Manuscripts and Special Collections

Illustrating Literature

The drama of the Northern tales, peopled by giants and mythic creatures, provided inspiration for many artists. The book illustrations which from the late nineteenth century accompanied modern versions of the stories make a fascinating study. Their Northern theme and origin is usually instantly recognizable - for instance, in their conventional (though inaccurate) use of winged or horned helmets.


The Giant with the Flaming Sword

The Giant with the Flaming Sword by J C Dollman

Frigga Spinning the Clouds

Frigga Spinning the Clouds by J C Dollman



The painter John Charles Dollman (1851-1934) was a popular illustrator - his work conveys a powerful sense of drama. In 1908 E M Wilmot-Buxton used eight of Dollman's images in Told by the Northmen, and in the following year nine were reproduced in H A Guerber's Myths of the Norsemen from the Eddas and Sagas.

Among his most arresting illustrations are The Giant with the flaming sword, and The wolves pursuing Sol and Mani. Dollman's images of Frigga Spinning the Clouds and Sigurd and Gunnar are often reproduced.


The Binding of Fenris

The Binding of Fenris by D Hardy

Beowulf challenged by the Coastguard

Beowulf challenged by the Coastguard by E Paul



Several of the early 20th-century illustrators of sagas and mythological tales were female. Little is known about Dorothy Hardy, whose work is reminiscent of Dollman's in its dramatic quality. Her powerful interpretation of The Binding of Fenris was used by Guerber in Myths of the Norsemen (1909).

A very different style is apparent in the images of Evelyn Paul (fl. 1906-1922); her illustration Beowulf challenged by the Coastguard appeared in Guerber's later collection, Myths & Legends of the Middle Ages (1911).


Next: Observing and Recording


Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651