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Joan Hassall, Lobster - Morag MacInnes on Eric Linklater Slightly Foxed Issue 43


‘The Sealskin Trousers collection of stories appeared in 1947. Our copy had a beautiful dust-jacket. It was bound in high-quality pre-war cloth and, crucially for a young person reading beyond her understanding, had glorious wood engravings by Joan Hassall . . .

The title page of our edition bore an engraving of a lobster, claws tied ready for the pot, lying on a bed of seaweed. I did know about lobsters, the rich dark blue of them and their fan tails. Fishermen friends would come by with a couple. The lobsters clambered up the sink, then knocked the pot gently as they boiled to death. I had no idea you could make them beautiful, even the string on their claws, in a printed book.’ Morag McInnes, writing in Slightly Foxed Issue 43.

About the contributor

Joan Hassall was born in Notting Hill in 1906. During the war she taught illustration at Edinburgh College of Art, replacing the tutor while he was away on war duties, and this Scottish connection influenced much of her work. She went on to design editions of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses and Burns’s poems, and illustrated Eric Linklater’s Sealskin Trousers, in which this lobster appears. Hassall was widely recognised for her work; in 1972 she was elected the first lady Master of the Art Workers’ Guild, and was awarded the OBE in 1987.

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