Monday, April 15, 2013

Erikc* (for Erick*)

Erick Berry was born Allena Champlin in 1892, in New Bedford, Massachusetts, but grew up for the most part in New York State. The budding children's author and illustrator got her love of books from her father, George Champlin, and later wrote: "Father was reference librarian in the State Library in Albany, New York, and I had free access to the big files at almost any time; a wonderful library to grow up in. Because my eyes were not strong my reading was cut down to an hour a day, and so between reading I started copying the book illustrations; from this the family decided that I had ability as an artist and so, a little later, I went off to Boston to study with Eric Pape." (Allena Champlin later adopted the pen name "Erick" in homage to her beloved art teacher.) The New York State Library was then located in a crowded room at the top of the Capitol, but plans were under way to move into the new Education Building across the street. By 1911, after a series of bureaucratic delays and other holdups, State Librarian Melvil Dewey was clamoring to make it happen. Tragically, however, in the spring of that year, before it could be transferred to its new home, a devastating fire destroyed almost the entire collection. Erick Berry would have been nineteen years old at that time, and must have been broken-hearted at the news. The State Library currently owns about 25 of the nearly 100 books she produced during her lifetime, many of them with her second husband, Herbert Best. It also holds some of her personal papers, letters, photos, news clippings, promotional materials, and original drawings. There weren't any cases of Erikc* (for Erick*) in OhioLINK the last we looked, although we did find 30 in WorldCat, around a third of which seemed to be actual typos. But be careful with this one. There are unexpected surnames like Erikci, and more ways to spell and misspell Eric (Erik, Erick, Erich, etc.) than perhaps even the inventive Ms. Berry was capable of imagining.

(Cover of Berry's 1929 Newbery Honor book The Winged Girl of Knossos.)

Carol Reid

No comments: