“Exploring the Fairytale Forest: The Fantastic & Imaginative Illustrations of Arthur Rackham” will be on display in Lafayette College Special Collections & College Archives through summer 2024. This exhibition highlights the rare book collection of the late Sumner Babcock ‘24, donated in memory of his wife Catharine Jones Babcock. A donation by his daughter Barbara Kirby completed the collection in 2023. The innovative illustrations of English artist Arthur Rackham found in children’s books are the transcendent feature of this collection. The exhibit, curated by Olivia Naum ‘26, focuses on the intersections between childhood wonder and the natural world. Rackham was deeply influenced by his own childhood memories, recalling the times he spent outdoors, an experience that initially led him to art. The fairytale forest is a common setting for his illustrations, centering the viewer on a place that can only be reached through the curiosity and vision found in the early years of one’s life. Through encountering the illustrations of Arthur Rackham the viewer is swept away to investigate the serpentine paths and whimsical trees, enticing to find what lies beyond the next corner.

Arthur Rackham was an English book illustrator who is widely recognized as one of the preeminent figures of the Golden Age of British illustration. Rackham’s work is seen as the turning point in the production of illustrated books, as he used color separation printing which enabled publishers to to reproduce color illustrations. Rackham was not only a brilliant artist, but he was deeply impactful in the ways that books were produced and for evolving the economic model for illustrators. In Rackham’s pieces there is an immense interest in childhood and experiences of the youth, as children’s literature necessitates illustrations that sparks the creativity of those reading it. Rackham’s most renowned works were completed for Peter Pan in Kensington Garden and Grimm’s Fairy Tale, which are on view in the exhibit.

Sumner H. Babcock, Lafayette College Class of 1924, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1902. He received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and in 1927 earned a bachelor of law degree from Harvard Law School. He then joined Bingham, Dana and Gould, where he practiced law for over fifty years until his retirement in 1984. Babcock was a generous and dedicated Lafayette alumnus and was awarded the Joseph E. Bell Alumni Distinguished Service Award. He served as an alumni trustee and a term trustee before being named the president of the Alumni Association from 1947-48. He died on January 22, 2000 at the age of 97.