Tuesday, 12 May 2009


I bought this copy of Kidnapped in the wonderful Haunted Bookshop in Cambridge. Robert Louis Stevenson is a writer I admire enormously and Kidnapped is a fantastic book. It actually cost less than the current paperback editions. It is a 1948 reprint of a 1946 Oxford University Press edition, illustrated by Rowland Hilder.

Hilder was a very successful painter and illustrator. His paintings are a little too illustrative for my liking, but his illustrations - his line illustrations at any rate - are, I think, undervalued.

Kidnapped is illustrated throughout with chapter headings. They sometimes feature characters from the book or scenes from the story but more often than not, they are landscapes or seascapes. Hilder was a landscape painter, so he was on firm ground there. But there are more to these images than simple landscape sketches.

Believe me, that degree of brevity and nonchalance is hard to pull off - especially if you are dealing with a sailing ship and all that rigging. I can think of few illustrators working today who could combine that degree of accuracy with that kind of spontaneity. Hilder employs a kind of traditional stamp-like wood engraving look, but with a calligraphic, almost Japanese fluidity of drawing. There are colour plates in the book but they are nothing more than competent. These chapter headings on the other hand are gems. . .


  1. I have that very edition, although without the dust jacket. There's a very evocative drawing pressed into the cover too. And a lovely fold-out map courtesy of Stanford's Map Establishment, not to mention the very nice paper it's printed on, and the enormous commas and apostophes. There's a Treasure Island that goes with it for you to seek out if you don't already have it! Same mix of colour illustrations with black and white section headers and end pieces.

  2. Hi Paul. Yes - I have the Treasure Island with the Hilder pics somewhere. And you can get his Kidnapped in a modern edition courtesy of Everyman's Library Children's Classics. They reprint (very nicely) and I have a copy of their Treasure Island with Peake illustrations. Lovely book.