One of the most fertile areas of book illustration is undoubtedly the world of childrens books. George Adamson soon
established a reputation in this field starting with the delicate line and gouache illustrations to Ginn school readers. His
collaboration with Ginn (notably with Irene Shelton) lasted many years and enabled him to display his strong sense of design such as in the stylized
black-and-white illustrations to the Word Perfect series of English textbooks for schools, or in the countless gouache
drawings in full colour for the revised Old Lob reader series for the very young.
Adamsons work has also taken its place in the longstanding tradition of illustrating stories and poetry for children.
First published in 1958, The Faber Book of Nursery Verse adorned with Adamsons drawings soon became a standard work
in nursery libraries on both sides of the Atlantic. The particularly successful relationship with Faber begun in the fifties under
Berthold Wolpe and David Blands stewardship and continuing under Phyllis Hunt lasted for several decades. Adamson was commissioned by Faber & Faber
and later Puffin Booksto illustrate several of Ted Hughess books for children in their various editions. The collaboration began with a typescript for
Meet My Folks! sent to Adamson in the spring of 1960. The presence of a Massachusetts address on the manuscript inspired Adamson to give
his illustrations to Hughess poems a New England flavour.
It would be hard to imagine Alan Garners two modern fantasy classics for children: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
and The Moon of Gomrath, without their colourful and evocative jackets/covers by Adamson. And by the same token it would be hard to imagine
the Catweazle books of Richard Carpenter without Adamsons drawings.
For the new Professor Branestawm books Methuenand later Puffin Bookscould not have found a more fitting successor to Heath Robinson.
Adamsons eye for inventiveness and detail made his drawings eminently suitable as an accompaniment to the zany adventures of
the dotty professor. Red Fox Classics re-issued The Peculiar Triumph of Professor Branestawm on July 3rd, 2003.
Devoting much time and attention to the initial design of his work, [Adamson] then draws rapidly with a characteristically economical and elegant line.
Brigid Peppin and Lucy Micklethwait, Dictionary of British Book Illustration in the 20th Century
Adamson ventured into full-scale authorship and childrens book design with his Finding Alphabet (1965) and Finding One to Ten (1967), both published
by Faber & Faber. The first of these reproduced oil paintings of groups of objects beginning with the same letters. The images bordered
on the surreal but also challenged the vocabulary of both children and grown-ups to find as many objects beginning with
those letters. Mike Wilks was able to pursue the idea in his book The Ultimate Alphabet (1986) in a decade when higher quality colour printing
at an accessible price was possible.
For Widdecombe Fair, Adamson let his imagination loose on the old ballad song. After living for many years in Devon, he was able to capture
most evocatively the Westcountry flavour. He later published a illustrated poster version of the ballad. Copies are still available at £5.99 incl. p+p from the
George Adamson Archive.
For a full listing of Adamsons books, see Book Illustration.