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Michael McCurdy: Biography

Michael McCurdy was born on Manhattan Island in the fair city of New York. Having grown up in New York and in Marblehead, Massachusetts, he was graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (where his roommate for a year was David McPhail, the well-known children's book illustrator) and Tufts University in Medford (B.F.A., M.F.A.). In 1966 he was awarded a traveling scholarship from the Museum School. In 1969 he used the grant to spend four months traveling in Europe and the Soviet Union. He has taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Concord Academy (Concord, MA), and at Wellesley College's Book Arts Program. He has had many exhibitions of his work; and approximately 150 books contain his illustrations.

Michael McCurdy began engraving wood in 1962. Along with his work as an illustrator, he also designs and authors books. As publisher of Penmaen Press Books, he produced significant small-press first editions by many leading American and European writers and poets, including William Saroyan, Joyce Carol Oates, Howard Norman, William Stafford, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Coover, Richard Eberhart, Maxine Kumin, Leo Connellan, Rosellen Brown, Sandor Csoori, Richard Wilbur, Brian Swann, Anthony Hecht, Gerard Malanga, X. J. Kennedy, and the Nobel Prize-winning poet Vicente Aleixandre.

He has written several books that he has also illustrated. These include, Toward the Light (a collection of his wood engravings and anecdotes, published in Canada); The Illustrated Harvard: Harvard University in Wood Engravings and Words; The Devils Who Learned to be Good; Hannah's Farm: The Seasons of an Early American Homestead; The Old Man and the Fiddle; and Trapped by the Ice: Shackleton's Amazing Antarctic Adventure. He edited and illustrated Frederick Douglass's first autobiography, renamed Escape from Slavery: The Boyhood of Frederick Douglass in His Own Words, published in 1994.

Michael's studio is housed in his red barn in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts.

His wood engravings and drawings are found in trade books for both adults and children and in limited editions . Major fine press letterpress editions McCurdy has illustrated include, The Winged Life: The Poetry of Henry David Thoreau (1986), John Muir's My First Summer in the Sierra (Yolla Bolly Press/reissued by Sierra Club Books, 1988), and David Mamet's play, American Buffalo (1992), printed and published by Arion Press of San Francisco. He has also designed and illustrated the John Muir Library Series for Sierra Club Books.

Howard Norman's The Owl-Scatterer included McCurdy's engravings and was chosen by the New York Times as one of the Ten Best Illustrated Children's Books of 1986. Ann Whitford Paul's book The Seasons Sewn: The Year in Patchwork received the same recognition in 1996. His collection of engravings, Toward the Light, was awarded the Bronze Medal in an international book exhibition in Leipzig in 1983. Many books have received awards from the New England Book Show and the American Institute of Graphic Arts. McCurdy is included in Who's Who in American Art (Bowker), Who's Who in America, Contemporary Authors, and Something About the Author (Gale Research).

Some of the images in this portfolio are available as a notecard set, paired with well known quotations by Henry David Thoreau. If you are interested in ordering these cards, please visit his notecard webpage or e-mail him at

To learn more about Michael McCurdy and his work, his homepage is available at .

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