A gap of more than sixty years between the creation of this book and its publication has done little to diminish its freshness, in terms of concept, design, colour and draftsmanship. Sheila Robinson produced this book as a completely finished, bound, hand-made artefact when she was a student at the Royal College of Art in the late 1940s. The original book resides in the Fry Art Gallery and Museum in Saffron Walden, along with a rich collection of the work of other artists who settled in and around the village of Great Bradfield in Essex in the mid-Twentieth Century. The Twelve Dancing Princesses was designed exactly to conform to the Picture Puffin series format. That is to say, it is a thirty-two page book, nine inches by seven inches, with spreads that alternate between colour and black and white. We do not know whether Robinson’s book was ever presented to Puffin or any other publisher at the time.
Certainly, by the time it was produced, Puffin Picture Books had already become successful enough to allow for some of the books to be reproduced from full colour originals such as this rather than from separations. Interestingly, Robinson’s use of limited colour in semi-transparent layers gives the effect of printed separations. The preparatory studies reproduced here are from Robinson’s sketchbook that is also held in the North West Essex Collection. These beautifully articulate roughs give us an insight into the depth of research and preparation that was undertaken in order to arrive at the apparently effortless poetry of the final pages.
About the editor
Martin Salisbury is Professor of Illustration at Cambridge School of Art in Anglia Ruskin University. He trained as an illustrator at art school in the 1970s before working as an artist, illustrator, lecturer and writer. He is the author of a number of books on the practice and theory of illustration, which have been published in numerous languages around the world.