Monday, September 26, 2016

Ralph Steadman: The Dogsbodies Portfolio

What happens when a popular illustrator's fan base grows up and gains in affluence? Well, for one thing, some of that illustrator's earlier work may get reissued in deluxe portfolio editions. Some of his drawings may be published as limited edition prints. It's the publishing equivalent of all those '70s bands who are still touring because their fans are now well-off. A case in point here is Ralph Steadman's Dogsbodies, first published in 1970. This was a transitional year in Steadman's career. His iconic Alice in Wonderland artwork was done in 1967 but apparently not collected in book form until 1973. His collaboration with Hunter S. Thompson took off this year with the publication of "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved" in Rolling Stone.

Was Dogsbodies a commercial success in 1970? One clue is the publication thirty years later of The Dogsbodies Portfolio, which includes the original edition of the 1970 book. There are seventy numbered copies of the portfolio plus an additional thirty artist's proofs. If there were one-hundered pristine copies of the 1970 book presumably still in the artist's possession in 2000, how successful could the book have been?

The Dogsbodies Portfolio has a number of quirks beyond the inclusion of the original softbound publication. That book is signed in brown ink—to distinguish it from the black printer's ink used in the published volume—where modern book collectors might expect to see the signature on the limitation page. That limitation page makes the egregious error of getting the name of the original book wrong, calling it "DOG BODIES." That's inexcusable. A diligent proofreader might also have added an apostrophe to the word artist's and a couple of hyphens elsewhere as well.

Ralph Steadman, The Dogsbodies Portfolio, 2000

The original illustrated book is housed on the left while the prints and limitation page re on the right.

Ralph Steadman or someone close to him had one-hundred copies of the 1970 first edition to lend to this project.

Ralph Steadman, Ink Hound, 21/70 + 30 artist's proofs
Does the second color of the print add anything to the original drawing?

The limitation page, 21/70, with a printed signature and numerous typographic errors

The original Dogsbodies of 1970 signed by Ralph Steadman in brown ink

eBay Listing as of September 26, 2016

eBay Item Description

Note:  "A Retrospective:  Ralph Steadman" is now showing at the Society of Illustrators. Through October 22.

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