Monday, May 21, 2012

Elinore Blaisdell

Elinore Blaisdell (b. Brooklyn, New York, 15 October 1900; d. Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 22 November 1994)

American artist and prolific illustrator of books.  Born in Brooklyn, New York, on 15 October 1900 (not 1904, as appears in reference books), Blaisdell studied at the Art Students League and Naum M. Los School of Art, New York, in addition to the Slade School of Fine Art in London.  In 1928 she married Melrich [“Mike”] Vonelm Rosenberg (1905-1937), an author and publisher’s representative.  Blaisdell illustrated some of her husband’s books, including a biography Eleanor of Aquitaine (1937), and With Sword and Song (1937), the tale of a fifteen-year-old boy in medieval France. Rosenberg died of a heart attack at age 32. The couple had no children, and Blaisdell, who always used her own name professionally, never remarried.

Blaisdell edited and illustrated one anthology for which she merits special consideration here.  Tales of the Undead: Vampires and Visitants (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1947) qualifies as the precursor to the familiar modern themed anthologies of vampire stories. Though its contents are not solely vampire stories (it includes stories of other types of the undead, defined as “the unearthly being which is neither ghost nor living”), they are in the majority.  Classics like Le Fanu’s “Carmilla,” Gautier’s “Clarimonde,” and F. Marion Crawford’s “For the Blood Is the Life,” appear along with more recent tales, many from pulp magazines like Weird Tales, by authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Seabury Quinn, and Robert Bloch.  Each of the twenty-three selections has an illustration by Blaisdell. 

According to the dust-wrapper blurb, Blaisdell had become a devoted reader of supernatural stories at the age of seven, when she discovered Poe, Hawthorne, and Maupassant in her father’s library.  She read “several thousand stories in all and selected each in this collection for its particular appeal and excellence.”

NB: An earlier version of this entry appeared in my column “Notes on Neglected Fantasists”, Fastitocalon no. 1 (2010).  

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