Thursday, July 11, 2019

Isabel Russell's Copy of The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White

E. B. White was born one-hundred twenty years ago today on July 11, 1899. The Trumpet of the Swan, the last of his great trio of children's books, will turn fifty next year. Isabel Russell worked as secretary to White and his wife Katharine in Maine in the 1970s. In 1988, three years after White's death (Katherine had passed away in 1977), Russell published a memoir about the literary couple:

The Trumpet of the Swan dates from 1970, the year Russell began her work for the Whites. Her copy of the book is inscribed by White in the year of publication and is accompanied by a real rarity: an original published book illustration by White himself! New Yorker cartoonist Edward Frascino provided all the drawings in The Trumpet of the Swan save this one by White which appears on page 5 of the book. White, one of the talented writers who helped establish the fledgling New Yorker's towering reputation, occasionally dabbled in illustration. Nearly forty years earlier in 1932, White had published a single New Yorker cover:

His illustration in pencil for his own book isn't quite so fanciful or accomplished. The swan's neck and body don't seem to articulate quite right, for example. Still, out of respect for White's outstanding literary gifts, which included as keen an observation of nature as one could hope for, I think we should give him a pass.

E. B. White
AbeBooks Listing Retrieved July 10, 2019

Note:  My personal childhood reading included E. B. White's Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. I did not read The Trumpet of the Swan.

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