There’s been a good degree of interest recently on Tove Jansson’s non-Moomin artwork, particularly with the recent reissues of her illustrated editions of The Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland and The Hunting of the Snark. Less well-known are the many commissions that she undertook for other book dust jackets. Most of these were for Söderströms, although there are many others that she did in her careers, some of which are doubtless (and sadly) lost to time.

Looking at the ones that survive, we instantly see many of the Jansson trademarks; comic nudity, overflowing reams of paper, characters performing sympathetic actions, dense patches of detailed flora – although we seldom see the cross-hatching that she employed in her Moomin drawings. The use of colour is interesting – there are a lot of solid blocks with characters picked out in black and white, a device that she would use in the first two sets of Moomin mugs launched in the early ’90s.

She often illustrated books by Gunnar Mårtenson, a prolific Finnish journalist and author who often wrote under the pseudonym(s) Tuus & Game – paradoxically, often on the covers of the same books that carried his own name.


Om flugan Maja raises a few questions. The title (“About Maja the Fly”) bears a strong resemblance to Waldemar Bonsels’ 1912 book Die Biene Maja, which was later adapted into a popular anime in 1975, and most recently into a CGI-driven TV series and film. It might be interesting to try and track down a copy of this and see how it compares.

I’ll be scouring the bookshops in Finland during my visit for any lost Jansson gems. Who knows what will turn up?