The Illustrated Book of Knights by Jack Coggins (1957)

Knights 1957

Knights 1957-2

Knights 1957-3Knights 1957-4










Knights 1957-5

Knights 1957-6Knights 1957-7










Knights 1957-8

I spent a lot of my childhood in the library looking at books like this one. Knights and the Middle Ages were a popular subject in the triumphant, post-war 1950s. The shiny idealism of films like Knights of the Round Table (1953) and TV series like The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955 – 1959) gave way in the late ’60s to the grimmer, if equally Romantic, sword and sorcery genre spurred by the younger generation’s discovery of Tolkien and Robert E. Howard. The knight-errant pictured in the fifth photo has always been an important figure in Western pop culture, from Robin Hood and the Lone Ranger to Batman and the Jedi (and Han Solo, for that matter).

Jack Coggins (1911 – 2006) wrote and/or illustrated 44 books, many of them focusing on space travel, between 1941 and 1983. He was also a prolific oil painter and magazine illustrator.

UPDATE: Jordan Harris alerted me to the fact that Coggins’ work had a direct influence on Gary Gygax—not surprising, but something I didn’t really consider. As it turns out, the cover illustration of Chainmail (1971) is a direct copy of a Coggins illustration from his book The Fighting Man: An Illustrated History of the World’s Great Fighting Forces through the Ages (1966), as noted by Jon Peterson (author of Playing at the World) and Zach at Zenopus Archives.

(Images via designbydecade/eBay)

8 Responses to “<em>The Illustrated Book of Knights</em> by Jack Coggins (1957)”

  1. 1 mwschmeer June 19, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    Picture 3 = Warduke!

  2. 5 Don Gates June 20, 2014 at 6:46 am

    “None shall pass!”

  3. 7 Bill Baldwin October 18, 2016 at 9:07 am

    Jack Coggin’s “The Illustrated Book of Knights” was also my favorite childhood book. I never owed a copy but I checked it out of the childrens room at the Jerome Park Library, in the Bronx, New York City, so many times that the librarians eventually refused to loan it to me.

    In the late 1980s, I looked up Jack’s address in a directory of North American authors and wrote to ask if he had any extra copies. He replied back by phone and said he still had a few, somewhere in his attic. Then he sent me
    a pristine cloth-bound 1957 library-edition, which I have kept wrapped in protective plastic for almost 30 years now.

    Since then, I have also obtained a standard cello-coat issue of the 1957 edition (on Ebay) and the recent Dover papercover reprint.

    Jack autographed the book to me on the front inside page, and sent
    a letter with it. I thought I’d share what he said.

    May 29, 1987

    P.O. Box 57
    Boyerstown, PA. 19512
    215 -367-9250

    Dear Bill

    Enclosed is the knights book — one of my last copies.
    It is nice to know it is still remembered after all these
    years. It was fun to do, and I confess I enjoyed looking
    through it again — something I hadn’t done for a long time.

    Jack Coggins

    Jack passed away about ten years back. Everytime I see
    his well-protected gift on my bookshelf, I recall his kindness
    and some fond memories of my childhood. There’s nothing
    quite like a favorite book.

  4. 8 K.E. Roberts October 18, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    What a great story, Bill! Thanks so much for sharing.

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