Man of Mystery, Donn P. Crane
My background was very modest, little thought was given to music, art, or culture. Survival sucked up most of my parents energy and attention. With my parents so very distracted, I withdrew into my own world, my greatest solace, the source of so much that I love to this day, was an enchanting set of books called “My Book House”. They were arranged from kindergarten to twelfth grade. I inhaled every volume, Shakespeare, Wagner, Greek mythology, Aesop’s fables, tales of chivalry, enchanting world after enchanting world. My particular set was published in 1937 and edited by Olive Beaupre Miller.
I was particularly taken with the numerous images accompanying every tale, poem, or light history. Many of the illustrations were by a fellow named Donn P. Crane.
This particular image was produced in 1920, I haven’t researched the twelve volumes in a while, so I am unsure as to which tale he is illustrating. As you can see his composition is flawless, simple lines evoke so much depth and charm. I was delighted as a boy, and I find myself still delighted.
Many of the illustrations were black and white, his line work compensated for the lack of coloring.
Isn’t the leprechaun adorable?
Many of the illustrations were of a very limited palette , orange and turquoise. As a boy I did not like this palette, it felt limiting, cold, and alienating. If it hadn’t been for Mr.Crane’s magic, I wouldn’t have been able to endure the Howard Johnson’s color-way. I now of course love the combination, the use of opposites is powerful, it allows nuance and subtlety, and I imagine satisfied either budget or printing restrictions.
What I have always wondered about was if there was a connection to Walter Crane and Donn P. Crane. I see stylistic similarities, I have long fantasized that Donn was a son. I have lazily researched this topic and come up short. If anyone has a clue to Mr. Donn P. Crane’s history I would be delighted to know. Mr. Crane shaped my childhood, my taste was cultivated by his work and I still find myself inspired by the fantasy he created.
Thank you Mr. Crane
The set of “My Book House” that I grew up with is most like the bottom selection, a handsome dark navy. My mother, who was the first owner of the set remembers a fanciful bookshelf shaped like a little house. So very charming, but lost to time.
Another remnant of my mother’s childhood that enhanced my own rather bleak one, was a set of Victorian bookends, heavy ,ponderous and pretentious,shaped like a Regency bookshelf,they charmingly quote Shakespeare with “My library was Dukedom large enough”; with Crane and “My Book House” it certainly was.