Things that are lost: a story of a cover

I first met this story about six years ago, perhaps seven. Published in 1927, written by a child, between the ages of nine and twelve. From first reading I have been haunted by the author, Barbara Newhall Follett.

Some time ago I tried to find a publisher for the book. The first I showed it to said to me, “You wrote this, didn’t you? You wrote it and then made up that most amazing back story.” I wasn’t sure whether to be flattered that they thought I could be so clever, or insulted that they thought I wrote like a twelve year old. I have tremendous respect for the minds of children, and love the words in the book, so I came down on the side of flattery.

But complications ensued, and then along came The Lost Words.

Roll forward a few years, and Barbara Newhall Follett would not go away. In conversation with my agent Jessica Woollard she came up, along with her story. So many parallels to The Lost Words. Barbara loved dictionaries. Her literacy, both natural and in words, was so rich. She loved the wild places, thrived in them, and she created a wild child of perfection in a Utopian dream sequence of a novel. Jessica took the book to Simon Prosser and Hermione Thompson at Hamish Hamilton. The resulting work, The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett, with introduction and illustrations by me, with be published on 3rd Oct of this year.

For the cover, designed by Alison O’Toole, I inked a cloud of butterflies and stood back. Alison and I have worked together on a few things now. She read the introduction I had written and then……

she created something so beautiful. Gold dusted butterflies and a rising swallow. So elegant.

I don’t want to say too much about the book. Suffice to say that the author still haunts me. I’ve spent so much time in the pages she wrote that I think of her as a friend. There are so many things in her writing that show her to be a creature out of time. She was a reader, a walker, a lover of books, wild places. She would not be bound by convention, refused the role society offered her, sailed her own path. Her voice, through her writing, is wild, free and achingly beautiful. And my hope is that through this re-issue of her work she will haunt you too.

Most of the work for The house Without Windows happened outside, reading on the hill, on the beach, writing also, mostly at the beach and then swimming. While reading about the sea where in the book white birds dived into the water a tern flew across the bay, dived, rose again. On the hill as she spoke of swallows I looked up to see swallows in the sky. It was a curious and haunting parallel. And one that I love. The image above shows the original first edition, prized, but also battered from being carried around so much. It’s a book that loves the outside world.

About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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9 Responses to Things that are lost: a story of a cover

  1. Freyalyn Close-Hainsworth says:

    Can’t wait.

    • mlholton says:

      Hello from across the pond. Currently enjoying the summer solstice from the southern shore of Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes in the North American continent. It is so important that we all reconnect to our planetary home. We need to marvel, to feel awe and wonderment. ~ Your work is such a beautiful and gentle reintroduction. Thank you.

  2. Valerie campbell says:

    This seems wonderful and I am looking forward to seeing, touching, reading it!

  3. Ruth Keys says:

    How amazing and wonderful.

  4. John Ward says:

    I greatly look forward to this. I was looking back and it is four years ago in March that you first drew my attention to her, when you tweeted some lines of an extraordinary poem by her. I think at that point you were planning to do a radio programme about her.

  5. Terra says:

    I look forward to the book, the author sounds like a delightful person.

  6. Bernie Bell says:

    Things that are lost………………turn up. Hurrah for the flying fishes.
    Action follows thought – it does, you know.

  7. Bernie Bell says:

    Re. Barbara Muldoon’s tweets – I’m not on Twitter, so – here’s something……….

    People forget her actions when she was Home Secretary. It was a warning.
    She’s going now. But……….

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