But just what is it, and where did it come from?
Let's go back to the start. Back in November 1989, Games Workshop published a set of teaser illustrations from their forthcoming Space Fleet game. Page 31 showcased some rather lovely illustrations of Eldar ships and their crew, from the talented hand of Jes Goodwin.
|White Dwarf 119, November 1989|
Jes had designed and sculpted the Rogue Trader Space Elf (later Eldar) range, but as the 1980s gave way to a new decade, a redesign for the Eldar was on the cards. The first we knew about it was in April 1990, when White Dwarf published 4 pages of Eldar sketches, stating "We've had so many letter demanding more Eldar material that we thought you'd like to see these pages of new miniature concepts extracted from Jes Goodwin's sketch book." And boy did we like seeing them!
|White Dwarf 124, April 1990|
Jes wasn't finished with us yet though - more of his sketches were sprinkled liberally over the seminal Eldar army list in White Dwarf 127, as well as across many later Eldar publications.
|White Dwarf 127, July 1990|
In 2001 we saw more Eldar sketches published in The Gothic and the Eldritch. Over the last decade we have seen Jes' sketches for the 2005 Eldar and 2010 Dark Eldar reboots online. Warhammer World and Games Day have also played host to the output from Jes' pencil
|Gothic and the Eldritch, 2001|
I am a huge fan of the Eldar range and aesthetics. Imagine my delight when I heard that GW were publishing a new Eldar Sketchbook of Jes' miniature concepts. Imagine my dismay when I heard that this was an extremely limited availability publication - roughly 2-4 copies issued to each GW store for sale on their birthday weekends! Imagine my delight when my friend George Quail of The Bearded Quail mentioned that the Glasgow GW store birthday was only a week or so away, and he would attempt to procure me a copy.
And my Knight in Shining Armour did exactly that - what a fine gent he is! Two days later, and a wonderful book is sat on my desk. I lasted precisely 5 seconds before I carefully slipped the book out of it's protective film.
The front and rear covers are elegantly simple. The printing is onto linen feel covers, with embossed silver text. The front cover features a lovely Farseer illustration, plus Jes' own personal rune.
The inside cover of both the front and rear of the book have negative blueprint style images of the Fire Prism tank.
The frontispiece shows a nice loose sketch of the Avatar - clearly an early sketch for the illustration which graced the pages of White Dwarf 127 (amongst other publications).
There is a single page of text in the book, by way of introduction, remarking that "Every illustration on these pages was produced by Jes Goodwin, a veteran designer and sculptor whose obsession with quality is inspiring." Never a truer word said!
The 50-page book is stacked full of Eldar sketches from 1989 to 2013. The sketches are very nicely arranged and the consistency of Jes' penmanship means that the transition between old and new feels seamless.
The reproduction quality of the sketches is so high, you can see the eraser marks from where Jes has altered the drawings.
The final pages of the book show Jes' vision of Craftworld life - forest domes and a preliminary sketch of his civilians (also fully rendered in White Dwarf 127).
Is the book perfect? In an ideal world, I'd have loved to have seen the very early Space Elf sketches, and their evolution into Eldar Guardians. I'd have been really interested to see more of the rejected concepts - Aspect Warrior designs that didn't make the grade; Farseers that looked too much like High Elves perhaps - seeing the design process in full would have given a tremendous insight into the development of figure designs. And there are no Exodites or Harlequins either! But those are minor gripes.
If you're an Eldar or Jes Goodwin fan like myself, you should make every effort to track down a copy. I am eternally grateful to George who put himself out to obtain one for me. Good luck hunting your copies down!