London: John F. Shaw and Co.,, 1903. Item #02471
With an Unrecorded Drawing by Arthur Rackham
WAIN, Louis, illustrator. RACKHAM, Arthur, illustrator. SMITH, H. Officer. GLADWIN, May, et al. Cats At Play. London: John F. Shaw, n.d. [c. 1900-1904].
First edition, unrecorded and scarce, with no copies in institutional holdings worldwide, and not noted in the Wain or Rackham bibliographies. Small quarto (9 5/8 x 7 1/8 in; 245 x 180 mm). 160 pp., with advertising as endpapers. Illustrated throughout in black and white and color, with fifteen drawings by Louis Wain, and an unrecorded text drawing by Arthur Rackham (so initialed) on page 40.
Publisher's quarter decorated cloth over full-color glazed pictorial boards, corners a little worn. A few illustrations hand-colored by a child. Closed tear to bottom edge of page. 17. Otherwise a very good copy. Early ink presentation dated "Christmas 1905" on front paste-down.
This title was later issued by Blackie & Son, 1917, and Alexandria Publications, c. 1920, in what appear to be abridged editions; the Blackie & Son edition collates to only twelve pages.
Anytime an unrecorded book illustration by Arthur Rackham comes to light, it's news. And the news could not be better. Buried within this book, unheralded, on page forty, is a black and white text illustration of four chickens in various states of distress as they observe, in high dudgeon and with no little annoyance, a cat within their food bucket chowing down the chicken feed - the nerve! And at the lower left of the bucket, as small as can be, are Rackham's initials as typically drawn. Latimore and Haskell, and Riall make no mention of this illustration in their Rackham bibliographies, and the Arthur Rackham Society was ignorant of it when we inquired.
At the time of this book's approximate publication, Rackham had already had work published, mostly under his name with credit on the title page, providing single or multiple illustrations for, amongst others, To the Other Side (1893); Isis Very Much Unveiled (1894); The Dolly Dialogues (1894); The Zankiwank (1896); The Money Spinner (1896); Two Old Ladies (1897); Captain Castle (1897); Through a Glass Lightly (1897); Charles O'Malley (1897); The Castle Inn (1898); Evelina (1898); The Ingoldsby Legends (1898); Gulliver's Travels (1900); Faithful Friends (1901); More Tales From the Stumps (1902); The Grey House on the Hill (1903); The Greek Heroes (1903); Red Pottage (1904); and The Peradventures of Private Pagett (1904). That he would accept a commission to provide a single text line drawing to this book with no more credit than his microscopic initials should not come as a surprise. Rackham was hustling for work wherever he could find it; good reviews and regular exposure were not enough to keep him fully employed with money in his pocket. And none of the other illustrators here received credit beyond their initials or full signatures to their contributions.
And so we have a previously unknown Rackham during his transitional period, when his fairies and goblins were emerging but had not yet fully vanquished the simple, pay-the-bills work of his early years.
Cf. Dale 34 and 35, in Dale, Louis Wain. The Man Who Drew Cats, p. 137.