“Lovely is the Lee” by Robert Gibbings, 1946

Books Are Weapons In The War Of Ideas - Black Wall and Art Print | war propaganda

I found this book on a junk pile, about to go to the dump. Pure luck! Maybe the luck of the Irish, to which I am genetically entitled. The book could be categorized as “travel” or “memoir”.

The Irish river Lee crosses (roughly) from the town of Ballingeary to the city of Cork, the author’s birthplace. The book is an account of Gibbings return home after developing his career as a writer, sculptor and illustrator using wood engravings. It’s a travel book, mixing geography, natural history, folklore and personal anecdotes. Good reading!

The book is illustrated by the author’s wood engravings. From my perspective as a cellphone-camera photographer, I’m impressed by the effort that went into illustrating this book, and charmed by how expressive the wood cut prints are. 

I found some unusual information on the back of the title page of this old book which was published in New York.

“A Wartime Book

This complete edition is produced in full compliance with the government’s regulation for conserving paper and other essential materials.”

There’s also a patriotic logo, see above. An eagle in flight carries a book in it’s talons. A banner in the eagle’s beak reads “Books are weapons in the war of ideas”.

What ideas does this book support?

You CAN go home again. Nature is a source of endless wonder. The Irish are abundantly hospitable, whimsical and creative. Nothing in this book has anything to do with war, waged with weapons OR ideas.

Wikipedia has a highly informative biography of Gibbings. He was much better known for his wood prints than his books. I’m curious about a book entitled The Radium Woman: The Life Story of Marie Curie. Gibbings is listed as co-author with Eleanor Doorly. His contribution was woodcuts used for chapter headings. Scientist Marie Curie has long been a heroine of mine. 

Lovely is the Lee reminded me of The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd (see this blog, March 25, 2021), but Shepherd stayed within one mountain range, while Gibbings travelled widely.

If you want to read something calming, old travel books are the best!

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