The First Drawings by Aubrey Beardsley.
BEARDSLEY, Aubrey. Programme for The Brighton Grammar School Annual Entertainment 1888. Presented at The Dome, Wednesday, 19 Dec. 1888. Brighton Grammar School, 1888.
8vo, blue cloth boards, lettering in gilt direct to upper board and on navy blue leather label to spine; original yellow wrappers bound in; pp. 46 [ii], some light spotting and yellowing throghout, the odd nick or small tear to extremities of pages; p. 36 with smudge to edge roughly 3.5cm long, still a very good copy. Extremely scarce.
This "Programme and Book of Words" (priced four pence) contains some of the earliest published drawings, eleven in total, of the (then schoolboy) Aubrey Beardsley, described thus on the contents page: "The Illustrations are ORIGINAL Etchings by A. V. Beardsley, A Present Boy", and illustrate The Pay of the Pied Piper , a comic opera. Beardsley and C.B. (later Sir Charles) Cochran are listed in the cast - Cochran later became the owner of this book and it is his pencil notes which can be found on the endpapers (Lasner 5).
Beardsley's brief artistic career was remarkably influential. In the seven years he was able to draw and write before succumbing to tuberculosis, he was able to develop a reputation as one of the most controversial artists of his time. The linear elegance of his designs, coupled with his bizarre sense of humour and fascination with the grotesque and taboo simultaneously intrigued and repelled his Victorian audiences. His illustrations comprised characteristics of Aestheticism, Decadence, Symbolism, and, most famously, Art Nouveau. Beardsley's block prints allowed his work to be easily reproduced and widely circulated. The diabolic beauty of his work and its overwhelming presence in English publishing houses meant that he quickly became the most influential draftsman of his time.
Sir Charles Cochran was close friends with Beardsley at Brighton Grammar School, and together they shared an enthusiasm for acting, often appearing in plays together. Unlike Beardsley, however, Cochran went on to become a theatre producer, as well as manager to such figures as Houdini and the wrestler Hackenschmidt. He underwent bankruptcy several times, but undeterred, he bounced back as a promoter of freak shows at Olympia, featuring roller-skating and performing fleas. He also promoted boxing matches featuring Wells, Beckett, and Carpentier. Cochran's art collection included impressionist paintings acquired long before they became fashionable, many of them gradually sold off to finance new productions. The library that he amassed contained numerous valuable items and first editions.