Wood engraving illustration by Joan Hassall for Mansfield Park

(Folio Society, 1959)

‘A young woman, pretty, lively, with a harp as elegant as herself, and both placed near a window, cut down to the ground, and opening on a little lawn, surrounded by shrubs in the rich foliage of summer, was enough to catch any man’s heart.’

Mansfield Park

This bold woodcut illustration shows the Drawing Room at the Parsonage, where Mary Crawford plays for Edmund ‘with the greatest obligingness, with an expression and taste which were peculiarly becoming’.

Indeed, at this time it was a prerequisite for an accomplished young lady to play an attractive instrument such as the pianoforte or the harp (or both, as we are told Georgiana Darcy does in Pride and Prejudice).

The illustration is by Joan Hassall, one of the foremost wood-engravers of the twentieth century. In the post-war years, despite ill health, she was a prolific illustrator, creating wood engravings for many books including a complete set of Jane Austen’s novels for the Folio Society between 1957 and 1962.

Unlike Jane Austen’s most famous illustrators, Charles Brock and Hugh Thomson, Hassall’s illustrations are stark and forceful. Her style was defined by her medium – a carved wooden printing block – but she managed to imbue it with extraordinary detail and vigour.

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