Tales of Mystery and Imagination. By Edgar Allan Poe. Illustrated By Harry Clarke. London: Harrap, 1919. First Edition. Pp, 382. Publisher's green cloth, lettered in black & gilt, covers lightly scuffed, neat ownership name to front free endpaper, contents clean throughout.
A spectacular version of Poe’s popular tales.
Clarke had begun illustrating Poe’s hauntingly macabre otherworldly tales when he was twenty, having just left the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, but was formally commissioned by the London publisher, George Harrap, to prepare a set of 24 black and white full page and 12 ‘ornamental’ text illustrations to Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe in 1918. These would appear in a cloth edition in October 1919, as well as in three different collectors’ bindings of velvet Persian yapp, full morocco and in a limited, de luxe, full vellum edition of 170, signed and numbered on handmade paper. This impressive project came about as a result of the success of his illustrated Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales which Harrap had published two years earlier. Widely acclaimed and subsequently pirated, critics were stunned at how 'his tremendous imagination vitalised pictorially with amazing power and invention the Tales of Mystery and Imagination.' Such was their success that Harrap issued a further edition of his Poe Tales in 1923 with eight new colour plates tipped in, several additional line decorations and a new cover and jacket.
Harry Clarke gained a reputation for his stained glass window designs. As part of his studies he spent time in Paris under the tutelage of fellow stained glass designer, Ernest Taylor and his wife, the book illustrator, Jessie M King. His book illustrations are in the same style as his window designs, which can be seen today in many churches and most famously in Bewleys Café, Grafton Street, Dublin. His work reminiscent of the style of Aubrey Beardsley.