This week, as the MOOC launches, I’ve been putting together a lecture for Unit 3 on The Forsaken Inn, a historical mystery novel by Anna Katharine Green, the “mother of detective fiction,” as she’s been called by her biographer (among others). I’ll be filming the lecture in the University of Virginia’s Special Collections library, which owns a first edition of the novel (New York: Robert Bonner’s Sons, 1890)–unfortunately without the original illustrated wrappers (in other words, the paper cover that went around the cloth). As I’ve learned, though, we also own the first paperback edition, published the same year and including a nice reproduction of the wraps, so I’ll be able to present the book in something like the form known to its first readers.
Victor Perard, “Coffee at One Cent,” from Jacob Riis, “How the Other Half Lives” (1890). Courtesy of authentichistory.com
What’s really exquisite about The Forsaken Inn
are the pen-and-ink drawings by Victor Perard, a little-studied but long-lived and internationally known Parisian emigre. Perard was a prolific illustrator of fiction and nonfiction of all varieties over the last few decades of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Pulp fiction, anatomy textbooks, drawing manuals: he illustrated anything and everything, and with an intricate attention to the details of story–often ghoulish details, in the case of Green’s novels. I’ve been able to find out just a little bit about him (from old volumes of Who’s Who in American Art
and other sources), though there could be some standard study of him I don’t know about. He graduated from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, showed quite a bit in North America, and by 1931 was an instructor in drawing at Cooper Union in New York. His anatomy and drawing textbooks have been reprinted
a number of times over the years (I’m assuming this 1955 textbook was his and not his son’s, though I don’t know for sure), and his drawings appeared in any number of fascinating collections over the years, including How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York
(1890), an enthralling collection of photographs and drawings of Manhattan tenement housing at the turn of the century accompanied by a critical text by Joseph Riis. I’ll post photographs of some of the plates from The Forsaken Inn
once I have good shots (and permission from the library). For now enjoy this drawing from How the Other Half Lives
, “Coffee at One Cent,” a pen-and-ink drawing of a penny coffee stand in nineteenth-century Manhattan (shared courtesy of authentichistory.com).