Thursday, May 29, 2008

Report from the Reubens: Henry R. Martin

Crescent City Books, located in a typically beautiful ancient brick building on Chartres St. in the French Quarter, is a place so jam-packed with used books that the narrow front door barely opens wide enough to allow one person to pass in or out. Books stand piled in tall columns because there is no more room on the bursting shelves, and one must often navigate the stacks by shuffling sideways along the narrow strip of floor that isn't occupied by the store's inventory.

This place was heaven to me!

It was here that I located Rendering in Pen and Ink by Arthur L. Guptill - a book I've been searching for for years - and Crescent City had it for only 10 bucks - a steal.

I was almost on my way out the door with my new acquisition when a narrow little hardcover near the cash caught my eye. A quick flip through its pages revealed a series of really wonderful cartoon illustrations by an artist I'd never heard of: Henry R. Martin. I gladly plunked down an extra three dollars for Comic Epitaphs so I could share it with you today.

Martin's work reminds me a little of some contemporary cartoonists, like Seth or Chris Ware - modern day cartoonists who have been heavily influenced by the mid-century styles.

But I'm also reminded of work done by Martin's contemporaries. I see a hint of Roy Doty here...

... a touch of Jim Flora there...

... even a little Jan Balet on some of Martin's pieces.

But as this is the only example I've ever found of Martin's work, its hard to say whether this was typical of his style or what else he produced during his career. The Internet turned up a cartoonist named Henry R. Martin who was associated with Princeton University. Based on this Henry Martin's style, however, I have my doubts that he is the same artist who illustrated Comic Epitaphs.

Still, could there have been two cartoonists named Henry R. Martin working during the 1950's? Remember what I said yesterday about coincidences?

My Henry R. Martin Flickr set.


  1. i have this book and i love it...all of peter pauper press' books are really wonderful and i snap them up whenever i have an opportunity to do so...all of their illustrators are top notch i think.

  2. Reminds me a bit of a tamer Johnny Ryan...

  3. Rachael; I had no idea there were other PPP books! Perhaps you'd consider scanning a few images from yours and posting them on your blog...?

    johnny b - I see what you mean. A tamer version from a tamer time - but again, it shows how influential those 50's styles have been on contemporary character design, doesn't it?

  4. sure, i have a few out of boxes i can post.
    here are two pages i've scanned previously from a book "on friendship: a selection", illustrated by eric carle.

  5. Talk about coincidental serendipity, Leif! I was at the library just today with my daughter in search of a book when we came upon Comic Epitaphs. What a charmer.

  6. Rachael; thanks for those links :-)

    Jack; well put - it really is a charmer... now if I could only find more of Martin's work...

  7. i've posted them!

  8. Anonymous1:52 PM

    I did a little looking and found two PPP titles that were illustrated by Henry R. Martin available. has The Little Pun Book by Robert Margolin. The link has a good cover illustration. It is more expensive than the copy listed on $10 v. $5

    The only other that I could find was The Little Joke Book at Old Corner Books

    It has no images on the site, but from the fact of the same publisher and subject matter, it probably is the same man. It is much more expensive though at $20.
    Hope this helps and is some payback for the enjoyment that your site has given.


  9. Thanks Keith - I will probably keep hunting for them in used book and thrift stores... but its good to know they are out there waiting to be discovered! ;-)

  10. Anonymous2:51 PM

    I have "An Alphabet of Casseroles" from PPP--and it's sort of a Gashlycrumb Tinies of cookbooks (split pea, ham, and pineapple casserole--with cheese on top?).

  11. Anonymous3:26 PM

    Can anyone find more details on where these graves are? I can't find anything on for any of these. I'm just wondering if they are real or made up. If anyone can find photographs of the actual graves that would be great. Google just seems to be showing me other references to this book.

  12. I believe only some of the epitaphs are real, nessie. There's a comment to that effect on the inside of the book:

    "The following collection of gravestone inscriptions is hardly a serious historical one. Most of the items are genuine, but many are suspect, and few are frankly contrived. In some cases genuine inscriptions have been somewhat altered; and the place names are not reliable. Scholars are therefore warned not to find fault; but all maen - and also any women who choose - are invited to read further for a little goulish amusement."

  13. Anonymous3:53 PM

    Thanks so much for sharing these Leif! It's such an awesome find. I could look at these illustrations for hours I think!

  14. Anonymous1:50 PM

    I knew I'd seen this before. I had to do a search to make sure I wasnt crazy. Anyone else who wants a copy can get it now at shopgoodwill:

    I'd like to note also that since I started reading this blog, I realized that it wasnt the text I was so fond of but certain illustrators.

  15. Thanks for your comment, Bunnies n Books! :^)

  16. Anonymous9:51 AM

    It's been a while since you wrote this post, but I just thought you might like to see the pics I took of another Henry R Martins book, which I blogged about today at

  17. Anonymous12:24 AM

    The Henry R.Martin who wrote COMIC EPITAPHS is a retired cartoonist who did a lot of work for The New Yorker and a graduate of Princeton