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An Artist’s Book Edition of The Little River

The Little River by Margaret Wise Brown, with illustrations by Michael Kuch. Number 38 of the 60 copies issued by Two Ponds Press in 2013. Call number: 2014 Folio 629.

Most people know Margaret Wise Brown as the writer of Runaway Bunny (Harper, 1942) and Good Night Moon (Harper, 1947). Many may not know that she wrote almost one hundred other books for children, several while working as an editor for William R. Scott – among them the Noisy Book series.

Brown’s work is notable for the skill she had for telling a tale in a way that is especially appealing to children’s sensibilities. She encouraged the illustrators she worked with to approach their art in the same way. And she collaborated with some of the most talented artists of her day, including Clement Hurd, Leonard Weisgard, Garth Williams and Jean Charlot.

Brown loved nature and infused all of her writing with the sensory beauty of the world around her. One such book written in 1951 and called The Little River eluded illustration and publication until Two Ponds press issued this extraordinary artist’s book edition in 2013.

Liv Rockefeller found the manuscript of The Little River as loose leafs stowed away in a small handmade journal that once belonged to Brown. She felt that she should do something with the manuscript, and with her husband, Ken Shure, they started Two Ponds Press and produced this beautiful artist’s book rendering of The Little River. Michael Kuch made the extraordinary etchings, using flora gathered from the woods around the two ponds near Rockefeller’s and Shure’s home in Maine.

This deluxe edition includes field notes that detail the creative process and a handsomely designed case that holds a facsimile of the manuscript.

  

Publication of The Little River as an artist’s book seems apt, as some of the success and appeal of Brown’s books relate to the way in which they function like miniature and portable art galleries – each held together by a carefully wrought narrative.

In addition to this artist’s book edition, the Beinecke holds many of the children’s books published during Brown’s lifetime. The library also holds the Dorothy Wagstaff Collection of Margaret Wise Brown, call number GEN MSS 1390 (Wagstaff illustrated Brown’s work under the penname “Wag”) and the William R. Scott Records, call number YCAL MSS 447.

by Elizabeth Frengel
March 23, 2016

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