the story. They are not always paintings - sometimes it's a postcard of a place mentioned, or perhaps a photo of a dress I imagine one of the characters might have worn. Occasionally the connection is more tenuous, and I just feel that a particular picture is appropriate to the book. Several books have print-outs of maps popped inside - I suppose all this indicates that I like visual cues to what I'm reading. I love illustrated books, not surprisingly, and can spend hours browsing through pictures.

The book that I immediately thought of, on reading Cornflower's post, was The Herb of Grace, by Elizabeth Goudge (my copy has its American title, Pilgrim's Inn). At the heart of the book is the discovery of a fresco in the ancient house to which the Eliot family have moved from London, the Herb of Grace, at Buckler's Hard on the Solent. The painting, discovered by the charmingly naughty twins Jerry and Josie, tells the story of St Eustace, here called Placidus,
a rich fairy-tale knight, riding out from the pages of an illuminated missal on his great while horse with its gay trappings, his spurs on his heels, his hunting horn slung over his shoulder, his hunting knife in his belt and his spear in his hand, his garments all bright and gay and richly furred, his dogs bounding about him.
Pisanello's famous painting of the scene is mentioned, and this, of course, is the picture I have tucked away in the book's pages - long one of my favourites.

The legend of Placidus is woven into the story of the Eliot family, creating a bond between family and home that will sustain each member. The meticulous tenderness with which the animals are painted becomes part of a greater image of love and protection, nurturing and restoring those who seek sanctuary at the Herb of Grace. Goudge, a devout Christian, has a rare ability to express a very English mysticism, so that her books sustain her readers as well.

Because such pictures have become a feature of my personal library, I thought I might take up this topic as an occasional series - when I pick up a book that has a picture slipped inside, or find a new picture/book link that seems right to me, I shall post about it here. Thank you, Cornflower, for the idea!


  1. Oh, that's lovely, and I want to read the book now!

  2. This is a lovely idea! I must have a go too. It's not something I've done before but I do like books with illustrations. I've just finished Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Vanora Bennett, which has a colour reproduction of Holbein's painting of Sir Thomas More's family. It makes the book so much more enjoyable to see what is described.

  3. I think I have not been a visual enough person in my life, because the idea of associating pictures with books is completely foreign to me - the exception being, obviously, illustrated books like The Little Prince. But I love this post! It's neat that you have those associations to books you love.

  4. Perfect! I think The Herb of Grace may be my favourite Goudge book.

  5. Great idea, and here's another one for you.
    I've made a charm bracelet, the charms represent various items mentioned in my favourite author's novels.

  6. Cornflower, all her books are lovely - if I could only take one author to a desert island, I think it would be her.

    BooksPlease, if a boom telaks about a painting and doesn't reproduce it... well, all I can say is thank goodness for the internet (although a good collection of art books never goes amiss!)

    Jenny, when I was growing up someone was always drawing, and I was encouraged to write and illustrate my own stories, so the association of books and pictures must be engrained.

    Callmemadam, The Rosemary Tree just squeaks ahead, for me, but it depends on the sort of day it is...I bought an O. Douglas book during the week, by the way.

    Geraldine, that's a lovely idea - would make a wonderful present for someone you knew had a favourite book, too.

  7. Don't know what went wrong in my reply to BooksPlease - "book talks" that was meant to be! Dyslexic typing again.

  8. I have loved Elizabeth Goudge for years and only wish more of her books were in print. My favourite has to be the Little White Horse, but Gentian Hill and the Dean's Watch run it a close second