Monday, September 19, 2016
First, some backstory: Once upon a time, Art Boy used to go to the flea market every Sunday to buy old books.
Most were fantasy/sci-fi paperbacks, picked up for a dime to re-sell in his comic shop (preferably with gorgeous covers by Frazetta or Boris)— an outgrowth of his previous business selling books to collectors through the mail.
Untold cartons of these old books had been taking up space in the rafters of our garage for eons. But last year, when he decided to start recycling them back into circulation, we discovered two things.
One: eBay and its ilk have taken a huge bite out of the collectible book biz; you can get anything you want online. So there's not the same thrill Art Boy used to get from finding that one weird book he knew was on some collector's wish-list.
Oh, but look what you miss out on!
While preparing a box of old hardcovers for Logos, Art Boy found this lovely volume: Wonder Tales Retold, a collection of folk and fary tales from around the world.
It was written and illustrated by Katharine Pyle (1863-1938), sister of legendary artist Howard Pyle.
Although she is lesser-known today, Katharine Pyle was a prolific and a successful illustrator in her own right. Besides poems and magazine stories, she wrote, illustrated, compiled, edited, and/or adapted more than 50 books for children.
Wonder Tales Retold features stories from the French, German, Russian, Norse, and English, to Bohemian, French Creole, Persian, "Hindoo," Korean, and American Indian. Some are familiar, like Baba Yaga, or Tam Lin (here called "Tamlane"), but most were new to me.
The minute we flipped open the book, I knew we had to keep it!
It may not the most elaborate fairy tale book ever, by modern standards. But even though it's only a four-color printing process, look how lovely and sinuous these illustrations are! They were done in the Golden Age of Illustration, that decorative era right around the turn of the last century that I love so much.
A lot more women have made their living as artists or illustrators than history records, especially around this era of artistic and social ferment. I'm always thrilled to discover a new one!
What else is serendipitous about finding this buried treasure of a book? It was published in September, 1916 — making it 100 years old this month!