A veritable can of pineapple
By Chris Dodd
Jerome K Jerome’s most celebrated book has never been out of print since it first saw the light of day in 1889. The Walsall writer’s story of skiffing up the Thames spread into other tongues, as Diana Cook’s collection illustrates. Chris Dodd turns some leaves.
Diana Cook’s foreign-language shelf of Three Men makes up in quality what it lacks in numbers. There has been a giant Babel of editions in the last 125 years. If you don’t believe me, punch ‘Three Men in a Boat’ into www.abebooks.com and you’ll find some 2915 offers; punch in ‘Drei Mann in einem Boot’ and you will get around 170; punch in ‘Trois Hommes dans un Bateau’ and you will find around 310.
Diana’s collection includes an attractive edition for Goths that concentrates the imagination by avoiding illustration altogether – with the exception of the cover, where George, Harris and Jerome appear much too cheerful for the genre. It is typeset in what looks like Bertholdr Mainzer Fraktur in eye-straining small point size, all of 207 Goth-packed pages.
I don’t understand German myself. I learned it at school, but forgot every word of it two years after I had left, and have felt much better ever since.
― Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat
The French Bibliothèque Rouge et Or edition of 1953 has very fine illustrations by Émile Folliette, including this one of logjam at the lock. Take your pick of which lock – there is a hint of an oast house in the background. Is there such a thing twixt Kingston and Oxford? Or is it a church?
Then there’s getting provisions on board, here assisted by a whole town-full of suppliers and pictured by the prolific painter Roméo Dumoulin in ‘Trois Hommes’ from Éditions du Nord of Bruxelles in 1930.
One of the most famous passages contains the process of opening a can with a boathook.
To conclude today’s episode, a variety of covers from French editions shows considerable artistic license when it comes to depicting City types in unguarded moments of leisure:
Read Part 1 “Down to the river in skiffs” here.
Part 3 “Crabbing and catastrophe” will be published tomorrow.