Designer O’ Nine Lives

Not for the first time, or indeed the last, we’re exploring the cross-over between children’s illustrations and graphic design of genius, this time in the company of Tom Eckersley.

It seems to be fairly well known that he did the illustrations for a couple of children’s books, but it’s rather harder to actually catch sight of them.

Tom Eckersley illustration for Cat O' Nine Lives

So today, here are some of the illustrations he did for Cat O’Nine Lives back in 1946.

Tom Eckersley illustration for Cat O' Nine Lives frontispiece

Quite apart from the design, the book has an autobiographical interest too.  It was written by his first wife Daisy, and is dedicated “To our sons: Anthony and Richard”.

Tom Eckersley illustration for Cat O' Nine Lives

I haven’t counted all the illustrations, but there are two kinds.  Some are full-page, inserted into the chapters on and with the whole page overprinted so that it is a different colour, like the owl and the artist below.

Tom Eckersley illustration for Cat O' Nine Lives

Tom Eckersley illustration for Cat O' Nine Lives

Then there are smaller illustrations at the start of each chapter.

Tom Eckersley illustration for Cat O' Nine Lives

Some are entirely black and white, a few have a single additional colour.

Tom Eckersley illustration for Cat O' Nine Lives

The paper quality isn’t the greatest, and the book itself is quite small (about 4.75″ x 7″), but given that it was printed just after the war this probably isn’t surprising.

Tom Eckersley illustration for Cat O' Nine Lives

What I find really interesting is how simple his illustrations are at this point in his career.  It’s as though he started out with an almost minimalist style, then became much more complicated and ornamental throughout the 1950s, and then, gradually, he unpicks this to become more and more simple once again.

Tom Eckersley illustration for Cat O' Nine Lives

You will notice that I say nothing about the story.  I quite like cats, but still find it fairly fey going.  But should you ever trip over it in a second hand book shop, don’t let that put you off.  As you can see, it’s worth it for the illustrations alone.

Tom Eckersley illustration for Cat O' Nine Lives

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2 Comments

  1. Posted January 16, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Oh this is wonderful, that’s me and our cat at the easel that is! Makes me want to own a copy thank you very much.

  2. crownfolio
    Posted January 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    While that’s definitely one of our cats sitting by the frying pan…

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