The Rubaiyat of E. Joyce Francis

The illustrations for this article can be browsed here.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, The Astronomer–Poet of Persia, Translated into English Verse by Edward FitzGerald with “engraved headpieces by E. Joyce Francis”, was published as no.6 of the Ebenezer Baylis Booklets, in Worcester in 1934 (1). It was a limited edition of 500 copies. Using FitzGerald’s first edition, it contained five headpieces and one tailpiece, these being shown as Figs.1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, 1e & 1f [browse]. Mostly the illustrations seem to be generic, inserted into the text at roughly equal intervals, rather than related to specific verses, though Fig.1a is clearly the dawn associated with the opening verse, and Fig.1f clearly depicts the turning down of an empty glass in the closing verse. Fig.1e, for example, is a generic depiction of Omar and his Beloved, in the booklet somewhat incongruously located towards the end of the Potter’s Shop interlude. (As we shall see, our illustrator was also a potter, so it is surprising that she didn’t seize on the Potter’s Shop for one of her illustrations!) Again, Fig.1b could refer either to verse 33 (“Then to the rolling Heav’n itself I cried...”) or to verse 52 (“And that inverted Bowl we call the Sky...”), neither of which is anywhere near the illustration. The colophon of the booklet is shown in Fig.1g. This lists the consultant–typographer as Leonard Jay, whose name we shall encounter later in connection with the Birmingham School of Printing. We shall have more to say about the other books she illustrated in this series below, but meanwhile, who was E. Joyce Francis ?


There is little or no information readily available about her and her work. She gets no mention at all in either Brigid Peppin’s and Lucy Micklethwait’s Dictionary of British Book Illustrators: the 20th Century (1983) or in Alan Horne’s Dictionary of 20th Century British Book Illustrators (1994). Nor is she mentioned in Albert Garrett’s book A History of British Wood Engraving (1978). But thanks to some online research of ancestry records, and more particularly, thanks to contacts with her daughter–in–law, Sylvia Goodborn; her niece, Barbara Chisholm; with Joyce’s friend of many years, John Perfect, and his wife Sue; and with Jane Dew, who likewise knew Joyce for many years, we can rectify that.

Eleanor Joyce Francis was born in West Bromwich on 6th June 1904. In the 1911 census we find her, age 6, living with her family at 57 Bayswater Road, Handsworth, Birmingham. Curiously her name is spelt Elinor on the census return (as it is elsewhere, for that matter – see below – though on her birth certificate it is Eleanor.) Her father is Harry Morris Francis, age 38, an Assistant Secretary at the Birmingham and Midland Institute (the BMI still exists today); her mother Charlotte Francis, is also age 38; and she has an older sister, Margery Francis, age 10. The family is prosperous enough to have a general servant or domestic called Rachel Williams, aged 47.

Joyce (for so she was familiarly known) attended Birmingham School of Arts and Crafts between 1921 and 1935, but with a gap in her studies in the year 1924–5 (the academic year ran from September of one year to the end of August the next), and another between 1927 and 1929. (No–one seems to know what she did in the gaps.) Records there show that she studied elementary art in 1921–2; general drawing in 1922–3; book illustration in 1923–4; craft in 1925–6; wood cuts in 1926–7; and drawing & painting in 1933–4. Details for the other years she attended the School are scant, unfortunately, being restricted to enrolment date and such like. As for the somewhat vague heading of crafts, it would appear that it included book–binding, pottery and textiles. Her skills in book illustration and the creation of wood cuts, were, of course, put to good use in the Ebenezer Baylis booklets mentioned above, and of which we shall have more to say below. During the period 1921–1933 she was living with her family at 152 Hamstead Road, Handsworth, Birmingham, but sometime during the academic year 1932–3, the family moved to 82 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, where they were still living in 1935 (2).

In the third quarter of 1938 Joyce married Arthur Thomas Goodborn in Birmingham, and though she was now Eleanor Joyce Goodborn she continued to use Eleanor Joyce Francis as her professional name. In the 1939 electoral roll the couple are recorded as living at 8 Colinette Road, Putney. London SW15, for reasons possibly connected to her husband’s family – he had been born in Lambeth, London in 1905. In the second quarter of 1939 their daughter Marianne was born in Wandsworth. Some time after that they moved to Loughborough, where her husband was the Senior Tutor in the Department of Teacher Training at Loughborough College. It was in Loughborough that their son John was born in November 1943. Some time after that, they moved to Birmingham, where he had been appointed the Arts and Crafts Inspector for Schools in the Birmingham area, and where she was to teach Arts and Crafts in the Education Department of Birmingham University. Of their two children, Marianne was to remain unmarried, dying in 1998, as we shall see, but John, who died in 2016, was to marry twice. Sylvia being his second wife, she only got to know Joyce from 1973, by which time Joyce had left Birmingham to live in Wales, on which more presently.

As for Joyce’s husband, Arthur Thomas Goodborn, he died in Handsworth, Birmingham, in 1952, aged only 46. Probate records give the couple’s address as 35 Wyecliffe Road, Handsworth, his effects of £5425 16s 6d being left to his widow, Elinor (sic) Joyce Goodborn – not a fortune, but quite a lot of money in those days.

A number of photographs of Joyce have survived, and one of particular note is that of Fig.2a. It is undated, but has the feel of the 1960s about it, and shows Joyce teaching a pottery class (presumably at the University.) The photo was supplied by Sylvia Goodborn, who describes it as “absolutely her.” For comparison, the photograph of Joyce in Fig.2b was taken at Jane Dew’s wedding in 1968. The somewhat dark photograph of Joyce shown in Fig.2c, supplied by Barbara Chisholm, was clearly taken much later, probably at Cae Newydd (of which more below.) Barbara also supplied the photo of Joyce as a little girl, shown here as Fig.2d.

In the late 1950s John Perfect met Joyce through the Youth Fellowship of St Michael’s Church, Handsworth, where she often used to give talks about art. He was in his mid–teens at the time with ambitions to go to art school, so they had something in common and struck up a lasting friendship. (Sue Perfect, incidentally, got to know Joyce somewhat later, from about 1968.)

According to John, St Michael’s Church and Joyce’s talks were attended by the professional people that lived in the Handsworth of those days – doctors, journalists, business people and such like.

Handsworth was a safe Tory seat. The MP was Sir Edward Boyle whose idea of electioneering was to cruise round the area, waving from his Rolls Royce.

As for 35 Wyecliffe Road, it was “a large semi–detached house of an art nouveau style, probably built in the twenties or early thirties.” It is still there today.

Jane Dew told me:

I met Joyce and her daughter and son in the late 1950s when my parents moved back to Birmingham from South Devon. Joyce lived in the same road (Wyecliffe Road) and my mother soon made friends with her. I was still at Secondary School but Joyce knew l really wanted to train in the Arts.

She regularly taught me, informally, techniques and history, lending me books and taking me to exhibitions. She knew a wide range of people and her house was regularly full of musicians, actors and artists. I made friends with her daughter, older than me by a decade, and her son, just a few years older than me.

But, John goes on:

Joyce didn’t care for Birmingham and for some time before I knew her she and her husband had rented a cottage on the hilltop behind Aberdovey in Wales. Called Cae Newydd, it is clearly marked on the ordnance survey map for the area.

Jane adds that Joyce and her husband began to rent Cae Newydd in the early years of World War 2, so that if Birmingham was bombed, the family had a safe haven. Come the late 1950s, Jane adds:

Knowing l missed the countryside, she invited me to stay with them during the school holidays.

I stayed with them for many years and grew to love the area. I regularly accompanied Joyce, with her son, to deliver her paintings to galleries, and help with the unpacking/packing. She also allowed me to draw in her studio, sitting away from each other and working in comparative silence!

She was immensely generous and encouraging, especially when l gained a place at Birmingham College of Art & Crafts (now Birmingham City University). My career as an embroiderer was greatly influenced by Joyce, and I remember her showing me how to design a repeat lino/woodcut to produce an effect like that shown here (Fig.3).

Aberdovey (or Aberdyfi as it is known now) is on the west coast of Wales, about 8 miles north of Aberystwyth. After her husband’s death she continued to rent the cottage, and to stay there as often as she could escape from Birmingham. As for getting back and forth between Birmingham and Aberdovey, John tells us:

Transport was a problem and she bought a succession of rather scruffy vans and cars. She’d load her painting gear into them and take off. Amazingly they never let her down, though she did have a man who maintained them for her. By far the nicest was a Ford ten of late 40’s vintage that had a wood–panelled body that used to be described as a shooting–brake or woody style. I remember the bonnet being opened to reveal an engine that appeared to be smaller than the battery; also, it had pre–war pattern, rod–operated brakes, so it was fortunate that it didn’t go very fast.

John’s first trip to Cae Newydd was in one of Joyce’s vans, when he was in his late teens, and he was to visit it many times thereafter. On occasion he even looked after the cottage, when Joyce was away teaching in Birmingham. His picture of the cottage, done from a photograph taken in about 1980, is shown in Fig.4.

His pen–picture of Joyce back then is wonderful and tallies with Figs.2a & 2b:

She was a woman of ample proportions and wore her long grey hair tied in a bun at the back. She wore long, floppy skirts, frilly blouses, often fastened with a cameo brooch, and a man’s wrist–watch that had probably belonged to her husband. All very Margaret Rutherford.

In 1960 Cae Newydd came up for sale and Joyce bought it. It was, shall we say, very basic – there was no running water (that had to be brought in from a nearby stream, and boiled before use), and there was no electricity supply until poles were put up for the farms in the area in the early 1960s. Thus for quite some time there were only oil lamps for lighting, for example, and log fires for heating. As for the toilet, it was a slate–built shed outside the cottage. A mountain stream entered and exited through holes in the walls, and there was a wooden seat by way of luxury. Joyce apparently referred to it as having a “two hole perpetual flush.” But to her the cottage was idyllic and she regarded it is her spiritual home. John goes on:

To get on with Joyce it was necessary to pass the Cae Newydd test. Those who liked the place despite its privations were in. Those who didn’t, and they were many, were regarded rather differently.

But in 1973, finances dictated that if she wanted to keep Cae Newydd, Joyce had to sell her Birmingham home. With her daughter, Marianne, she moved to Aberdovey, and bought a small shop in New Street there which also had living accommodation. There, they opened what we would now call an Arts & Crafts café, in which they sold a variety of home–made goods as well as pictures by Joyce. Sue Perfect told me:

I remember the goods at the tearoom as being mostly the patchwork quilts, the woollen blankets and the occasional rag rug. The material was mainly recycled not the sort of material one can buy on a bale. Ultimately it was a source that would sooner or later outstrip supply but for the while the tweeds were matched and separated from the cottons so that the finished article was colour and weight matched. The rag rug pieces were poked and drawn through individually onto hessian or sacks, not the prepared backs that one can purchase from craft shops today. Joyce and Marianne were incredibly resourceful and would use anything that would bring a creative pleasure to them and others.

To this account of early recycling, Jane Dew added that the blankets were knitted from wool which in part had been collected from the wire fences of nearby farms, having been scratched off the backs of passing sheep!

Joyce also used to run craft workshops there – patchwork and spinning were two popular examples. The café side of things was run by Marianne. The business was very successful, but neither Joyce nor her daughter were temperamentally suited to a 9 to 5 lifestyle, and, at least on the arts and crafts front, demand rapidly outran supply – at one point Joyce sold the quilt off her own bed to one insistent customer. So, having made sufficient money, Joyce decided to sell the shop and spend the proceeds on Cae Newydd. That was when the real problems began.

Cae Newydd was, as already indicated, one of those homes which sounds idyllic, and indeed was so, for a short stay in summer. But in the winter, with wind, rain & snow blowing in from Cardigan Bay, it was cold, damp, and with no running water and only a primitive outside toilet, it was far from idyllic. The stresses and strains eventually had their effect. Joyce suffered a major stroke and was admitted on a permanent basis to Towyn Hospital, where she died in 1985. Marianne stayed on, but she too was “eventually invalided out” (as John puts it), and she died in the same hospital as her mother in 1998.

Joyce was an active member of the Aberdovey / Aberdyfi Art Society, which still exists today. Unfortunately, despite diligent enquiries by Stewart Jones, Kate Coldham and others, none of the current membership approached remembered much if anything about Joyce, which is perhaps not surprising given that she died over thirty years ago.

Books Illustrated: the Birmingham School of Printing

Joyce was closely associated with the Birmingham School of Printing, which was housed in the Birmingham School of Arts and Crafts, in Margaret Street, in the city centre. (In 1971 the School of Arts and Crafts was absorbed into Birmingham Polytechnic and subsequently into Birmingham City University, the Margaret Street building now being BCU’s Department of Fine Art.) Prominent in its history was Leonard Jay.

Jay was born in Bungay, Suffolk in 1888 into a family which had been much involved in printing. His family moved to London in 1893, and by 1905 he had left school and become an apprentice printer. In 1912 he joined the part–time staff of the London County Council School of Arts and Crafts, becoming a full time member of staff in 1924. He was appointed as the first head of the Birmingham School of Printing in 1925, a post he held until he retired in 1953. He died in 1963 (3a). Under Jay’s overall direction, students, guided by their teachers, produced no less than 192 books and pamphlets between 1926 and 1953 (3b), these including three editions of The Rubaiyat (3c).

In the 1930s Joyce produced illustrations for six booklets for the Birmingham School of Printing. Perhaps not surprisingly, three centre on John Baskerville (1706–1775), who is principally known today as the Birmingham–based printer and designer of typefaces.

Baskerville is worthy of an Omarian aside. Despite being a confirmed atheist, in 1763 he printed what was to become one of the classic editions of the Bible. It was, of course, an exercise in Printing, not Devotion – with equal ‘piety’ he had printed an equally classic edition of Horace in 1762. (I can sympathise with that: my own religious views are similar, yet I wrote a book on religious medals.) But of greater interest is the fact that, in accordance with his wishes, when Baskerville died in 1775 he was buried, in an upright position, beneath a conical monument of his own design (formerly a windmill, apparently), deliberately situated in the unconsecrated ground of his own estate. This was, as the epitaph of his own composition made clear, in protest at “the Idle Fears of Superstition and the Wicked Arts of Priesthood.” Alas, in 1821, he turned out to be in the way of an ongoing canal construction: his monument was dismantled, and his body was, to cut a lengthy story short, moved, in defiance of his wishes, to the consecrated ground of the crypt of Christ Church, Birmingham. Arguably Baskerville got his revenge, though, for in 1897 the church had to be demolished. Unfortunately, his revenge was short–lived, for his body was then moved to a vault under the chapel of the Church of England Warstone Lane Cemetery, again in consecrated ground (4a). There matters rested until 1963, in which year a petition was presented to Birmingham City Council arguing that the wishes of one of their most prominent citizens should be respected, and that his remains should be removed to unconsecrated ground. After all, it wasn’t just Baskerville's wishes that had to be respected: it was argued that the devout Christians alongside whom Baskerville had been buried might not like the idea of having an atheist in their midst! Alas, the petition seems to have been signed by only about a dozen people, none of whom was related to the deceased, so the Council decided, in view of the difficultes involved in finding some legally suitable unconsecrated ground, to leave poor Baskerville where he was, atheist or not (4b)

But to return to the publications of the Birmingham School of Printing, the three Baskerville booklets in which Joyce had a hand were, in order of publication date:

Letters of the famous 18th century printer, John Baskerville of Birmingham: together with a bibliography of works printed by him at Birmingham collected, compiled and printed under the direction of Leonard Jay (1932), for which Joyce did the frontispiece portrait of Baskerville (Fig.5a). (The portrait is seemingly based on a 1774 portrait of Baskerville by James Millar in Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery.) (4c)

Dr Hans H. Bockwitz, Baskerville in Letters, translated by Herbert Woodbine (1933). The cover illustration was as in Fig.5a, but printed in red ink on a pale blue background (Fig.5b).

Dr Hans Bockwitz, John Baskerville in the Judgement of German Contemporaries, translated by A.B. Hill (1937). The cover illustration was as in Fig.5a.

The three other booklets illustrated by Joyce for the Birmingham School of Printing were, again in order of publication date:

William Shakespeare – Venus and Adonis (1934). Its fine front cover is shown in Fig.6a and its four headpieces by Joyce are shown in Fig.6b, 6c, 6d & 6e [browse]. These are my personal favourites amongst Joyce’s book illustrations. Curiously this booklet does not appear in either of the bibliographies cited in note (3b).

Benjamin Walker, Saint Philip’s Church Birmingham, and its Groom–Porter Architect (1935), for which Joyce did the frontispiece (Fig.7).

William Bennett, Richard Greene, the Lichfield Apothecary & his Museum of Curiosities (1935), for which Joyce did the cover portrait of Richard Greene (Fig.8). This was one of a series titled Johnsoniana: Dr. Samuel Johnson & his friends, though Joyce only illustrated this one.

Books Illustrated: Ebenezer Baylis & Son, Worcester

Ebenezer Erskine Baylis, the founder of the firm in 1858, was born in Worcester in 1834 and died in London in 1920. In the census return for 1851, living with his family in Worcester; he is recorded as being a printer’s apprentice. In 1856, in the Parish Church of Edgbaston, Birmingham, he married Sarah Elizabeth Lane, also born in Worcester. At the time of the marriage, he was a printer living in Birmingham. Their first child, Marion Jesse Baylis, was born in Birmingham in 1857. Shortly after, in 1858, as noted above, he founded his printing firm. In the 1861 census, he and Sarah were now living in their own house in Worcester. Besides their daughter Marion, they now had a son, Frank Edwin Baylis (born in 1859.) In the Census Return Ebenezer is listed as a Printer Compositor. At the time of the 1871 census, they were still living in Worcester, though at a different address, Ebenezer being recorded as a printer employing three boys. By now, besides Marion and Frank, they had another son Ralph Archibald Baylis (born 1865), plus another daughter, Ruth L. G. Baylis (born in 1866).

It was Frank Edwin Baylis who was to become the “Son” in “Ebenezer Baylis and Son.” By the time of the 1911 census he was a master printer, bookbinder and wholesale stationer in Worcester, married with five children, three of whom seem to have been employed in the family business. As noted above, Ebenezer Baylis died in 1920, and in 1924 the firm, now with Frank Edwin Baylis as its director, was registered as a limited company. He was to die in 1935, after which the business seems to have passed to his son, Frank Russell Baylis, who by the time of the 1911 census, at the age of 22, was already a master printer, and who was listed as the second major shareholder, after his father, in the application for limited company status in 1924. The two other lesser shareholders were two of Frank Edwin’s other children, Clifford Erskine Baylis, Printer, and Marion Dora White Baylis, Cashier.

The firm continued under the name of Ebenezer Baylis and Son Ltd until 2001, after which its history need not concern us.

Our main concern here, of course, is with the series of twelve Ebenezer Baylis Booklets published between 1933 and 1935 (5), years after the death of Ebenezer, as follows:

No.1 – Fine Printing by Leonard Jay (1933)
No.2 – Christmas by Washington Irving (1933)
No.3 – Baskerville in Letters by Dr. Bockwitz (1934)
No.4 – ABC by Geoffrey Chaucer (1934)
No.5 – Parables taken from the Authorised Version of the Holy Bible (1934)
No.6 – Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1934)
No.7 – The Book of Ruth (1934)
No.8 – Gray’s Elegy (1934)
No.9 – Preface to Milton’s Paradise Lost by John Baskerville (1935)
No.10 – Hymn on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity by John Milton (1935)
No.11 – Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (1935)/p
No.12 – The Bible in Type by John Stone (1935)

All of these were published in association with the above-mentioned Leonard Jay of the Birmingham School of Printing, no.3 being essentially a reprint of the booklet published a year earlier by the School, and mentioned in the last section. Joyce contributed illustrations to six of the booklets as follows:

For no.2 she did a woodcut as a headpiece for the first page (Fig.9)

For no.3 she did the front cover illustration (effectively Fig.5b)

For no.4 she did a woodcut for the front cover (Fig.10)

For no.6, as we have seen already, she did six illustrations (Figs.1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, 1e & 1f [browse].)

For no.7 she did four woodcuts (Figs.11a, 11b, 11c & 11d [browse].)

For no.11 she did the frontispiece (Fig.12)

An interesting aside, relevant to the firm though not to Joyce, is perhaps worth mentioning here. In 1934, the firm of Ebenezer Baylis & Son, who by then had a London office in EC1, were involved in a libel case at the High Court of Justice, Hodgkinson v. Powys and Others. John Cowper Powys was the author of a novel, A Glastonbury Romance, published by John Lane, the Bodley Head Ltd, and printed by Ebenezer Baylis & Son Ltd. Capt. G.W. Hodgkinson thought that the rather dissolute character, Philip Crow, in this ‘saucy novel’, might be unjustifiably identified with him, as indeed he might given the details, though it is clear that any resemblance was purely accidental. Author, publisher and printer readily expressed unintended liability, great regret, and settled out of court (6).

What is not clear at the present time is how the company of Ebenezer Baylis & Son came to be associated with Leonard Jay and the Birmingham School of Printing. By the time Jay took up his post in Birmingham in 1925, Ebenezer Baylis had been dead for some years, and his son Frank Baylis was in charge. As indicated above, Ebenezer spent some time in Birmingham, and presumably had (family ?) connections there. This plus the common involvement in printing, may explain the connection between the firm and Jay. It may well be, too, as Caroline Archer of the Typographic Hub at Birmingham City University has suggested, that the firm, which was apparently a sponsor / supporter of the Birmingham School of Printing, took some of its apprentices from the School. However, at the moment no precise details are available.

Books Illustrated: Other

It is interesting that all of the foregoing works illustrated by Joyce were done in the 1930s. With one exception, to which we will turn later, I know of no work illustrated by her later than the Baskerville booklet, mentioned above, published in 1937. Whether this had anything to do with her marriage in 1938 and the birth of her daughter in 1939, I do not know, but certainly, back then, when women artists married and started a family, art sometimes took something of a back seat, though, as we shall see, Joyce certainly continued to paint.

Besides the illustrated works listed in the last two sections, there are only two other books illustrated by Joyce that I know of.

The first is of a totally different nature to any of the foregoing: Boccaccio’s Decameron, produced in two hefty volumes, printed at the Shakespeare Head Press, Saint Aldates, Oxford, and published for the Press by Basil Blackwell – vol.1 in 1934 and vol.2 in 1935 (again in the 1930s, note.) It was a limited edition of 325 copies (of which 300 were for sale), with another 3 copies printed on vellum. It was a sumptuous and exclusive edition, in other words, which today fetches high prices.

As the colophon at the end of vol.1 tells us:

The text of this first volume of the Decameron has been prepared from that of the first English translation, printed by Isaac Jaggard for Mathew Lownes in 1625, and compared with the first edition of 1620. The wood engravings have been recut by R. J. Beedham and E. Joyce Francis from those in the edition printed by the brothers Gregorii at Venice in 1492.

But we have to turn to “A Note on the Illustrations” at the end of vol.2 (p.267–8) to find out just who re–cut which wood engravings:

The illustrations which add both beauty and interest to the foregoing pages have been copied in facsimile with a very slight reduction from the woodcuts in the edition of the Decameron printed at Venice by the brothers Gregorii in 1492. They have been re–engraved on wood for the present edition – most of them by Mr R.J. Beedham but the engraving of those for the Second and Eighth Days is the work of Miss Joyce Francis.

Vol.1 covers the first five days of The Decameron, and vol.2 the last five, so, in effect, Joyce did one day in each volume, or about a fifth of the engravings. She did eleven engravings for the Second Day, three of which are shown here as Figs.13a, 13b & 13c [browse]. She also did eleven engravings for the Eighth Day, three of which are shown here as Figs.14a, 14b & 14c [browse].

An image of vol.1, open at the title–page spread, was used to head the Printing section of British Art in Industry – 1935 (p.82), a souvenir booklet of an exhibition held at the Royal Academy that year. The exhibition, which took two years to set up, was supported not only by the Royal Academy, but also by the Royal Society of Arts. The front cover of the catalogue is shown in Fig.15a and an image of p.82 in Fig.15b.

How Joyce came to be involved in the publication of The Decameron is, alas, unknown at present. It may have been that she had contacts at the Shakespeare Head Press in Oxford, but it would seem more likely that her involvement came via her ‘senior’ co–worker on the project, R. J. Beedham. (7a)

Ralph John Beedham (1879–1975) was a master of the woodcut, his book Wood Engraving, with an Introduction and an Appendix by Eric Gill, having first been published by St. Dominic’s Press, Ditchling, Sussex, in 1921. In fact Beedham wrote the book at Gill’s suggestion (7b), though neither the Introduction nor the Appendix gives any details as to how this came about. Subsequently the book’s publication was taken over by Faber and Faber, though it was still printed at Ditchling, a fifth edition of it appearing in 1938.

Gill was instrumental in founding the Catholic Crafts Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic at Ditchling in 1920, St Dominic’s Press being its publishing arm. Though Beedham was certainly associated with Ditchling, it is not clear how much time he actually spent there. He was born and spent most of his life in London (7c), and indeed earned his living there, teaching at the London County Council School of Arts and Crafts. He had some connection with Ditchling as early as 1917 (7d) and may have spent some time at Ditchling in the early 1920s (7e), but this may well have been in School vacation times, and some of his work there may have been done by commuting from London. (Gill is known to have commuted from Ditchling to London as business dictated.) At any rate, Beedham’s role at Ditchling was not prominent enough for him to feature in Fiona MacCarthy’s detailed biography Eric Gill (1989), though he clearly impressed Gill enough to contribute to and publish his book.

As the book is a practical guide to the techniques of wood engraving, and as it was clearly popular enough to have run to a fifth edition by 1938, it appears highly likely that Joyce owned a copy. Since Beedham was 25 years older than Joyce, and since his teaching career was at the London County Council School of Arts and Crafts, rather than in Birmingham (where, as we saw earlier, Joyce studied Woodcuts in the academic year 1926–7), it would appear she was never a student of his, and so they must have come together via a different route. One possibility, of course, is that she simply wrote to the author of a book which she had found very useful, and he, impressed by her talent and enthusiasm, invited her to help him out with the large number of woodcuts required for the Boccaccio volumes. Another possibility is that she got to know Beedham via Leonard Jay, who, before taking up his post at Birmingham, had taught, like Beedham, at the London County Council School of Arts and Crafts.

[Beedham did have some connections with publishing in Wales (7f), but since these occurred well before Joyce and her husband took to living in Aberdovey, it is highly unlikely that they have any bearing on the Boccaccio.]

The one book (so far as I know!) which was illustrated by Joyce and which dates from well after the 1930s, was S. Malcolm Kirk’s Operation Panpipes published by Peter Nevill Ltd of London and New York in 1949. For it Joyce did a coloured frontispiece (Fig.16a) and ten black and white illustrations, five of which are shown here (Figs.16b–16f [browse].) It is a children’s story set in post–war Britain (rationing is still in force!) and centres on three children, David, Jim and Margaret, who spend their annual holidays at Carrig on the West Coast of Scotland. Unfortunately their freedom to roam is severely restricted when the War Department decides to set up a Military Training Camp there, with artillery ranges and tank manoeuvres. One day, when the children are out playing, they meet the ancient god Pan (Fig.16a), who had fled from Greece to Scotland to escape the war, getting there by riding on the back of the winged horse, Pegasus. When he learns of the Military Training Camp he and the children hatch a plot (code name: Operation Panpipes) to drive the army out and restore the peace. The plot involves Pan enlisting the aid of the forces of Nature. Thus the Naiads (Nymphs of rivers, springs and ponds) flood the camp; the Nereids (Sea Nymphs) disrupt a naval landing exercise and the Hamadryads (Wood Nymphs) entangle the tanks in foliage. When the tanks are cut free and set out on a training exercise, the ground gives way under them because the Gnomes have hollowed out the earth below. At one point in the plot, the children get to ride Pegasus (Fig.16b) and at another, the Brigadier of the Camp gets assaulted in the rear by a Unicorn ridden by Pan (Fig.16c). During a peaceful interlude, the children and the animals of the wood are treated to a performance by Pan on his Pipes (Fig.16d), then it is back to business with the Loch Ness Monster deluging the soldiers with water (Fig.16e). Operation Panpipes works – the Army abandons the Carrig base – and peace is restored. There is a general celebration, this being shown in Fig.16f, probably the most interesting illustration in the book: Pan plays the bagpipes for a change, watched by (in the foreground) the wood nymphs (left), water nymphs (centre) and gnomes (right). The three children are in the audience, of course, along with various woodland creatures, and Mr and Mrs Pegasus are in the background, with their two foals, Black Spot and White Spot. Even the Unicorn is there, though by now the Loch Ness Monster has gone home. Note the EJF monogram in Figs.16a, 16b & 16e. We shall meet it again in the next section.

Why and how Joyce came to illustrate this book twelve years on from her last illustrated work, is not known, and little information is available about the author, Stanley Malcolm Kirk. He was born in Aston, Birmingham, in 1905. In the 1939 register he is listed as “partner in repetition engineer[ing firm?]” in Birmingham, which may explain why he seems to have written nothing else apart from this children’s story: this may well have been a one–off, done more or less as a hobby (8). In 1946 he married Annabella Sheila Cameron in Solihul (ie Birmingham again.) By 1965, though, they were living in Purley (London) and they were still there when Annabella died in 1979. S.M. Kirk himself died in nearby Croydon in 1990 (or at least his death was registered there.) Barbara Chisholm, who first alerted me to the existence of this wonderful little book, thinks that perhaps Joyce got to know the author through her older sister, Margery (Barbara’s mother.) Given the Birmingham connections just mentioned, this is quite possible.

Unpublished Art Work

Though Joyce gets no mention in most of the standard dictionaries of book illustrators and wood–engravers, she does get a brief mention of her paintings in J. Johnson and A. Greutzner’s book The Dictionary of British Artists 1880–1940 (1986). The entry tells us simply that she exhibited between 1928 and 1937; that she lived in Birmingham during this period; and that she exhibited 26 paintings at the Royal Society of Artists, Birmingham, and 5 paintings at the Royal Scottish Academy, no details of which are given. Fortunately, we can expand on that.

In 1928 at the Galleries of the Royal Academy in London there was held the 14th exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Society. It featured a wide range of crafts from ceramics through jewellery to furniture and prints. One of the prints, no.52 in the catalogue (p.32), was by Joyce. It was a colour print titled “Monkey”, though unfortunately no image of it seems to have survived. The front cover of the catalogue is shown in Fig.17a and the page relating to Joyce in Fig.17b. (The latter gives an interesting snapshot of the variety of material on display.) Joyce also featured in the 15th such exhibition in 1931, where an example of her book–binding was on display: a copy of Songs to Our Lady of Silence, bound in blue morocco with gold tooling (p.70 in the catalogue.) This book of devotional poems, by Mary Elise Woellworth, though she is not named in it as the author, was first published by Eric Gill’s St. Dominic’s Press, Ditchling, in 1920, with a second edition appearing in 1921. It contained five wood–engravings by Desmond Macready Chute (though he is not named in the book either.) St. Dominic’s Press was mentioned earlier in connection with R.J. Beedham, though whether this has any relevance to Joyce’s choice of a book on which to demonstrate her book–binding skills is not known.

As regards Joyce’s paintings, Jane Dew writes:

She exhibited widely and regularly submitted pieces for the Merionedd Artists. I know her work sold well and l clearly remember sitting in the back of the van, holding a single painting, often half a dozen, for delivery to a gallery or a purchaser. Her subjects were landscapes, l have one from the Cotswolds (“The White Road between Windrush and Burford” – Fig.18), given to me as a birthday present in 1962, and one from the Derbyshire Dales (“Via Gallia, Cromford” – Fig.19). She also painted floral subjects, frequently cyclamen, tulips, roses and lilac often with patterned pottery, often the one you were drinking from!

Neither of these pictures is signed or dated, but Joyce’s name and address are given on the back. The inscription on the back of the Cotswolds picture tells us that it was painted in her days at Loughborough, so in the early 1940s; that on the back of the Derbyshire Dales picture, that it was painted somewhat later, when she was living at Wyecliffe Road in Birmingham.

Jane also owns two woodcuts by Joyce, one of her garden at Loughborough (Fig.20) and the other of two penguins (Fig.21.) Note the monogrammed initials EJF in the lower left corner of the latter, as already noted in some of the illustrations for Operation Panpipes.

As regards Joyce exhibiting her paintings, Jane still has the catalogue of a County Art Exhibition held in Barmouth in the late summer of 1965. Its title page is shown in Fig.22a and the page listing Joyce’s contributions in Fig.22b.

Another of Joyce’s paintings is owned by John & Sue Perfect and is shown in Fig.23a. Signed on the front, its title, “Erw Pystill” (a farm near Cae Newydd), and a date of 1950, are given on the back (Fig.23b.) The back of the painting is interesting, for it tells us that it was at one point offered for sale at 15 guineas, presumably through a gallery, but that it was then withdrawn from sale for some unknown reason. Note that the back of the painting bears both her Birmingham address (35 Wyecliffe Rd, mentioned above) and the address of Cae Newydd. Interestingly a phone number is given for both addresses, odd in the case of the latter, which was at that time singularly devoid of most modern luxuries!

Another painting, signed and dated 1967, but untitled, is shown in Fig.24. This is owned by Christopher Riggio, of London, who bought it in “a posh junk shop on Lordship Lane, East Dulwich” in 2018, as it reminded him of the paintings done by a friend of his, Gareth Cadwallader.

The next painting (Fig.25) was sold by Monopteros Fine Art some time ago, the gallery listing it as “Welsh Border Landscape” by E. Joyce Francis. But there is a mystery surrounding this picture, for it is unsigned and undated, and there is nothing on the back of the painting to link it to Joyce. On the contrary, on the back of the painting, in pencil, is written: “ St.Georges Comp / Marion C Robison / Farm in the North Riding / 1471.” If anything, then, this suggests that the painting is by Marion C. Robison and depicts a farm in the North Riding. So what is going on here ?

The present owner of the picture is Jeremy Fisher, the son of the gallery owner, and he was able to tell me that the picture had come to the gallery attributed to Joyce and with the title, “Craig with a Smithy” (Elan Valley, Mid–Wales.) Luckily, Sue Perfect was able to throw some light on all this, for Marion C. Robison was a Birmingham–based artist who lived in the same area of the city the whole time that Joyce was there. Sue and her husband (like Jane Dew), are convinced that this painting is indeed by Joyce, and believe that Joyce painted it on a canvas given to her by Marion C. Robison, whom she very probably knew in Birmingham. The Smithy is almost certainly one of two such in the Aberdovey area.

An example of Joyce’s flower paintings, signed and dated 1959, is shown in Fig.26. Titled simply “Vase of Flowers,” the painting was sold by Arcadja Auctions in 2009, and its present whereabouts are not known. Jane Dew believes that this painting’s original title, of which she has a record from when it was previously sold in 1990, was “Gladioli, Carnations and Scabious, in a Vase.”

Our next painting is a still–life by Joyce (Fig.27) now in the possession of artist Tony Sawbridge. He and Joyce were great friends in her Birmingham days. Moving in the same artistic circles – both frequently exhibited at the Royal Birmingham Society of Art – they agreed to swap paintings with each other, which is how this painting came into Tony’s possession. He told me that they rather lost contact with each other when Joyce retired from the Education Department at Birmingham University, and moved to Wales, though he did pay several visits to her Arts & Crafts Café in Aberdovey.

Finally we have two paintings owned by Barbara Chisholm. The first is another landscape (Fig.28), probably in the Cae Newydd area, and painted in about 1965. Joyce gave this picture to Barbara for her eighteenth birthday. The second – altogether different from anything seen so far – is a painting (“Dreams”) of a couple in an armchair (Fig.29). It is signed and dated 1960 in the bottom left hand corner. The young woman is thought to be Joyce’s daughter, Marianne, but it is not clear who the young man was.

It only remains for us to look at some of Joyce’s “lesser works”, a delightful series of Christmas cards which she produced year on year for her friends. Four are shown here as Figs.30a (1962), 30b (1963), 30c (1968) and 30d (1970). Unfortunately, three of these are intended to be displayed folded over, like a tent, so it is difficult to show them effectively here, but the detail in all is clear enough even when flattened out. Cae Newydd and Wycliffe Road put in an appearance, along with Joyce’s famous vans and her pet cats. The double bass, incidentally, is John Goodborn’s (Joyce’s son), shown in Fig.30b in his Land Rover.

Another “lesser work” is shown in Fig.31, one of a limited edition of 25 copies of a print of a cockerel, dated 1927 – an early work, then.

Finally, the rather neat little picture shown in Fig.32 was done by Joyce when she and Marianne left Birmingham for Aberdovey for good. It was a farewell from herself, Marianne and their cats to Jane’s parents. What I particularly like about it is Joyce’s skilful caricature of herself – seen also in Fig.30c – both making me smile when I think of Fig.2a & 2b and John Perfect’s description of her as a Margaret Rutherford–ish “woman of ample proportions.”

The illustrations for this article can be browsed here.


Note 1: Jos Coumans, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: an Updated Bibliography (2010), #76.

Note 2: The Registers of the Birmingham School of Arts & Crafts are now housed in the Arts, Design & Media Archives at Birmingham City University (formerly Birmingham Polytechnic), and my thanks are due to Fiona Waterhouse, Research Assistant there, for giving me a guided tour of them. The Registers, which, oddly enough, mostly spell her name as Elinor, give her address at the time of her attendance. That she was still living with her family throughout is confirmed by the Electoral Registers of 1930 and 1935.

Note 3a: A useful biography of him can be found in Lawrence William Wallis, Leonard Jay: Master Printer–Craftsman, first Head of the Birmingham School of Printing 1925–1953: an Appraisal (London, 1963). Jay’s papers are housed in the Leonard Jay Collection at the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham, and there is an online catalogue of them, as well as a typed paper version by Christine L. Penney, Catalogue of the Leonard Jay Collection (University of Birmingham Library, 1988.) The collection had been assembled by a good friend of Jay’s, Arnold Yates, with the assistance of Jay himself, and it was bought by the University of Birmingham Library in 1987, with the aid of a grant from the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Note 3b: A list of the earlier publications can be found in Bibliography – City of Birmingham School of Printing, which is a Catalogue of Books produced between 1926 and 1935, with an introduction by Leonard Jay (undated, but presumably published in 1935/36.) It lists 82 works. A full listing of the 192 publications produced between 1926 and 1953 can be found in L.W. Wallis’s book, cited in note (3a) above. There are copies of all 192 in Birmingham University Library.

Note 3c: Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam of Naishapur, the Astronomer-Poet of Persia: Translated into English Verse by Edward FitzGerald (1928), not decorated / illustrated, (Coumans #94.) The text is from FitzGerald’s first edition.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: translated into English Verse by Edward FitzGerald (1931), illustrated by Charles Meacham (Coumans #81.) It is “Dedicated to Ambrose George Potter the English Omarian Enthusiast.” The text is again from FitzGerald’s first edition.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: translated into English Verse by Edward FitzGerald (1937), decorated by Catherine Gebhard (Coumans #71.) This too is “Dedicated to Ambrose George Potter the English Omarian Enthusiast” and the text is again from FitzGerald’s first edition.

Note 4a: A fascinating and detailed account can be found in Benjamin Walker’s booklet The Resting Places of the Buried Remains of John Baskerville, the Thrice–buried Printer (Birmingham School of Printing, 1944). I have omitted here the somewhat gruesome details of the exhibition of Baskerville’s remains between their removal from his grave in 1821 and their subsequent (clandestine!) interment in Christ Church in 1829.

Note 4b: The story of the petition was covered on the front pages of The Birmingham Post on 8th March 1963 and 2nd April 1963, but was also of sufficient national interest to be reported in The Times on the 9th March 1963 (p.6, col.1) and 13th March 1963 (p.5, col.1).

Note 4c: There is a copy of it in the National Portrait Gallery in London, and it is this which is pictured in Walker, as note 4a, facing p.8.

Note 5: Actually, this was the First Series. A Second Series was started, and presumably it too was intended to consist of twelve booklets, but it seems that only two were actually published: no.1. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, A Selection: Sonnets from the Portuguese (1935) and no.2. William Bennett, Doctor Samuel Johnson and the Ladies of the Lichfield Amicable Society 1775 (1935). The latter had originally been published in the previous year by the Birmingham School of Printing as part of their series titled Johnsoniana: Dr. Samuel Johnson & his friends, along with Bennett’s booklet on Richard Greene mentioned above. Why the second series ‘fizzled out’ in 1935 is not clear, but it may have had something to do with the death of Frank Edwin Baylis in that year.

Note 6: See The Times, 28th July 1934, p.4 col.6. The novel being centred on Glastonbury, the case attracted some attention by the local press. A lengthy account can be found on the front page of The Wells Journal, 3rd August 1934, for example.

Note 7a: Albert Garrett, A History of British Wood Engraving (1978), pp.146, 155–8, 232 & 374; James Hamilton, Wood Engraving and the Woodcut in Britain c.1890–1990 (1994), pp.15 & 121–2; Malcolm Yorke, Eric Gill – Man of Flesh and Spirit (2000 ed), pp.167 & 169.

Note 7b: This is stated on the front inside flap of the dust–jacket of the 1938 edition.

Note 7c: Online quarterly birth records & census returns for 1881, 1891, 1901 & 1911 place him in London, as do electoral registers for 1925, 1935, 1936, 1937 & 1939. The 1921 census return is not yet online, unfortunately.

Note 7d: Beedham engraved two of the illustrations (the rest were done by Gill) in God and the Dragon: a Book of Rhymes, by H.D.C.P (Douglas Pepler), self–published at Ditchling in 1917. (St Dominic’s Press was set up in 1921, but Pepler apparently had his own hand–press.)

Note 7e: This information comes from Joe Cribb, whose father, Joseph, worked with Gill from 1906 until the artist’s death in 1940: “In my father’s memoir of the Guild he says that Beedham worked at the Crank (Gill’s home on Ditchling Common) in the early 1920s. But nothing else. It is unclear whether he was an occasional visitor or local resident at the time.” (Personal email.)

Note 7f: Beedham engraved the frontispiece for Letters of a Portuguese Nun, published by Francis Walterson of Talybont Dyffryn, North Wales in 1929. The frontispiece was designed by Joanna Gill, the youngest daughter of Eric Gill.

He also engraved illustrations for two publications of the Gregynog Press, Eros and Psyche (1935) and The History of St Louis (1937). As indicated in note 7c above, Beedham was actually living in London in both 1935 and 1937.

Note 8: It would appear that S. Malcolm Kirk was the joint translator, with G. Prerauer, from French to English, of D.E. Inghelbrecht’s book The Conductor’s World, published, like Operation Panpipes, by Peter Nevill, in 1953. So far as I am aware, this is the only other published work in which Kirk was involved.


In addition to thanking the people named in the body of the above article, I must first and foremost thank Sandra Mason and Bill Martin for handling the initial correspondence with the Birmingham and Midland Institute, Birmingham City University Library and the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham, Edgbaston Campus. It was they, too, who made the initial contacts with Sylvia Goodborn, John & Sue Perfect, and Jane Dew, and they too who did the initial spadework with the Aberdovey / Aberdyfi Art Society. I must also thank the many staff members of the three Birmingham libraries just mentioned, as well as those at the British Library.


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