April 13, 2016

a vintage fairytale book

So here's a funny little story. Once upon a time, when I first began this blog five years ago, I thought I would only have enough content book-wise, for about a month. Can you believe? (pleeeeeeeze do not go looking at old posts from that first year. so baaaaaaaad. oh my word I had no idea what I was doing, not like I really do now, but oh my word, the photos were pretty hilariously bad.)

I thought I was going to have to run to the library every other day to find material. That's even more hilarious than my dismal old photos! Here we are, five years later, and I've come to realize that I probably won't have enough time in my life to show everything that I really want to show! I'll be here until I'm 80, I guess is what I'm saying. I'm going to be the awesomest book blogging granny that ever there was.

My dad was in town recently, visiting from Hawaii, and we were looking at my special bookcase of my most vintage fairytale books, many of which he gave to me. We were flipping through a copy of 'Andersen's Fairy Tales', (as in Mr. Hans Christian), and I realized that I had never fully realized how flipping incredible the art in this particular edition was!

The art was done by Arthur Szyk (how do you sayyyyyyyyyy that????) and it blows my MIND. I'll get back to it in a second. I want to give some links real quick, because I was worried that I might not be able to direct you to a copy that you could have for your very own, if you wanted. But while I don't see this exact copy, you can find used vintage copies here and here, and also a reprint that looks awesome HERE.

Same artist, same translators. (Mrs. E.V. Lucas and Mrs. H.B. Paull - I love that they're addressed as Mrs., see up above? Hilarious, no?)

What I really can't get over are THE COLORS. The colors you're seeing, that deep level of saturation - that's what the art really looks like. I took these photos with my phone camera, and the colors are true to life. Look at how deep and jewel toned they are! All the art is the same, a rich vibrancy that just blows me away.

My book is on its way to antique status - it's well over fifty years old - it was my dad's when he was a little boy, and I can only imagine what this thing looked like brand spanking new. It must have been glowing in its intensity, color-wise.

Szyk was known for his anti-Nazi, political art during World War II; you can read more about his career here. His style is fascinating - I found many of the illustrations to be both beautiful and ferociously strong in coloring, while at the same time possessing a slightly disturbing tone/element - some of the faces have a caricature-ish tendency that distorts the facial features in a way that makes you look twice and think, what's going on here?

The stories are a sampling of Hans Christian Andersen's collection - not everything is included in this set, but there are favorites like 'The Red Shoes', 'Little Tiny' (aka Thumbelina), 'The Snow Queen', 'The Nightingale', 'The Swineherd', 'The Emperor's New Clothes', as well as 'The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf', 'Little Ida's Flowers' and 'Hans Clodhopper', in addition to quite a few others.

So what do you think? Have you seen a copy of this book before, or are you familar with Szyk's works? I feel like a dunce that I've been sitting on this book for all of my adult life, and had never really given it much of a glance. Maybe because I was never that much of a Hans Christian Andersen fan (GASP) - I much prefer The Grimm Brothers' stories. I reeeeeally want a copy of 'The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm'. But as soon as I took a good long look at my Andersen's Fairy Tales book during my father's visit, I knew I had to show it to you guys!


  1. Thank you for the flashback! This is the same fairy tale book we had in our house when growing up, and probably my mother's. Seeing the illustrations again has made my day. I do love the art work.

    1. Oh I'm so happy you enjoyed seeing this! I really am kind of stunned that I didn't realize how amazing the art is in this book. Hidden treasure :)

  2. Gorgeous! I would love to have a copy like this. You know I can seldom turn down a vintage fairy tale book, and Andersen is my favorite. :) Cool you found info on the illustrator!

    1. right??? I was like who IS this guy? his style was too distinctive, i thought, to have only done this book. if you go look up at the end paper photo, you can see a bit of my dad's 7 yr old signature scribbled up in the corner!