On My Bookshelf…Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm

On My Bookshelf…Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm

Illustrated by Arthur Rackham, to be specific.

I am clever enough to have joined the Folio Society one year many moons ago. I can’t remember if it was specifically to get my set of 4 classic children’s illustrated tomes, but I did and it is a treat.

Arthur Rackham was born in London in 1867 as one of 12 children. Rackham invented his own unique technique which resembled photographic reproduction; he would first sketch an outline of his drawing, then lightly block in shapes and details. Afterwards he would add lines in pen and India ink, removing the pencil traces after it had dried. With colour pictures, he would then apply multiple washes of colour until transparent tints were created. He would also go on to expand the use of silhouette cuts in illustration work [wikipedia tells us].

From ‘Hans in Luck’ – “By day, she made herself into a cat”
From ‘The Straw, The Coal, and The Bean’

The first English edition of German Popular Stories as it was then known, was published in 1823 and illustrated by George Cruikshank (whom I also love). The text of this edition is taken from the revised edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales illustrated by Rackham and published in 1909.

From ‘The Fisherman and His Wife’ – “At the third sting the fox screamed and down went his tail between his legs’

When I was at University I did a dissertation on Victorian Fairy painting, and drew many parallels between the grimness of Industrial Revolution era England and the escapism these paintings (as well as copious amounts of Laudanum) provided with their fantastical subjects and lyrical content. But with Rackham’s style of illustration I always feel they have a grubbiness to them – a spidery, coal-smudged quality that seems very appropriate for the time.

From Rumpelstiltskin – “Around the fire an indescribably ridiculous little man was leaping, hopping on one leg and singing’
From ‘The Four Clever Brothers’ – “The King’s only daughter had been carried off by a dragon”

These are not the Disney-fied sugar coated fairy tales with guaranteed happy endings. Old Grannies are wizened and gnarly; Dwarves and witches conspire to catch and eat you, and often succeed, or else die a grizly death. Animals speak, but you might not like what they say.

From ‘The Lady and the Lion’ – “She went away accompanied by the lions”
From ‘The Marriage of Mrs Reynard’ – “But they said one after another: ‘Halloa! Who’s been eating off my plate? Who’s been drinking out of my cup?'”

On My Bookshelf…The Peacock Party

Last week in the first of this series, and as part of my self-declared Bug Week, I shared with you Alan Aldridge’s illustrated The Butterfly Ball. Gorgeous, wasn’t it?

Well, the treats just don’t stop. People, here’s THE SEQUEL:

Inside cover illustrations

In this book, the feathered inhabitants of this charming world decide that anything those bugs can do, birds can do better. This volume was published in 1979 based on anonymous sequels to Roscoe’s version, illustrated in collaboration with Harry Wilcock, and with verses by George E. Ryder…and OMG I’ve just found out there is a THIRD one – The Lion’s Cavalcade! *taps away on Amazon…Sold!*

Sir Perceval Peacock Proposes A Party
Oswald Ostrich, R.A.
The Raven however was far from delighted; He cursed at the party; he wasn’t invited.

It is equally as charming.  No field notes on bird identification this time, but no less adorable. I could literally recite each poem here, they are all so delightful. This is one of my faves:

Before the world found shape or rhyme,

Before the pendulum measured time,

You were spawned by a murky spell,

You bedmate of demons and powers of hell!

Haunter of the gallows tree,

Raven, what mysteries do you see?

What hellish schemes do you devise?

What evil brews in your cruel, coal eyes?

Busy in your time-worn tower,

You spin your black charms hour by hour:

“Take sulphur’s fumous air,

Mercury, potassium mix with care,

Charge this broth to gentle fire,

Add bat fur, cobweb – stir this mire.

Then your evil wish behold:

The ruddy hues of magic gold!”

The Story Of The Mighty Parrot, Shel-Em-Nazam

‘Many stories have been told

Of tyrants, despots, villains bold.

Worst was the parrot, Shel-em-Nazam,

Spawned by a she-devil, sired by a ram.’

Madame Bella Donna

Again, the page of Madame Swanna is scored with my childhood tracing.

The Peacock Party

Finally, we are treated to a double page pull out of the triumphant Party:

The Peacock Party (detail)
The Peacock Party (detail)

You can see more of Aldridge’s work here.

Vintage needlework goodies

Vintage needlework goodies

Finally catching up with myself today after an ‘out of sorts’ kinda week. Spending the day designing new jewellery motifs so will be back to sharing my work in progress soon.

In the meantime, thought I would share some amazing vintage embroidery guides and pattern books given to my mum recently. Obviously I love looking at all the designs, but the really fascinating thing is the social window it provides, and how obviously important needlework was in the home back then.

Sit back and enjoy, stitching geeks.

These magazines are from the 40s:

Look at the too-cute ads inside:

And these French guides from DMC and Recko, also from the 40s and 50s. Lots of upholstery designs and sampler alphabets:

And this one which is 100 years old!

Look – claimed 99 years ago!:

Full of lovely traditional Crewel designs, very simple instructions (assumes you knew what you’re doing) and hand-coloured plates: