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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Art of Reginald Heade (Special Edition)

(* A new edition of this title has been published with some minor changes; see my update at the bottom of this review.)
I reviewed the original edition of The Art of Reginald Heade by Stephen James Walker when it was originally published in January 2017. A bumper compendium of stunning art by one of the best cover artists to grace British books. I said at the time that "this is everything the Heade collector could want," and praised the book for being "astonishingly complete for those covers we know about." Complaints? Some of the images could have been larger and a handful – a small handful – were reproduced from very poor scans.

Well, there is now a Special Edition, which almost doubles the original 168 pages, answering my plea about "wanting more" and fixing most of the reproduction problems with new and better scans. Some images that were small are now larger, notably scarce items such as his colour illustrated Treasure Island, which had 28 plates and a cover spread over not quite two pages, which now appear over eight pages. The reproduction appears better on at least some of the images that have not changed (I've not gone through the whole book with a magnifying glass... but I've gone through some of it).

But the real bonus is the number of additional images, over 400 according to the back cover. While Heade's paperback covers were well represented in the earlier edition, this latest version adds a few previously missing Hamilton and Brown Watson titles, and fills in the gaps left last time in the Timothy Trenton novels published by various printers for Gaywood.

The greatest expansion is probably in reproductions of dust-jackets for adult and children's books. The original book had 18 pages of hardbacks to the Special Edition's 54, and his earliest work displayed now dates back to 1932 rather than 1936. The one thing that might strike you is how accomplished Heade was as an artist from the very start. and how he captured the essence of femininity in his female models. His male models were perfunctory in comparison, usually placed behind the woman who was the focus of the image.

The children's section is expanded from 20 pages to 76, with a great many more reproductions and some interesting examples of unused alternative colour art from a couple of books.

Add a bonus gallery at the end, and the additional 150 pages offer almost a new book's worth of Heade's fantastic artwork. I said in my original review that "To have all these rare book covers in one place fulfills a collector's dream." That now goes (almost) double for the Special Edition.

The Art of Reginald Heade Special Edition. Telos Publishing ISBN 978-1845-83116-5, 24 August 2018, 318pp, £50.

UPDATE - 10 November 2020

The Art of Reginald Heade Special Edition has now been re-released with the slight change in title to add "Vol. 1" to the spine in reference to the simultaneous release of The Art of Reginald Heade Volume Two. The copyright page notes that the reprint has some minor revisions, and it is also worth noting that there is a further improvement to the reproduction of some of the covers, as can be seen in the comparison above. The new printing is on the left, the earlier on the right.

The book is essentially the same – I noticed only one additional image (p.168) – so don't feel that you need to replace your copy if you already have one. However, if you don't have a copy, this is a good opportunity to get this essential book on the art of one of Britain's finest cover artists.

The Art of Reginald Heade Special Edition. Telos Publishing ISBN 978-1845-83116-5, November 2020, 319pp, £50. Available from the publisher or via Amazon.

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