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Herbert Cole

Herbert Cole (1867–1930) was an English artist and illustrator influenced by the pre-Raphaelites and arts and craft movements. Cole created a commanding image of the Green Knight in English fairy tales (1913) for Rhys and Rhys’ version of the story (a contracted and simplified retelling aimed at children). He is accounted for at the British Museum as follows.

Painter, draughtsman and illustrator working in London; illustrated volumes of poetry, literature and children's books published by John Lane, J M Dent and other publishers, 1890s - 1920s; exhibited at the Royal Academy; taught at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. His work is held in the V&A Museum as well as the British Museum, where a collection of his work was presented by his widow after his death (Collections Online | British Museum, 2022).

It is important to note that the image displayed here is sometimes attributed to Robert Anning-Bell and sometimes attributed to both Anning-Bell and Cole (as if collaborating), this is not correct and Cole is the creator of the image. The confusion is probably due to both men being credited with providing illustrations ‘with coloured illustrations by Herbert Cole and R. Anning Bell’ indicated on the title page of the book (see English fairy tales (1913 edition) | Open Library, 2011) and no indication inside as to which man created which works. However, as the antiquarian Sabastian Hau observes it is Herbert Cole that made all but two of the images, Cole’s images including The Green Knight Entered the Hall, featured in another publication, Fairy-Gold: A Book of Old English Fairy Tales (1906) where only Cole is named, in some versions the Green Knight image is included as a front cover. I include Hau’s description of the problem to help to settle the matter.

Seven of the eight colour plates, and all but one of the line drawings, are by Herbert Cole (1867-1930). The two ‘Jack the Giant-Killer’ illustrations (and generic title-page design) are by Robert Anning-Bell (1863-1933). Note that the Herbert Cole images first appeared in the children’s title ‘Fairy-Gold: A Book of Old English Fairy Tales’ (1906), those by Anning-Bell in ‘Jack the Giant-Killer & Beauty and the Beast‘ (1894) – one of the two Anning-Bell drawings being specially colorized for this edition. The generic title-page design, used across the series, incorporates a decorative border plus small line drawing from the Anning-Bell edition of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (1895) (Hau, 2020).



References (2022) Collections Online | British Museum. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 19 May 2022].

Hau, S. (2020) Ernest Rhys / Herbert Cole, R. Anning Bell - English Fairy Tales. With dust jacket - 1913. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 19 May 2022].

Open Library. (2011) English fairy tales (1913 edition) | Open Library. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 19 May 2022].

Rhys, E. (1906) Fairy-Gold: A Book of Old English Fairy Tales. J.M.Dent & Sons Limited.

Rhys, E. and Rhys G. (1913) English fairy tales. London J.M. Dent.

Herbert Cole, The Green Knight entered the hall
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