UCB Libraries

Current Exhibit:

On display in the Special Collections Department, Norlin Library Room N345:

Once Upon A Time:
Early and Illustrated Fairy Tales

In honor of Professor Emeritus Jacques Barchilon

On display June 8 - December 9, 2009

Once Upon a Time presents a three hundred year span of fairy tales, featuring important works by Charles Perrault, Mme. D'Aulnoy, Boccaccio, Jean de la Fontaine, the Brothers Grimm, and Giovanni Straparola. The exhibit also includes nineteenth and early twentieth-century book illustrations of these works by artists such as Gustave Doré, Walter Crane, and Arthur Rackham.

Illustration by Walter Crane.
Walter Crane illustration of Little Red Riding Hood


Special Collections' regular hours, are Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 1-5 pm. Other times are available by appointment. The department will be closed November 25-27 for the Thanksgiving Holiday, and from December 14, 2009 - mid-January, 2010.

The department can be contacted by email (spc@colorado.edu) or telephone (303-492-6144).


Text contributions for this display are by Professor Emeritus Jacques Barchilon (French fairy tales), Professor Suzanne Magnanini (Italian fairy tales), and Professor Ann Schmiesing (German fairy tales); Susan Guinn-Chipman, Elizabeth Newsom, Kris McCusker, and Kati Polodna. Thank you, also, to Alison Hicks, Holley Long, and Michael Dulock.

Fairy Tales in the Classroom

Find out more about how Special Collections' holdings of fairy tale books enhance university classes in this article.

Blogging Once Upon a Time

Do you have comments about the display? Want to start a conversation about a particular piece? Talk about it here.

For Further Research

A bibliography with many more books of fairy tales held in Special Collections is available here.



Jacques Barchilon
The Fairy Tale

Like all French educated children, Jacques Barchilon was quite familiar with Charles Perrault’s fairy tales early in his childhood.

But he had little notion that his adult life would involve a scholarly career devoted to research and publications on the 17th and 18th C. French fairy tales.

After service in the Free French Forces (1943 to 1945) Jacques Barchilon emigrated to the United Sates, resumed his education, and eventually came to Harvard University in 1950. At the time, he was mainly interested in graduate work in Comparative Literature and History. His life-long interest in historical research was renewed by some of the outstanding scholars teaching there, and naturally (almost fatally) led to a general study of the French Seventeenth-Century fairy tale, and resulted in pioneering works, beginning in 1956. A list of his publications, subsequent to his doctoral dissertation, would be a monotonous bibliographical exercise mentioning his books and articles in a variety of scholarly journals. It might be more interesting to briefly develop some of his ideas on the significance of fairy tales.

Fairy tales, or magic tales, are everywhere on this planet. All cultures, all nations, each in their own languages, do have their tales. And now, more than ever, thanks to the diffusion through the various media, tales and their characters are known worldwide. There are French and Italian versions of Beauty and the Beast, just as there are Japanese and Russian analogues of this tale in Norway and elsewhere, to mention just one example. Furthermore, fairy tales are part and parcel of folklore studied in international scholarly associations.

Fairy tales have a history and cannot be studied in depth other than in their beginnings. There is no sense studying Sleeping Beauty unless one remembers that there were earlier Medieval German and French versions of that immortal story.

Fairy tales are known to have different styles in their various forms, as they belong to the literary heritage of a given culture. The French versions of Perrault are different from those of the Grimm Brothers or those of Andersen. Comparative studies never fail to reveal a web of references, which not only entertain their audience but also satisfy deep psychological needs. They are “universal dreams” of the human race.

A little more that three hundred years ago, in the last 10 years of the seventeenth century, the French literary fairy tale was born and began a vogue that lasted well into the following century. It is impossible not to notice that in our own day a similar interest in the fairy tale is “exploding” on the literary scene. This scholarly echo is manifest in these United States as well as in France, England and Germany. A profusion of critical works extolling the interpretation of fairy tales as exemplifying their sociological, psychological, feminist (or not) significance have been published. Specialized journals such as Marvels & Tales, or Fabula are vehicles for contemporary scholars.

In conclusion, because these words are meant to accompany this Once Upon a Time exhibit of the University of Colorado Special Collections, let us say that for Jacques Barchilon, and his colleagues-librarians, a certain passion for beautiful or early editions of fairy tales is quite evident in this display, which is provided for visual and intellectual pleasure. Viewers: enjoy!

About the Books on Display

Giovanni Boccaccio as a model for
Italian fairy tale writers

Giovanni Boccacio. Il Decamerone. Lyon: Gulielmo Rovillio, 1555.

Although Giovanni Boccaccio did not write any fairy tales, his fourteenth-century masterpiece the Decameron served as a model for two of the first European authors to embrace the genre, Giovanfrancesco Straparola and Giambattista Basile.  The Decameron opens with a frame tale or cornice that describes the plague of 1348 ravaging the city of Florence.  To escape the death and chaos, ten young Florentines, seven women and three men, flee to a villa in the Tuscan countryside where they amuse themselves by telling a tale each for ten days, for a total of one hundred tales.

By the sixteenth century, the Decameron had become a model for all authors who penned prose tales in Italy.  Both Straparola and Basile imitated to some extent the structure of the Decameron.  In Straparola’s The Pleasant Nights, a group of men and women gather on the island of Murano in Venice for thirteen nights during carnival to dance, sing songs, tell tales, and solve riddles.  In Basile’s The Tale of Tales, a fairy tale frame circumscribes 50 tales. An old woman curses Princess Zoza to marry Prince Tadeo who lies in an enchanted sleep.  To wake him, Zoza must fill a jug with her tears.  She falls asleep before finishing the task and a slave name Lucia finishes the job, wakes the prince, and becomes his wife. Undaunted, Zoza has an enchanted doll breathe the desire to hear stories into Lucia’s ear. Ten old crones are called to Prince Tadeo palace to tell one tale each for five days to satisfy his pregnant wife Lucia ‘s craving for tales.  Straparola’s and Basile’s tale collections were so closely linked to Boccaccio’s Decameron in the minds of early modern readers that in 1674 the printer Antonio Bulifon published Basile’s The Tale of Tales with the title Il Pentamerone

The edition of the Decameron displayed here demonstrates Boccaccio’s appeal to sixteenth-century readers and his influence outside of Italy.  Printed in Lyon, France, in 1555, this Italian edition of the Decameron includes a biography of Boccaccio and a table of proverbs found in the tales.  If you look closely at the pages displayed, you will note that some printed pages have been replaced with pages that were painstakingly copied by hand.

Giambattista Basile’s The Tale of Tales

Giambattista Basile.  The Pentamerone. [Translated by Benedetto Croce.]  London:  John Lane the Bodley Head Ltd, 1932.

Giambattista Basile’s Lo cunto de li cunti, or The Tale of Tales, is a key text in the development of the European fairy tale tradition because it contains some of the earliest versions of what are now classic tale types.  Basile’s “Sun, Moon, and Talia” is a sleeping beauty tale and his “Cinderella Cat” tells of a girl named Zezolla’s struggles with her evil stepmother and stepsisters who wish to keep her away from a prince.  With the help of a fairy, Zezolla is able to dress elegantly and wins the heart of the prince.

Although we can see in Basile’s stories the basic plot structure of fairy tales still popular today, Basile’s tales are vastly different from contemporary versions.  For example, his sleeping beauty, Talia, falls asleep after having her finger pricked by a sliver of flax.  Left sleeping in an abandoned castle by her distraught father, she is found one day by a king who is in the wood hunting.  Struck by her beauty, he sleeps with her and nine months later Talia, without ever waking, gives birth to twins, Sun and Moon. Fairies carry the infants to her breast to nurse each day. One day, one of the twins sucks the sliver out of Talia’s finger and she awakes.  The King returns and is delighted to find Talia and the two children; however, when he tells his wife the Queen the news of Talia his offspring, she is enraged and begins to plot against them. First, she has the children sent to the royal palace and orders the cook to kill them and then use their bodies to prepare dainty dishes.  The cook, however, takes pity on the children and hides them.  Next, the Queen calls Talia to the royal palace and plans to burn her alive.  Talia begs the queen to be able to remove her clothing and the queen grants her permission to do so.   With each piece of clothing Talia removes, she screams. The king arrives just in time to save Talia and throw the evil queen into the fire.  The cook reveals that he has not killed the children and so the king, Talia, Sun, and Moon live happily ever after.

Born in 1575, Basile served at various courts mainly in and around his native city Naples.  He divided his time between his courtly duties and his literary pursuits. Although during his lifetime he was known as a gifted poet of standard Italian, he wrote his masterpiece, The Tale of Tales, in Neapolitan dialect. Perhaps on account of this linguistic choice, his collection of tales, although reprinted a number of times, never achieved the success of Straparola’s The Pleasant Nights.  Basile died in 1632 leaving his fairy tales unpublished.  The Tale of Tales would be published in Naples in five volumes between 1634 and 1636. 

Europe’s First Literary Fairy Tales

Giovanni Francesco Straparola. Le Tredici Piacevolissime Notte. Venice: Zanetto Zanetti, 1608.

Although today the fairy tales of France’s Charles Perrault and Germany’s Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are perhaps better known, the first literary fairy tales published in Europe appeared in Giovanfrancesco Straparola’s Le piacevoli notti, or The Pleasant Nights (Venice; 2 vols, 1551 and 1553). The Pleasant Nights contains many different types of tales, including realistic novellas, stories about practical jokes, tragic and triumphant love stories, bawdy tales, and animal stories. Some sixteen of these 74 tales are fairy tales.  Straparola is the author of Puss-in-Boots, the story of an impoverished boy whose enchanted cat earns him wealth, marriage to a princess, and a kingdom.  Among the other fairy tales in The Pleasant Nights, we find a dragon slayer tale; the tale of a prince born in the shape of a pig due to a fairy’s curse who regains his human form only after marrying three time,; the story of Biancabella or “White Beauty” a princes who undergoes many trials until finally being saved by a fairy;  and the a poor girl who acquire a magic doll that poops money and helps her marry a prince. 

We know very little about the life of Giovanfrancesco Straparola.  He most likely was born in Caravaggio, Italy around 1480 and probably died in or near Venice around 1557.  Besides his collection of tales, The Pleasant Nights, he wrote a collection of poetry published in 1508.  Even his name is a mystery:  “Straparola” translates roughly as “too wordy” or “The Babbler”.

Straparola’s The Pleasant Nights was an early modern bestseller reprinted some twenty times in Italy between 1551 and 1620.  The 1608 edition displayed here contains charming woodcuts that illustrate key scenes from the tales.

Translation, Transmission, and Transformation
of Straparola’s and Basile’s Fairy Tales

Giovanni Francesco Straparola.  Les Facetieuses Nuits.  [Translated by Jean Louveau and Pierre de Larivey.] Paris: Chez P. Jannet, 1857.

By 1576 both volumes of Straparola’s The Pleasant Nights had been translated into French. Between 1560 (the publication of the Volume I) and 1615, the translation of The Pleasant Nights had become one of the most popular tale collections published in France, with editions printed in Lyons, Paris, and Rouen.  Through these translations, Straparola’s tales came to have a great influence on the French literary fairy tale tradition, an influence that French authors readily admitted.  For example, in her preface to her own collection of tales, Sublime and Allegorical Stories (1699), one of France’s earliest fairy tale authors, Mme Henriette-Julie de Murat, told her readers, “I am pleased to indicate two things to the Reader.  The first is that I took the ideas for some of these tales from and earlier Author entitled Les facétieuses nuits due Seigneur Straparole, printed for the sixteenth time in 1615.  These Tales were apparently very fashionable during the last century, as there has been so much discussed about this book.  The Ladies who have written up until now in this genre [the fairy tale] have drawn from the same source, at least for the most part.  The second thing that I have to say is that my Tales were written since last April, and that if there are similarities with one of these Ladies in discussing some of my Subjects, I did not use any model other than the original, which will be easy to prove by the different paths we have taken.”  Ladies such as Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy were not the only authors to borrow plots from Straparola; male writers such as Charles Perrault did the same.

Written in Neapolitan dialect rather than standard literary Italian, Basile’s fairy tales would wait many centuries to translated into other languages.  Indeed, the first Italian translation of The Tale of Tales appeared only in 1747, more than a hundred years after the first Neapolitan edition was printed.  Scholars believe, however, that French authors such as Charles Perrault had access to Basile’s tales in the original Neapolitan.  Most likely, Basile’s tales entered France by way of Antoine Bulifon, a French printer who lived and worked in Naples. Bulifon’s book shop was an important stop for French travelers visiting the city, including King Louis XIV’s book buyer, Jean Mabillon, who purchased a great number of volumes from Bulifon and shipped them back to Paris.

Madame de Murat

[Mad. la Comtesse de M***] Mme de Murat. Contes des Fées.  Paris:  Claude Barbin, 1698.

The privilege of this volume is dated 20 Janvier 1698. It includes one illustrated floral design (Clouzier fc. [fecit] on the dedicatory page.  The contents include: “Le Parfait Amour,” “Anguillette,” and “Jeune et Belle.”

Fairy Tale Scholarship

Marvels and Tales

Merveilles & Contes was founded by Jacques Barchilon in 1987 at the University of Colorado at Boulder to provide a scholarly journal for the multidisciplinary and international study of fairy tales, as well as a forum for texts and translations. The journal was originally printed in many languages, including Polish and Chinese, in keeping with its international focus. It moved to Wayne State University Press in 1997, taking the name Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies, and is now printed in English and occasionally German.

Madame D'Aulnoy

Madame [Marie-Catherine], D*** [D’Aulnoy].  Les Conte des Fées.  Paris:Claude Barbin, 1697.

This title page shows for the first time the expression “Contes des Fées” [Tales of the Fairies], which became ubiquitous as “fairytales” in English. The four tales, “Gracieuse et Percinet,” “La Belle aux Cheveux d’Or,” “ l’Oiseau Bleu,” and “Le Prince Lutin,” are illustrated by one engraved vignette on each title page. The engraver,  Antoine Clouzier, also illustrated Perrault’s first edition of his Contes with were published the same year. 

Mme D’Aulnoy [& Chevalier de Mailly].  Les Illustres Fées.  Amsterdam:  Chez Michel Rey, 1749. 

The engravings in Les Illustres Fées are signed Fokke, inv[venit] et Fe[cit].  Two volumes are bound as one.  The first volume is by Mme D’Aulnoy and includes:  “Gracieuse et Percinet,” “La Belle aux Cheveux d’Or,” and “l’Oiseau Bleu,” “Le Prince Lutin,” :La Princesse Printaniere,” “La Princesse Rosette,” “Le Rameau d’Or,” “l’Oranger et l’Abeille,” “La Bonne Petite Souris,” The second volume begins after page 412 and includes: “Blanche Belle,” “Le Roi Magicien,” “Le Prince Roger,” “Fortunio,” “Le Pince Guerini,” “La Reine d l’Ile des Fleurs,” “Le Favoir des Fe’es,”  “Quiribini,” “La Princess Couronnee par les Fées,” “L Supercherie Malheureuse,” and “L’Ile Inaccessible.” 

Mme D’Aulnoy.  Histoire et Aventure d’Hypolite, Comte de Duglas.  Nouvelle Édition.  Livre Troisieme.  Paris:  Chez Valleyre, 1764. 

The original edition of 1691 was widely reprinted and translated.  Chapter 13 tells the story of Prince Adolf of Russian and Princess Felicity.  It is one of the best-known fairy tales, an example of the folktale “The Land Where No One Dies.”  The story has been the subject of the Frank Capra film Lost Horizons (1937) featuring the Tibetan Lamasery [or monastery] of Shangri-la.

Charles Perrault

Charles Perrault.  Histories ou Contes du Temps Passe. Avec des Moralitez, par le fils de Monsieur Perreault [sic] de l’Académie François[e], Suivant la Copie àParis [Amsterdam], 1700. 

This volume faithfully reproduces the original edition of 1697. Perrault was still alive at that time (he died in 1703).  This small volume was exquisitely bound in gilt gold edged decoration, probably done in the 19th or early 20th century. 

Charles Perrault.  Contes de Ma Mère L’Oye [Tales of Mother Goose], with introduction and critical text by Jacques Barchilon.  2 vols.  New York:  Pierpont Morgan Library, [1695], 1956.

This facsimile of a unique manuscript of Contes de Ma Mere L’Oye, owned by the Pierpont Morgan Library of New York was published in 1956. Volume I includes a critical Introduction and Text of the manuscript by Jacques Barchilon.  Volume II is a facsimile of the manuscript.

Charles Perrault.  The Authentic Mother Goose Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes.  A facsimile edition (from photostats and photocopies) of two unique copies in the United States).  Edited and introduced by Jacques Barchilon and Henry Pettit.  This edition includes:

The first English translation (1729) of Perrault’s Histoires ou Contes de Temps Passé (1697), also know as Contes de Ma Mère L’Oye (Tales of Mother Goose).  From Houston Library, Harvard University. 

Mother Goose’s Melody (1791), is a reproduction of the unique copy in the United States, owned by Miss Elizabeth Ball of Muncie, Indiana.  The original London edition was published anonymously. 


Gabriello Faerno.  Fables in English and French Verse. London: Claude du Bosc, 1741.

The humanist Gabriello Faerno of Cremona, the nephew of Pope Pius IV, was asked by his uncle to publish a volume of 100 fables in Latin. It was published in 1563, after his death.  Charles Perrault had a completed French translation by 1699. 

Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695).  Fables de La Fontaine. (Paris:  Garnier Frères, [mid-19thc.]). 

This collection of fables, written by la Fontaine and based upon Aesop, Horace, Boccaccio, Ariosto, and Tasso, includes “La Vie d’Ésope,” as well as a number of fables, such as “Le Corbeau et le Renard,” “L’Hirondelle et les Petits Oiseaux,” “Le Lion et le Moucheron,” “Le Loup, La Mere et L’Enfant,” and “Le Faucon et le Chapon.”  Illustrations are by Grandville. 

Mademoiselle de Lubert

Mademoiselle de Lubert.  Le Pouvoir des Fées, Contes Nouveaux.  A la Haye, 1743. 

A privilege page is dated 1736, suggesting that this Dutch edition is a reprint from a Paris issue. This volume includes “Discours preliminaire qui contient l’Apologie des Contes de Fées Tecserion ou le Prince des Autruches.” 

Mademoiselle de La Force

Mademoiselle de *** [La Force, Caumont de, Charlotte-Rose]. Les Fées, Contes des Contes.  Paris: Medard D. Brunet, 1707. 

This is a reprint of the 1697 original edition. It features nine unsigned very fine engravings, including one for each story in addition to a frontispiece. Included in the contents are:  “Plue Belle que Fée,” “Persinette, L’Enchanteur,” “Tourbillon,”” Verd et Bleu,” “Le Pays des Délices,” “La Puissance d’ Amour,” “La Bonne  Femme.” 

Mademoiselle L’Héritier

Mlle L’Héritier.  La Tour Ténébreuse et les Jours Lumineux.  Amsterdam, Jaques des Bordes, 1706. 

This is a Dutch reprint of the 1705 Paris edition.  Two volumes are bound together: Volume I includes Rickin-Ricdon, Suie du conte de Ricdin-Ricdon and Volume II, La Robe de Sincérité. 

La Tirannie des Fées Détruite

La Tirannie des Fées Détruite.  Amsterdam:  Chez Miche Le Cene, 1730. 

This volume includes engraving on the frontispiece and the title pages of stories; none are signed. It includes: “Historie de Cléonice,” “Histoire de Calypse et Melicerte,” “Agatie, Princesse des Scithes,” “La Princesse Leonice,” and “Le Prince Curieux.” 

Collected Works

Griselidis [Griselda], Peau d’Asne [Donkey Skin], and Les Souhaits Ridicules [The Ridiculous Wishes].  Paris:  Jean-Baptiste Coignard, 1695.

This volume represents the first collective edition (1695) of three works previously published separately. This edition is the first to publish an important preface on the nature of fairy tales. 

Chevalier de Mayer, ed.  Cabinet des Fées ou Collection Choisie des Contes des Fees et Autres Contes Merveilleux.  Paris & Amsterdam, 1785. 

Volume I includes: Charles Perrault, Contes: “Le [Petit] Chaperon Rouge,” “Les Fées,” “La Barbe Bleue,” “La Belle au Bois Dormant,” “Le Chat Botté,” “Cendrillion,” “Riquet a la Houppe,” “Le Petit Poucet,” “L’Adroite Princesse” [by Mlle l’Heritier], “Griselidis,” “Peau d’Ane,” and “Les Souhaits Ridicules.” New fairy tales by Madame de Murat (Les Nouveaux Contes des Fées) include: “Le Parfait Amour,” “Anguillette,” “Jeune et Belle,” “Le Palais de la Vengeance,” “Le Prince des Feuilles,” and “L’Hereuse Peine.” This initial volume is followed by forty more tomes, a comprehensive selection of practically all the French fairy tales collected before the French Revolution. 

The Brothers Grimm

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Kinder- und Hausmärchen gesammelt durch die Brüder Grimm. Kleine Ausgabe.  With illustrations by Paul Meyerheim. Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1886.

This is the thirty-fourth edition of the Kleine Ausgabe (Small Edition) of the Grimms’ fairy tales.   First published in 1825, the Kleine Ausgabe was a collection of fifty tales from the Grosse Ausgabe (Large Edition) originally published by the Grimms in two volumes in 1812 and 1815.  The original Grosse Ausgabe contained 156 tales and was not immediately popular; for this reason, the streamlined Kleine Ausgabe was published in part to appeal to a broader middle-class audience.  Among the tales included in the Kleine Ausgabe are the Grimms’ versions of Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, and Cinderella.

[Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm]. Kinder-Märchen gesammelt durch die Brüder Grimm. Stuttgart: Loewes Verlag Ferdinand Carl, n.d. 

As the title of this illustrated collection of forty-eight tales from the Brothers Grimm suggests, the fairy tale was increasingly viewed as a genre for children in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Here the tales are no longer referred to as “Kinder- und Hausmärchen” (Children’s and Household Tales), but exclusively as “Kinder-Märchen” (Children’s Tales).   These pages show the still popular German tales “Die Sterntaler”  (Star Coins) and “Sneewittchen” (Snow White) on facing pages.  In the illustration of “Star Coins” on the left, gold coins rain down to reward the poor orphan girl whose piety and modesty have inspired her to give away the little food and clothing she possesses.  By contrast, the wicked queen in “Snow White” vainly regards herself in her magic mirror on the right.  The two tales exemplify the manner in which the Grimms’ tales were often used to impart cautionary and exemplary moral lessons to their bourgeois readers and listeners.

[Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm]. Kinder und Hausmärchen gesammelt durch die Brüder Grimm. 2 Vols. Große Ausgabe (Large Edition). 7th ed. Göttingen: Verlag der Dieterischen Buchhandlung, 1857. 

The famous 1857 edition of the Grimms’ fairy tales is the seventh and final edition of the tales in their lifetime and the source for most modern compilations and translations.  It contains two hundred tales and ten “Kinderlegenden” (children’s legends).  This volume is open to tale #89, “Die Gänsemagd” (The Goose Girl).

Translations and Adaptations of Grimm Tales

[Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm]. Grimms’ Goblins and Wonder Tales. Translated from the German by Mrs. H. B. Paull and L. A. Wheatley. London and New York: Frederick Warne, n.d.

This selection of the Grimms’ fairy tales contains several tales which, because of their depictions of child abuse and violence, are usually omitted from modern collections.  For example, a father cuts off his daughter’s hands in “The Maiden without Hands,” and in “The Juniper Tree” a stepmother beheads her stepson and then makes it look as if her daughter has killed him.  The preface to Grimms’ Goblins and Wonder Tales perpetuates the myth that Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm “travelled through Hesse and other parts of Germany for thirteen years, persuading the poor people to tell them all the stories that they had heard from their grandparents, and then writing them down.”  In fact they collected most of their tales by inviting storytellers into their home and writing the tales down after one or more hearings.  Most of these storytellers, moreover, were middle-class or aristocratic women.  The Grimms also included tales in their collection that had already appeared in print. 

This page shows the popular German tale “Hans mein Igel” (Hans My Hedgehog, here “Hans the Hedgehog”).  The tale depicts the half-human, half-hedgehog Hans, who rides on a rooster and plays the bagpipes in the forest after being shunned by his parents.  He later marries a princess and is transformed into a handsome young man.  

Tales from Grimm. Freely translated and illustrated by Wanda Gág. New York: Coward-McCann, 1936.

  The American illustrator Wanda Gág  (1893-1946) is perhaps best known for the Newberry Honor winner Millions of Cats (1928).  Although her translations of selected tales by the Grimms are not literal, they preserve important details from the tales.  For example, her version of the Grimms’ “Hansel and Gretel” captures the importance of birds throughout the tale, as indicated here in the illustration “A Little Bird Sat There in a Tree.”

Straparola and Basile in English:
WG Waters’ The Facetious Nights

[Giovanni Francesco Straparola.]  The Italian Novelists: Now First Translated into English by W. G. Waters.  London: Privately Printed for Members of the Society of Bibliophiles, 1901.

During the nineteenth century, Straparola’s and Basile’s tales found new reading publics through their English translations. 

Surprisingly, the first complete English translation of Straparola’s The Pleasant Nights appeared only in 1894.  Translated by William George Waters and titled The Facetious Nights, the multi-volume set was privately printed by the Society of Bibliophiles and sold by subscription only, in print runs numbering from 300 to 1000. Featuring high quality Venetian paper and richly illustrated with both color and black and white plates by Edward R. Hughes and Jules Garnier, this translation was clearly intended for a well-to-do, adult readership. 

For Waters’ Victorian readers, some Straparola’s fairy tales and riddles tested the limits of propriety, while other more realistic tales were judged to be scandalously lascivious. For this reason, Waters chose to translate the most licentious passages of the latter into French, rather than English.  Tellingly, Waters’ translation would be re-published in 1906 by one of the most infamous pornographers of the early 20th-century, Charles Carrington, who openly marketed the tales as erotica. 

Although Basile subtitled his collection of tales, “Entertainment for the Little Ones,” his fairy tales were never intended for children.  He wrote the tales as an amusement for his fellow courtiers in Naples.  The complex metaphors and myriad references to classical and learned culture are ill suited for young readers.  Basile's fairy tales truly became “entertainment for the little ones” through John E. Taylor’s translation, The Pentameron, or the Story of Stories (1848), which included drawings by the celebrated children’s illustrator George Cruikshank.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde.  The Happy Prince and Other Tales. Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 1980.

Best known for his humorous plays, Wilde also produced two volumes of fairy tales. Many, such as The Happy Prince, are highly moral, demonstrating the virtue of self-sacrifice and sympathy with the suffering and poor.

Icelandic Fairy Tales

Icelandic Fairy Tales. [Translated by Mrs. A. W. Hall.] New York: A. L. Burt, [1897?].

In the preface, the translator notes that “It is remarkable too that... in these tales it is for the most part the young princess or peasant maiden who undergoes all the hardships and trials, and after countless dangers rescues the prince.”

Queen Marie of Roumania

The Allies’ Fairy Tale Book.  Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co, London: William Heinemann, [1916].

With twelve colored plates illustrated by Arthur Rackham, The Allies' Fairy Book presents a fairy tale from eleven Allied Powers during the First World War, including tales from England, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, and Belgium. The introduction's purpose is to bring together the "fighting friends of humanity" in "our great national struggle to preserve the civilization of the world" against "the 'people of peace' [who] have no politics and are ignorant of the elements of patriotism." The book also celebrates Queen Marie's influence into bringing Roumania into the Allied battle.

Queen Marie of Roumania. The Queen of Roumania’s Fairy Book.  New York: Stokes, 1926.

Marie of Roumania wrote several books, both autobiographical and children’s stories.  Born into the British royal family, she worked to bring her two countries closer together.  She wrote in her native English, but incorporated Roumanian words into the stories, as seen here.

The Adventures of Pinocchio

Carlo Collodi [pseud.]. Pinocchio: the Story of a Marionette. Philadelphia: John C. Winston Co., [c. 1923].

Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio first appeared in serial form in an Italian children’s magazine, Giornale per i bambini (Magazine for Children), between 1881 and 1883 under the title The Story of a Puppet.  This initial version of the story of the mischievous puppet ended with Pinocchio hung from a tree crying out for his father. Collodi’s young readers rejected this tragic ending and clamored for more adventures.  In 1883 Collodi published The Adventures of Pinocchio:  Story of a Puppet, which included more escapades and ended with Pinocchio’s transformation into a boy.

Carlo Collodi was born Carlo Lorenzini in Florence in 1826.  He worked as a journalist, wrote books for adults and children which he often published under his pseudonym Collodi, a name taken from his mother’s birthplace.  Although best known as the “father” of Pinocchio, Collodi made many contributions to Italian children’s literature.  He wrote textbooks for the schools of the newly formed Italian state and he translated French fairy tales by Charles Perrault into Italian.  He died in Florence in 1890. 

For those who know only Disney’s version of the story, Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio presents a number of surprises. For example, we first see Gepetto fist-fighting with his neighbor Master Cherry; Pinocchio kills the Talking Cricket who attempts to give the unruly puppet some sound advice by smashing him with a hammer; and the monster that swallows Pinocchio and Gepetto is an ailing shark, not a whale.  

The success of Pinocchio is unparalleled in the history of children’s literature.  Collodi has been translated into over 100 languages and made into over 20 films.  Some authors created new adventures for Pinocchio.

Eugenio Cherubini. Pinocchio in Africa.  Boston: Ginn and Co., [c. 1911].

Many authors have given Pinocchio new adventures and taken him all over the world. This pro-colonial, openly racist book in which Pinocchio is named “Emperor and King of all the African kings,” is one of the first.

Arthur Rackham, illustrator

Rackham’s talent was encouraged in his childhood, and he considered his first paintbox to be his “modest silent convenient companion.”  He began working as an illustrator in 1892, and rapidly became popular among both publishers and readers.   His early work resembles woodcuts; as print technology improved, his lines and details became sharper and more intense. 

James Stephens. Irish Fairy Tales. New York: MacMillan Co., 1920.

Mother Goose: The Old Nursery Rhymes.  New York: Century Co., 1913.

Lewis Carroll.  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. London: W. Heinemann, [1907].

Kenneth Grahame. The Wind in the Willows. New York: Limited Editions Club, 1940.

The Brothers Grimm.  Little Brother and Little Sister.  New York: Dodd, Mead, 1917.

Robert Browning. The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Philadelphia : J.B. Lippincott Co., [1934].

Two takes on Little Red Riding Hood

Though Gustave Dore worked in pencils, oil paints, and sculpture as well as engravings,  this illustration, drawn directly onto the woodblock, is a perfect example of why it is his engravings that have most captured attention and admiration.  Jim Harris’ lively watercolors reflect the lighthearted humor of his Cajun version of the story.

Gustave Dore illustration of Little Red Riding Hood

Mike Artell.  Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood.  New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2001.

Edmund Dulac, illustrator

Dulac began his artistic career as a book illustrator, taking strong advantage of the innovative four-color printing technology developed at the beginning of the twentieth century.  The market for illustrated gift books plummeted during WWI, and Dulac turned his attention to other types of art, including postage stamps, theater design, wallpaper, and playing cards.

Queen Marie of Roumania. Dreamer of Dreams. London: Hodder & Stoughton, [1915].

A Fairy Garland: Being Fairy Tales from the Old French. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, [1929].

Hans Christian Andersen. Stories from Hans Andersen. New York: George H. Doran, [1923].

Kay Nielsen, illustrator

Nielsen’s style of illustration is an abrupt departure from the soft, delicate works of Rackham and Dulac. Though all three artists were influenced by Aubrey Beardsley, Nielsen's work shows the influence most strongly.  East of the Sun and West of the Moon is considered the pinnacle of his achievement at book illustration.  Nielsen was also the designer for the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment of the Disney film Fantasia.

Peter Christen Asbjørnsen. East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales from the North. New York: G. H. Doran, [1932?].

Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch.  The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Other Fairy Tales.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran, & Co., 1930.

Hans Christian Andersen. Fairy Tales. New York: George H. Doran, [1924].

Russian Fairy Tales

By the beginning of the 19th century, literary fairy tales were being written in Russia, some of which remain popular today; it wasn’t until the middle of the century that folk tales were collected systematically.  The height of fairy tale creation was in the ‘Silver Age’ from 1900 to the revolution of 1917, when many Symbolist poets were writing them.

Guy Daniels. The Falcon Under the Hat: Russian Merry Tales and Fairy Tales. Illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, [1969].

Chukovskii, Kornei I. Skazki. [Fairy Tales.] Moskva: Academia, 1935. PG3476 C49 A6 1935.

Albert B. Lord. Russian Folk Tales. Illustrated by Teje Etchemendy. New York : Printed for the Members of the Limited Editions Club, 1970.

Monzies Engravings

Illustrations by Henri Pille, engraved by Louis Monzies. Plates from Charles Perrault, Les ContesParis: Alphonse Lemerre, 1880.

Two-Tone Printing

This version of Andersen's The Snow Queen, illustrated by Katharine Beverley and Elizabeth Ellender, is an example of the artistic heights that this cheap and simple printing process can reach. Like those of Rackham, Nielsen, and Dulac, Beverley's illustrations are heavily influenced by Aubrey Beardsley.

 “Oriental Tales” and Maxfield Parrish

With the French publication of a complete edition of The Arabian Nights in the early 18th century, the European craze for “Oriental” stories began.  Despite being heavily Europeanized, these stories were seen as new and exotic.  Maxfield Parrish, who illustrated this version, also painted a series of covers for Hearst Magazine based on various fairy tales.  Parrish’s work is noted for its delicacy and luminosity, as well as his virtuosity with cobalt blue, now commonly called “Parrish blue” in his honor.

The Arabian nights : their best-known tales. Edited by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith. New York : C. Scribner's Sons, 1909.

Evergreen Tales

The Limited Editions Club, which produced these tales, was founded to publish high quality versions of classic works of literature, decorated with original artwork and signed by the illustrators. 

The Tale of Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves. [Translated into modern English by E. Powys Mathers.] Illustrated by Edward Ardizzone. New York, Limited Editions Club, 1949.

Robert Southey. The Three Bears. New York: Limited Editions Club, 1949.

Decorated Covers

Jonathan Vankin. The big book of Grimm : truly scary fairy tales to frighten the whole family. New York : Paradox ; London : Turnaround, 2000.

L. Frank Baum. American Fairy Tales. Cover design by Ralph Fletcher. Chicago: George M. Hill Company, 1901.

Harriet T Comstock. Andersen's Fairy Tales: Retold in Words of 1 Syllable. New York: A. L. Burt Company, 1900.

Georgi Gasenko. Naia iz Dzhunglei. Berlin, [1922?].

George Cruikshank

George Cruikshank’s Fairy Library. London: Routledge and Sons, [1853]. 

The Fairy Library included the tales “Hop-O’-My-Thumb,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Cinderella,” and “Puss in Boots.” British illustrator George Cruikshank (1792-1878) also illustrated a popular nineteenth-century selection of the Grimms’ fairy tales.

Walter Crane

Little Red Riding Hood. Illustrated by Walter Crane. London and New York: John Lane, n.d.

  The English illustrator Walter Crane (1845-1915) and his publishers pioneered the mass-production of illustrated children’s books printed in color.  His affordable “toy books” include illustrated fairy tales such as “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Sleeping Beauty.”  Crane’s illustrations were influenced by Greek architecture and vase painting, illuminated manuscripts, and Japanese prints.  Crane also completed black-and-white illustrations for the volume Household Stories from the Collection of the Brothers Grimm, which was translated by his sister Lucy Crane.


Heinrich Hoffmann. Slovenly Peter; or, Happy Tales and Funny Pictures [Freely translated by Mark Twain]. New York: Harper, 1935.

Hoffman wrote Der Struwwelpeter in 1845 as a satire of the overly moralistic children’s stories that were popular in Germany at the time.  Both the original book and Twain’s English translation were done as Christmas gifts for their children. 

Spanish Fairy Tales

Wonder tales of Arabic influence appear in Spanish literature as early as the 11th century C.E. In the 1830's, censorship of the press was ended, and this new freedom, combined with the Romantic appreciation for folk tales, led to the rise of literary fairy tales in Spain. Magical animals play a major part in Spanish tales and ballads.

F. Isabel Campoy. Tales our Abuelitas Told. New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2006.

Edward W. and Margaret P. Dolch. Stories from Spain. Champaign, Ill. : Garrard Press, [1962].

...to all good children who believe in Fairies

Willaim Trowbridge Larned, the translator, dedicated this book to "All Good Children who Believe in Fairies, With Greetings from the Homeland of Cinderella."

W.T. Larned. Fairy Tales from France. New York : P.F. Volland Co., c1920.