Masquerade is the title of a picture book by artist Kit Williams that was unlike any other when it first published in 1979, and inspired delight, mayhem, frustration and, ultimately, skullduggery over the next few years.
The story tells of a hare instructed to take a treasure from the Moon, to her lover, the Sun. The hare loses the treasure and it is up to the reader to find it by studying the 15 pictures included.
Oh what pictures they were! In the first picture, fieldmice pose suspended between grass stalks, under a moon's light, with the hare hidden in the mountains (a hare is hidden in each picture). Framing the picture is a phrase:
I am as cold as earth,
as old as earth,
and in the earth am I,
one of six to eight.
Some of the letters in the phrase are coloured red, in this case spelling out Hare. But wait, other letters are barbed, and they spell out Golden.
A golden hare, buried somewhere in England, for anyone to find.
So thus began the treasure hunt, with folk across the land-- bearing spades and metal detectors-- heading to public green spaces with their copy of the book. For those of us across the sea, we had to make do with frequent visits to the library, book and notebook and maps and encyclopaedias sprawled across tables. Librarians would pass by, make a disapproving sound, then pass by again, hovering, leaning over and then scurrying off to bring us a history book on Henry VIII, inspired the clue 'one of six to eight'.
Meanwhile, more cleverer hunters had broken the next level, by unpicking the process that lead to more clues from letters in the phrase, and supported by items in the pictures. These clues spelled out the treasure's location and pointed to digging at a certain spot, at a certain time of the year and time of day to find the treasure. Unfortunately, the people who dug up the treasure missed it, and it was picked up out of the dirt pile they left behind by someone who had 'hacked' their way to the solution by sleeping with the artist's ex-girlfriend.
So ended the physical hunt for the treasure, however the book still exists for anyone to try to solve, and Williams as well produced an equally entertaining and sumptuous follow-up, The Book with No Name, with the quest to find its title.
As a young impressionable man, being given Masquerade as a Christmas present led to many hours of study, learning, dreaming and discovery and I will always appreciate William's challenge.