STEVENSON, Robert Louis. Fables. Illustrated by E. R. Herman. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1914.
(270 x 200 mm) pp. 83. With frontispiece and 19 full page tipped in illustrations in black and white— all present. Captioned tissue guards intact. Printed by Chiswick Press (British, London) by Charles Whittingham and Co. Inscription on front flyleaf: “To Nellie, November 8, 1914, from Dick Herman”. Spine has some bumps to extremities. Inside is bright and without foxing. Overall VERY GOOD to NEAR FINE condition.
Originally published in 1896, this 1914 update of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Fables opens dramatically with “Captain Smollett and Long John Silver step out of the pages of Treasure Island to discuss the role of the author: who is his favourite character? Does the author need both a villain and a virtuous character to write a good story? They debate about how well their own characters will fare in Treasure Island when they are recalled to the story by the author.” The tales continue, considering existential questions about the inevitability of death; responsibility versus desire; nature versus destiny; radical equality; and, truth and interiority. E. R. Herman’s illustrations of these themes are clearly evocative of Aubrey Beardsley’s work.
John Coulthart has done some work on E. R. Herman, whose forenames are unknown. Coulthart posits that Herman’s career was cut short by service in World War II, though some biographical entries suggest he died in 1930. It is possible— though unprovable— that the inscription “from Dick Herman” on the flyleaf may be the illustrator’s hand. Perhaps the R. stands for Richard, and he is signing with his nick name. Unknowable, but interesting.