Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Glorious artwork nostalgia

Have you ever kept a book not because you liked the story, or were interested in the subject, but because the cover art and the illustrations were so beautiful you could not let them go? As a child I loved the books in my shelves for their paperback covers, with matching inside illustrations, mainly Puffins from the 1960s and 1970s.

puffin-by-designA year or so ago, I was overjoyed to find a whole book full of Puffin covers – Phil Baines’s Puffin By Design – which I bought for myself (rather guiltily) for Christmas, and occasionally gloat over when there’s no-one looking. It reeks with memories for me, because I owned or read or borrowed most of the books whose covers are gathered inside. But it’s also infuriating , because it’s just the covers. It’s like being given the catalogue to every book I ever read, but without the stories.

Here is something very similar, still on the same nostalgia trip – Petra’s Cupboard. A website of illustration that plunges me back into the pictures that illuminated my childhood reading, with all their power, fear, horror, beauty, magic and incomprehension.


All the illustrators whose names I knew because they fascinated me are here – Charles Keeping, Edward Ardizzone, Pauline Baynes, Tove Jansson, Victor Ambrus (he of Time Team!), Cynthia Harnett –  and quite a few who I instantly recognised but never knew their names – Maurice Lalau, Brian Wildsmith, Norman Price. This site is packed with richness and outstanding art; it links to the sites of artists still working or to the agents of those who aren’t, and is a beautiful place to get lost. Go look.

About Kate

Blogger, lecturer, podcaster, writer, critic, reviewer, researcher, and publisher (, in and on British literary history. Preferred occupation while listening to podcasts: cooking or knitting. Preferred soundtrack while reading: the sound of silence.

3 comments on “Glorious artwork nostalgia

  1. Jackie
    September 27, 2013

    What a great idea for a book, but it would’ve been nice had they put a little blurb about the stories too. It started me thinking about the covers of books I loved as a child. Thanks also for that website, I’ll definitely be checking it out, as i really enjoy looking at book illustrations from any time period.

  2. Anna van Gelderen
    October 6, 2013

    I was so utterly charmed by Petra’s Cupboard that I visited the website of the design studio run by her and her partner Iain. One thing led to another, I asked a free quote for an overhaul of my own blog and in no time Petra had made a wonderful new design for it. I am very happy with it and really have you to thank for it! So, thank you!

  3. Kate
    October 6, 2013

    Golly: that’s what I call an entirely unexpected but very wonderful result..Thanks for passing it on!

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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