The best books of beautiful draughtmanship

Who am I?

I'm a self-taught artist and sometimes a sculptor. I'm best known for illustrating the Discworld novels of Sir Terry Pratchett which I have been working on for almost 30 years. Not having had formal training, looking at the work of other artists was an important part of my learning. I have a large collection of art books and have been inspired by all sorts of creatives ranging from Leonardo Da Vinci to Jamie Hewlett. I'm often drawn to draughts-people who have a scientific approach to their work and limited use of colour. If I can’t escape to a gallery for inspiration I can always turn to the pages of a book.


I wrote...

Terry Pratchett's Discworld Imaginarium

By Paul Kidby,

Book cover of Terry Pratchett's Discworld Imaginarium

What is my book about?

I am delighted to present Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Imaginarium: a comprehensive collection of my own illustrations painstakingly selected after many weeks spent rummaging through my portfolios. The resulting pages of this book not only look back at works past, but they also look forward – with newly created artworks in celebration of the amazing ongoing legacy that Sir Terry Pratchett created for us all.

The books I picked & why

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The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook

By Alan Lee,

Book cover of The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook

Why this book?

My sister read the Lord of the Rings trilogy to me when I was a kid while we were on holiday in Scotland and it was hugely inspiring. Growing up I thought I would like to illustrate the books - until Alan Lee did it so perfectly. No one can better his interpretation, as Peter Jackson will agree. His delicate pencil work and subtle use of colour have always, for me, set the bar for illustration. A highlight of my career has been having my own work exhibited alongside his.

The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook

By Alan Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alan Lee, the Oscar-winning conceptual designer for the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, discusses his approach to depicting Tolkien’s imaginary world. The book presents more than 150 of Lee’s celebrated illustrations to show how his imagery for both the illustrated Lord of the Rings and the films progressed from concept to finished art. In addition, the book contains 20 full-color plates and numerous examples of the conceptual art produced for Peter Jackson’s film adaptation.

The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook provides a wealth of background information and will be of interest to those who know and love Tolkien’s work,…


Arthur Rackham: A Life with Illustration

By James Hamilton,

Book cover of Arthur Rackham: A Life with Illustration

Why this book?

A fascinating in-depth insight into the personality, career, and work of Rackham, who I view as the king of the golden age of illustration. His fine draughtsmanship and ability to create fantastical worlds and characters that range from the grotesque to the beautiful inspired me from an early age. The pages are packed with artwork done in his trademark pen and ink and watercolour. 

Arthur Rackham: A Life with Illustration

By James Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Arthur Rackham as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fascinating insight into the personality, career and work of one of the world's most collectable illustrators Filled with enchanting pictures and authoritative text

In this fascinating book, art historian James Hamilton examines the work and life of the illustrator Arthur Rackham. Rackham's illustrations for works such as Rip Van Winkle, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Alice in Wonderland and A Midsummer Night's Dream have attained the classic status of the writings themselves - indeed, in some cases they have become synonymous with them. Rackham himself, however, has previously remained a shadowy figure. As well as featuring exquisite illustrations and…


The New Sylva: A Discourse of Forest and Orchard Trees for the Twenty-First Century

By Gabriel Hemery, Sarah Simblet,

Book cover of The New Sylva: A Discourse of Forest and Orchard Trees for the Twenty-First Century

Why this book?

This book contains exquisite pencil and ink drawings by Dr. Sarah Simblet who teaches at The Ruskin and Christ Church, at Oxford University. Her observational work is second to none and through it, she explores the relationship between science, history, and art. She is dedicated to sharing visual intelligence and promoting understanding through art.  This is complemented perfectly with the text by Gabriel Hemery who gives an in-depth insight into the value of one of our most treasured assets – the trees of our land.

The New Sylva: A Discourse of Forest and Orchard Trees for the Twenty-First Century

By Gabriel Hemery, Sarah Simblet,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The New Sylva as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Beautiful, useful, inspirational" BBC Wildlife Book of the Month

"A delight on every page" Evening Standard

In 1664, the horticulturist and diarist John Evelyn wrote Sylva, the first comprehensive study of British trees. It was also the world's earliest forestry book, and the first book ever published by the Royal Society. Evelyn's elegant prose has a lot to tell us today, but the world has changed dramatically since his day. Now authors Gabriel Hemery and Sarah Simblet, taking inspiration from the original work, have masterfully created a contemporary version - The New Sylva. The result is a fabulous resource that…


The Magic of M.C. Escher

By J.L. Locher,

Book cover of The Magic of M.C. Escher

Why this book?

"Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?"

Escher was a master of graphic art, design and visual deception. His playful sleight of hand with perspective has intrigued and delighted me since I was a boy. This book shows not only his myriad of artworks but also his working drawings that give an insight into his mathematical mastery of geometry, which gained him the title of ‘the father of modern tessellations’.

The Magic of M.C. Escher

By J.L. Locher,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Magic of M.C. Escher as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As beautiful and rigorous as an Escher work itself, this book is the classic study of a great maverick who so memorably linked the world of imagemaking with geometry and paradox. Escher's works, from the great master prints to numerous drawings, are brilliantly arranged to form a cinematic journey of discovery that reveals the magical world of the artist's mind, an uncharted realm lush with exotic conceptions and inventions.


Gustave Dore (1832-1883): Master of Imagination

By Philippe Kaenel,

Book cover of Gustave Dore (1832-1883): Master of Imagination

Why this book?

Doré was a prolific artist who illustrated editions of the Bible, Dante's Inferno, Poe's The Raven, and The Adventures of Don Quixote. He was a veritable ‘dream machine’ with multi-disciplinary skills. His depictions of London never cease to amaze me with the intricacy of his observation. The fact that he also turned to sculpture and not to mention his influence on early cinema are all aspects that fill me with awe especially when considering his life was cut short at 51. The epic quality of his work inspires me hugely and this big book encompasses his whole career with lots of well-reproduced images, and the photograph of him on page 17 always makes me laugh.

Gustave Dore (1832-1883): Master of Imagination

By Philippe Kaenel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gustave Dore (1832-1883) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The diverse oeuvre of Gustave Doré—illustrations, paintings, sculpture—combines with biography and critical essays and attests to the artist’s enduring impact on contemporary culture. Proclaimed "the most illustrious of illustrators," Gustave Doré is best known for his engravings, which appeared in editions of the Bible, Dante’s Inferno, Poe’s The Raven, The Adventures of Don Quixote, and even in Hollywood, from King Kong to Seven. Yet the extent of his genius remains largely unknown. Here, along with his renowned illustrations, his paintings and sculptures are also examined, bringing to light the rich diversity of his talent. Using watercolor, vivid oil paint, or…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in trees, World War 2, and London?

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