The history of a Danish 1924-edition of “Les Enfants
du Capitaine Grant”
Henrik Wilfred Christensen
When I in the late 1970´ies started the project of collecting “The complete Jules Verne in Danish collection” it was with Susanne Vebels book (“Bogen om Jules Verne”, Hernov 1978) as my second inspiration – the first I got at the age of 12, when my father introduced me to the registration in the Royal Library in Copenhagen.
Several of the editions listed in Susanne Vebels bibliography were very hard to find – outside public libraries. Some of them still are!
One of these were “Kaptajn Grants Børn”(“Les enfants du Capitaine Grant”), 1924. Prior. 214 s. Genfortalt for danske børn. Med 5 tavler. Which means: Prior – as editor; 214 pages; retold for Danish children, with 5 illustrations. (Vebel page 102)
For more then a decade I in vain sought this edition. I visited almost
every seller of rare and antiquarian books in Denmark. One day I visited
a small – now closed – antiquarian at Frederiksberg in the Copenhagen area.
Here I found a book discarded from a Copenhagen public library (“KKB” –
Skolebiblioteket Katrinedal Skole, Vanløse) in a library binding
without illustration on the front. The title-page said: “JULES VERNE –
KAPTAJN GRANTS BØRN – GENFORTALT FOR DANSK
Later that same day one of life´s little miracles occurred:
I visited another antiquarian ( Jacobsen – “Nostalgoteket”) and told him of the book I had found. I had the book with me and let him have a look at it. His response was fantastic. He said: “I think I have the illustrators original drawings for your book”! He went into the storeroom in the back of his shop and soon returned with 5 original drawings and a speciment sheet of the cover to the book. Unfortunately he had mislayed the original drawing for the cover-illustration, but promised to find it at a later time(which he did some months later). They are now all in my collection.
In the following years I found more copies of the book. Some just have the cover-illustration and not the 5 illustrations inside the book others have all the illustrations. There are no signs indicating that the illustrations have been removed from the books without illustrations. The editor Prior probably has published 2 variants: one with illustrations and another – cheaper? – without illustrations.
But there was an unsolved problem: “Who was the illustrator?”.
The antiquarian who sold me the drawings hinted that the illustrator could be Sikker Hansen (a well known Danish artist, who has made several illustrations for books and periodicals but is today best remembered for his lithographs and for his posters). The antiquarian could not verify his theory, but two of the drawings were signed “S 24” and one just with a “S”. The rest were unsigned.
In 1924 Sikker Hansen was an almost unknown artist. His career so to speak started in 1930 as he won the first prize in a competition for making a poster on traffic safety.
From this time and to his death in 1955 Sikker Hansen used 3 different
signatures for his works: “SH”, “SIK” or “Sikker Hansen” – often with the
year added to the signature. The “S” on 3 illustrations to “Kaptajn Grants
Børn” reminded of the “S” in his other signatures, so it could be
Sikker Hansen who had made the illustrations. The editor Prior was known
to have business relations with Alfred Jacobsen
Regarding the question of Sikker Hansen as the artist behind the illustrations for “Kaptajn Grants Børn” all this must be regarded as circumstantial evidence, and no real proof could at this time be established.
10 years after (this year 2007) the second little miracle occurred.
29 original drawings by Sikker Hansen were offered for sale by a well known Danish auctioneer. The drawings were illustrations for 5 different books:
George Eliot: “Møllen ved Floss”, Priors Forlag. 1924.
I also collect Sikker Hansen illustrations so naturally I was interested. As it was an auction on the internet there were a picture showing book-illustrations very similar to the original illustrations for “Kaptajn Grants Børn”. The books were published by the same editor in the years 1924 and 1925. I therefore participated in the bidding and purchased the drawings. It was now possible to make a further and more thorough comparison between the 35 original drawings and 3 specimen sheets of frontcovers. The similarities were striking. The “S” in the signatures were very alike:
And the letters in the book-titles were drawn in the same stile.
The style of the drawings showed that it was the same artist who had made all of them – and there was a striking similarity to other early Sikker Hansen illustrations. Furthermore (one more little miracle) one of the drawings for “Møllen ved Floss” was made on a piece of cardboard earlier used as specimen sheet for frontcovers (in black and white) of at least two books : “To smaa Landstrygere” by Mrs Wiggin and “Kaptajn Grants Børn”!!
Here was the final proof that linked my 6 drawings for “Kaptajn Grants
Børn” with the 29 other.
With all this evidence I find it beyond reasonable doubt that Sikker Hansen is the artist who made the illustrations for the 1924-edition of “Kaptajn Grants Børn”.
PS As a collateral gain we can add 7 book titles with 37 drawings (maybe more) to the works of Sikker Hansen as a book illustrator.
Henrik Wilfred Christensen, august 2007