This year we celebrate all things Pride and Prejudice in honor of the novel’s 200 year anniversary. Just recently, Ruby Lane sold a rare, out of print, limited 1940 edition of Pride and Prejudice, illustrated by Helen Sewell, an illustrator of mainly children’s books. People today still recognize the original drawings she created for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House books.
About Helen Sewell
Sewell was born June 27, 1896 at Mare Island Navy Yard, California. Her family moved to Guam shortly afterward, where her father, William Elbridge Sewell, served as Governor.
Sewell wanted to be an artist since the age of eight. At 12 years old, she began attending Pratt Institute’s Saturday classes and by 16 years of age was enrolled there full time. This was in place of completing high school. At Pratt, she studied classes with Alexander Archipenko, who was the underlying influence for her broken-cylinder figures.
Sewell began her long career working on Christmas and greeting cards; her first illustrated publication was in 1923. She primarily illustrated children’s books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Elizabeth Coatsworth, Eleanor Farjeon, and Frances Clarke Sayer. As with Pride and Prejudice and a 1957 edition of Sense and Sensibility, Sewell also created drawings for a small number of adult publications.
Sewell’s style included a simple use of color, which at times eliminated black all together, and her use of the white paper. Her line drawings were in imitation of 19th century steel engravings. She died in 1957 at the age of 61.
About the Limited 1940 edition of Pride and Prejudice
The image at right is of a hardcover, green marbled slipcase. Quarter binding, green marbled board cover, with brown faux leather spine. Heritage edition illustrations are signed by the illustrator. (The commercial issue would have fewer illustrations for the ordinary book buyer.) It is said that photographic images do the drawings no justice, for they are quite detailed when seen in person.
This limited edition book sold for $74 at Ruby Lane. I would gladly have paid more. Other limited edition books are selling for as much as $900 per copy. (Click on images for a larger view.)