Graphic Arts | Rare Books and Special Collections | Princeton University Library
Unseen Hands: Women Printers, Binders and Book Designers    
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Clare Veronica Hope Leighton
British, 1898-1989

Although known primarily for her work as a printmaker, Clare Leighton also designed numerous book illustrations, bookplates, engravings, illustrations, mosaics, and stained glass windows over the course of a long and productive career. She wrote seven books, among them Four Hedges: A Gardener's Chronicle, illustrated with her own prints, and a treatise on wood engraving, her forté. She received her early training at the Brighton College of Art and also attended the Slade School of Fine Art and the Central School of Art and Design in London. During the 1920s and 1930s she taught, exhibited, and made several lecture tours of the United States. At the outbreak of World War II, she moved to America, and in 1945 became an American citizen. A teaching position at Duke University in 1943 brought her into contact with Professor Frank C. Brown's pioneering effort to collect North Carolina folklore. Eventually, the project grew to seven published volumes, all of which Leighton illustrated. Though some might have considered her an "outsider" in the matter of Southern folkways, she took her work seriously, making a research trip to the North Carolina mountains in 1946, where the customs, music, dance, and crafts of the early Scottish and Irish settlers still permeated the culture. Her sensitive, unsentimental portrayals of the difficult lives of African Americans in the United States are evident in the Cotton Pickers, shown below.

Cotton Pickers, by Clare Leighton

Cotton Pickers, 1941
Wood engraving
Signed in pencil, lower right
Graphic Arts Division


Wood-Engraving and Woodcuts, by Clare Leighton

Wood-Engraving and Woodcuts, by Clare Leighton. London: The Studio, 1932.
Graphic Arts Division

Other works in the exhibition:

  • The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore . . . collected during the years 1912 to 1943, in collaboration with the North Carolina Folklore Society, with wood engravings by Clare Leighton. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1952-64.
    Firestone Library
  • Original engraved wood block by Clare Leighton of an unidentified subject.
    Graphic Arts Division


Princeton University Library, Graphic Arts Collection
Rebecca W. Davidson, Curator of Graphic Arts
Tel: (609) 258-3197
Last Modified: February 18, 2004