Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Mystery Solved

Awhile back, I posted about two original illustrations from the 1930s that I had purchased on eBay. One of the illustrations was unidentified, and I had never seen the dust jacket before. Both the top and bottom parts of the artwork have been cut off, so the title of the book is missing. Here is the illustration:

I made three guesses about this artwork based on what I knew about the other artwork that the seller had sold and my own observations about this particular one.

1. The artwork was probably for a dust jacket from an A. L. Burt book. The seller had sold lots of original art for various A. L. Burt series books.

2. The artwork was for a book written by someone named Grove, since the name appears in what would have to be the spine area of the dust jacket. My guess was Harriet Pyne Grove.

3. The book probably had to do with treasure, since the main object of the illustration is treasure.

I have been searching online on eBay and in other venues for several months hoping to find a book with this dust jacket up for sale. I have been searching for both A. L. Burt books with dust jackets and for books by Harriet Pyne Grove. It has been difficult because A. L. Burt books are all scarce in dust jacket, and the majority of the books by Harriet Pyne Grove are scarce in dust jacket. Finally, I found it.

I was right in all three of my guesses. The book is The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt by Harriet Pyne Grove and was published by A. L. Burt.

The dust jacket is darker, and I think that the publisher changed some of the colors, probably so that the illustration would reproduce in the desired fashion. We know that Grosset and Dunlap did this, because some of Russell Tandy's original paintings still exist, and obvious changes were made to the dust jackets (see the September/October 2007 issue of The Sleuth for the article by David Farah). It is likely that A.L. Burt also altered the illustrations for the dust jackets. Regarding this dust jacket, a bag and some gold coins are on the table. In the original art, a bright yellow line is used to highlight the edges of the bag and coins. On the dust jacket, the bright yellow is changed to orange.

I carefully compared both the dust jacket and the artwork. Both the dust jacket and the artwork have suffered damage over the years, so I ignored those differences. Aside from the damage, the artwork and dust jacket are exactly the same, so I have no doubt that the artwork is the original used to produce the image on the dust jacket. I was even able to find a few light paint smudges in the artwork that must have occurred as it was painted that were exactly reproduced on the dust jacket.

I have no idea whether The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt is a good book, but the original artwork is already one of my favorite items in my collection. It is really neat. The image is stunning, and the dust jacket does not even come close in quality.


Daniel said...

Wow! Very cool that you have this! It looks like Pelagie Doane's work? Do you happen to know the cover illustrator, from having the book?

I have looked for Grove's Burt books for years, and have found some, although I haven't read any yet--that's a bad habit of mine. Originally I had some of the cheap reprints of a few of her books, but realized they were originally Burt.

Jennifer White said...

I have no idea who the artist is. The books do not mention the illustrator. I suspect that the cover art was done by someone in-house at A. L. Burt.