Friday, September 10, 2021

Bertha L. Gunterman

Bertha L. Gunterman in 1968
Bertha L. Gunterman (b. Louisville, Kentucky, 8 May 1886; d. Louisville, Kentucky, 3 October 1975) 

Bertha Lisette Gunterman was the daughter of Peter Anton Gunterman (1842-1898) and his wife, Elizabeth Margaret Jansing (1853-1919), who were married in October 1874. Bertha grew up with one older sister, one older brother, and one younger brother. 

Bertha studied at the University of Louisville between 1911 and 1914, and worked at the Louisville Free Public Library from 1912-1919,  followed by a short stint at the Los Angeles Public Library. For interludes she worked as a bookseller in Berkeley, and in New York City. She joined the publisher Longmans, Green and Company in New York in 1922, and she headed their newly established children's department beginning in 1925. At the time, Longmans, Green was only the fourth publisher to have established their own children's department, the first having been started by Macmillan in 1919. Gunterman ran the department for forty-two years until her retirement in 1967. (In 1961, Longmans, Green had merged with the David McKay Company.) After her retirement she returned to her native Louisville.

Gunterman herself had only three books with her byline. All three came out from Longmans, Green in 1928. In August, her edited version of the 1880 book  Edwy the Fair: The First Chronicle of Aescendune by A.D. Crake, with illustrations by Richard L. Holberg, came out, as did her selection of Tartan Tales from Andrew Lang, eight stories of loyal Scots in the Stuart cause, with illustrations by Mahlon Blaine. Lang's stories were derived from The True Story Book (1893), The Red True Story Book (1895), and The Red Book of Heroes (1909). The third book, which came out in September, was her most significant: Castles in Spain and Other Enchantments: Spanish Legends and Romances, with illustrations by Mahlon Blaine. Gunterson had long been interested in Spanish fantasy, and though she spoke no Spanish, she would take a friend with her to the New York Public Library to translate stories as she worked her way through some Spanish originals. The book contains some sixteen folktales.

It is Gunterman's work as a publisher for which she is best remembered. In late 1925, Padraic Colum, who had come to America from Ireland in 1914,  told her excitedly of some writings by Ella Young, a fellow Irish writer who had just arrived in America. This led Gunterman to pursue Young's works, and she published successfully The Wonder-Smith and His Son (1927), illustrated by Boris Artzybasheff; The Tangle-Coated Horse (1929), illustrated by Vera Bock; and The Unicorn with Silver Shoes (1932), illustrated by Robert Lawson. Each book went through a number of printings. In 1945 she published Young's autobiography, Flowering Dusk: Things Remembered Accurately and Inaccurately. And it was through Ella Young that Gunterman came to publish Book of the Three Dragons (1930) by Kenneth Morris, illustrated by Ferdinand Huszti Horvath.

Gunterman also worked with Frances Jenkins Olcott on a series of Wonder Tales, comprising Wonder Tales from China Seas (1925), illustrated by Dugald Stuart Walker; Wonder Tales from Windmill Lands (1926), illustrated by Herman Rosse; Wonder Tales from Pirate Isles (1927), illustrated by Herman Rosse; Wonder Tales from Baltic Wizards (1928), illustrated by Victor G. Candell; Wonder Tales from Fairy Isles (1929), illustrated by Constance Whittemore; and Wonder Tales from Goblin Hills (1930), illustrated by Harold Sichel.  Another book of special interest is Merriam Sherwood retelling of The Cid as The Tale of the Warrior Lord (1930), illustrated by Henry C. Pitz.

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