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Simon, Edith (writer and artist) (1917-2003)



  • Existence: 1917-2003 - 2003


Edith Simon was born on 18 May 1917 in Berlin, Germany, to Walter and Grete Simon. Educated at the Fürstin-Bismarck Gymnasium, she showed a talent for art and history, and enjoyed early success with the publication of her drawings whilst still only 10 years old. Her father Walter, a decorated Great War veteran and successful businessman, moved with his young family to London when Edith was just 15, as the political climate in Germany became increasingly threatening. Edith, alongside her younger sister Inge, arrived in the British capital in 1932.

Edith studied for a short time at both the Slade School of Fine Art and the Central School of Art and Design. She also became an early member of the Artists International Association (AIA), which formed in London in 1933.

Writing Career

Embarking on her professional writing career, Edith’s first book was a children’s adventure story which she wrote and illustrated, titled Somersaults and Strange Company, published by Lawrence & Wishart in 1937. She had also begun working at this time as a book jacket illustrator, demonstrating her signature style and draughtsmanship. In 1938, she translated Arthur Koestler’s The Gladiators into English, which was published a year later. Her first novel, The Chosen, was published in 1940 by John Lane, The Bodley Head, when Edith was still only 23.

She would go on to author 17 books, including contemporary novels, historical novels, and histories, as well as contributing to edited collections. Her published work includes:

Somersaults and Strange Company (Lawrence & Wishart 1937)

The Gladiators by Arthur Koestler, (UK Johnathan Cape 1939; US Macmillan - New York 1939) (translated by Edith Simon)

The Chosen (The Bodley Head 1940)

Biting the Blue Finger (The Bodley Head 1942)

Wings Deceive (The Bodley Head 1944)

The Other Passion (The Bodley Head 1948)

The Golden Hand (UK edition Cassell & Co. Ltd. 1952; US edition G.P. Putnam's Sons 1951)

The Past Masters (UK edition Cassell & Co. Ltd. 1953; US edition 'The House of Strangers', G.P. Putnam's Sons 1953)

The Twelve Pictures (UK edition Cassell & Co. Ltd. 1956; US edition G.P. Putnam's Sons 1955)

The Sable Coat (Cassell & Co. Ltd. 1958)

The Piebald Standard: A Biography of the Knights Templar (UK edition Cassell & Co. Ltd. 1959; US edition G.P. Putnam's Sons 1959)

The Undying Past, ed. Orville Prescott (Doubleday 1961) (contributor)

The Great Forgery (UK edition Cassell & Co. Ltd. 1962; US edition Little, Brown & Co. 1962)

The Making of Frederick the Great (UK edition Cassell & Co. Ltd. 1963; US editions Little, Brown & Co., reprint Greenan Press)

Friedrich Der Grosse, Das Weiden eines Königs (Rainer Wunderlich Verlag, Hermann Leins, Tubingen, 1963)

The Book of Books – A Treasury of Great Bible Fiction, eds. Irwin R Blacker & Ethel H Blacker (Holt, Reinhart & Winston NY, 1965) (contributor)

The Reformation (Time-Life 1966)

Die Reformation von Edith Simon und der Redaktion der Time-Life (Time-Life 1967)

The Saints (UK edition Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1968; US edition Delacorte Press 1968)

Luther Alive (UK edition Hodder & Stoughton 1968; US edition Doubleday 1968)

The Anglo-Saxon Manner (Cassell & Co. Ltd. 1972)

The Makers of Modern Thought (Horizon Books American Heritage Books – subsidiary of McGraw Hill 1972) (contributor)

‘Frederick II the Great of Prussia’ (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1974) (contributor)

In addition, Edith also wrote two plays ‘The Inimitable’ and ‘Love Me, Scum’, neither of which were ever performed, and she completed a film script entitled 'A Perfect Marriage'.

It was in London in 1942 that Edith met the noted scientist Dr. Eric Reeve, whom she married that same year. The couple moved to Edinburgh in 1947 to facilitate Eric’s new role with Edinburgh University’s Genetics Department. They lived first at Mortonhall House, alongside a team of geneticists also working at the University. They would subsequently move to Roseberry Crescent, and Lansdowne Crescent, before settling permanently in Grosvenor Crescent. They had three children, Antonia (b.1950), Simon (b.1952), and Jessica (b. 1954).

Art Career

Edith returned to her artistic practice in the early 1970s, participating in an early exhibition at the Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh in 1970, followed by her first one-woman show at Gallerie Balans in Amsterdam in 1971 where she presented mobile sculptures and her signature papercut bas relief paintings. Edith would go on to stage and appear in over 50 exhibitions throughout her career. She experimented with and explored many mediums and forms including continuous line drawings, papercut bas relief scalpel paintings, rope sculptures, mobile and soft sculptures, sculptures in stained wood, ciment-fondue, vacuum formed perspex, cast polyester resin, cold-cast bronze, copper, aluminium, metal sheet, and carved plaster. She also utilised painted glass, as well as undertaking murals in paint and wood veneer. For over thirty years, she exhibited annually at the Edinburgh Festival, with her final show being held in 2001. [A full list of exhibitions (1970-2003) is available on the Edith Simon Gallery website cited below.]

In 1995, Edith contracted a respiratory infection which revealed an existing condition, widely known as emphysema. This necessitated the use of daily oxygen for the remainder of her life. Edith Simon died in Edinburgh on 7 January 2003.

Biographical information has been taken from ‘Moderation be Damned: Edith Simon’, published by Antonia Reeve in 2005, alongside the artist’s biographical note on the Edith Simon Gallery website, available at

Found in 450 Collections and/or Records:

Address book, possibly of Eric Reeve or Edith Simon, bulk: ?1942-?2008

Identifier: Acc.13772/303
Scope and Contents From the Series: This series contains personal family ephemera including holiday cards, drawings, children's papers, household expenses records, address books, news cuttings, and invitations.Files also appear relating specifically to the Mortonhall House Association Committee, in which Edith and Eric participated; and the Animal Breeding and Genetics Research Organisation Laboratory, Edinburgh, where Dr. Eric Reeve worked and taught.Sixteen boxes of unsorted photograph packets...
Dates: Majority of material found within ?1942-?2008

"An Affair of Love", 1964-1966

Identifier: Acc.13772/204-207
Scope and Contents From the Sub-Series:

Papers consist of typescripts, notebooks, some brief correspondence, and research material concerning books, plays and/or other projects which appear, as far as can be determined, not to have been realised.

Dates: 1964-1966

Annotated scripts for audio visual projects undertaken by Edith Simon and Antonia Reeve, circa 1986-1994

Identifier: Acc.14390 Box 5 (30)
Scope and Contents

Scripts appear in manuscript and typescript form and relate to the following projects: How Does The Artist Know? (undated); The Artist in Search of… (1986); To Be A Pilgrim (1989); Signals (1991); The Stuff of Life (1992); and Astonish Us (1994). File also contains a postcard from Inge Goodwin.

Dates: Majority of material found within circa 1986-1994

Annual Art Diaries of Edith Simon, 1977-1995

Identifier: Acc.13772/239-255
Scope and Contents

Hardback yearly planners containing sparse daily entries by Edith Simon, noting her work on art-related projects at the time. Diaries for 1988 and 1994 are absent.

Dates: 1977-1995

Art diary of Edith Simon, 1977

Identifier: Acc.13772/239
Scope and Contents

Yearly planner containing updates on works in progress and some social appointments. File also contains loose invoices, an insurance certificate, and notes on costings.

Dates: 1977

Art diary of Edith Simon, 1978

Identifier: Acc.13772/240
Scope and Contents

Yearly planner containing updates on works in progress and some social appointments. File also contains loose manuscript notes on material measurements for sculptural pieces.

Dates: 1978

Art diary of Edith Simon, 1979

Identifier: Acc.13772/241
Scope and Contents

Yearly planner containing updates on works in progress and some social appointments.

Dates: 1979

Art diary of Edith Simon, 1981

Identifier: Acc.13772/243
Scope and Contents

Yearly planner containing updates on works in progress. File also contains one loose manuscript page with notes on material measurements for sculptural pieces.

Dates: 1981

Art diary of Edith Simon, 1982

Identifier: Acc.13772/244
Scope and Contents

Yearly planner containing updates on works in progress. File also contains one loose manuscript page with notes on sculptural pieces and their related costings and time requirements to complete.

Dates: 1982

Art-related press cuttings, 1959-2003

Identifier: Acc.13772/256-262
Scope and Contents

This sub-series contains the press cuttings Edith Simon retained, documenting press coverage and reviews for her art projects and exhibitions.

Dates: 1959-2003

"Asking for Trouble" or "At Least You Bounce on a Full Stomach", a play, ?1960-?1969

Identifier: Acc.13772/170-171
Scope and Contents From the Sub-Series:

Papers consist of notebooks, manuscript and typescript drafts, and research material concerning named plays and screen treatments, alongside more general notes and papers concerning broader ideas and concepts.

Dates: ?1960-?1969

Book publishing agreements of Edith Simon, 1939-1973

Identifier: Acc.13772/48
Scope and Contents File contains original and copy agreements for book publishing contracts, film rights assignation agreements, and staging rights assignation agreements. Contracting parties include White Lion Publishers Ltd; Doubleday & Company Inc.; Cassell & Company Ltd.; George Weidenfeld & Nicholson Ltd.; Ballantine Books Inc; Rainer Wunderlich Verlag; Little, Brown & Co. Inc.; Casa Ed. G.C. Sansoni; P.F. Collier & Son Corporation; Alfred A. Knopf Inc.; Lord Chamberlain's Office; G.P....
Dates: 1939-1973