Class Notes: 250 Years of Fairy Tales in Print

Professor Mark Ilsemann recently brought his class, German 3590: Special Topics–Fairy Tales, to Special Collections to see materials related to the European fairy-tale tradition. He asked if we could “give my students an idea about early collections of tales and the formation of ‘fairy tale’ as a genre; teach them about the importance/style of illustrations and other forms of book art; show them how fairy tale collections were ‘framed’ by their respective authors (through frontispieces, opening remarks, etc.); and to demonstrate to students the importance of the book object and of working with historical artifacts.”

Oh yeah, we could do that. Little did he know the extent of the riches at our disposal.

A selection of fairy tales (Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg)

A selection of fairy tale editions, anthologies, recordings, toys, and even finger puppets! (Photograph by Molly Schwartzburg)

Curator Molly Schwartzburg wowed his class with an eclectic selection of some of the fascinating and visually stunning fairy tales that comprise our collections. In turn, Professor Ilsemann provided a great deal of insight on the history of fairy-tale publishing, and his students jumped in with comments based on the knowledge they’ve gained so far this semester. As is often the case, we wondered if we gained even more from the session than our visitors!

Professor Ilsemann explains the likely origins of this unusual and beautiful moveable book. He noticed that the publisher was associated with the Waldorf School movement, based in Stuttgart, where the book was published. The book’s flowing text and images, seem to echo the Waldorf philosophy, which requires that classrooms contain no right angles. (PZ34 .S358 1926. Henry S. Gordon Fund, 2009/2010. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Professor Ilsemann explains the likely origins of this unusual and beautiful moveable book. He noticed that the publisher was associated with the Waldorf School movement, based in Stuttgart, where the book was published. The book’s flowing text and images seem to echo the Waldorf philosophy, which requires that classrooms contain no right angles. Hilde Langen, Schneewittchen (Stuttgart: Waldorf-Spielzeug & Verlad G.m.b.H., 1926). (PZ34 .S358 1926. Henry S. Gordon Fund, 2009/2010. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Many of the items we discussed were from Special Collections’s remarkable Little Red Riding Hood Collection, generously donated in 2007 by collector Martha Orr Davenport.  The collection comprises approximately 480 books, a hundred pieces of print ephemera, fifty works of art, ten magic lantern slides, and more than a hundred objects, including tableware, figurines, vases, pottery, puppets, recordings, and more.

Detail of items from the Little Red Riding Hood Collection (Gift of Martha Orr Davenport. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Just a few of the items in our Little Red Riding Hood Collection. (Gift of Martha Orr Davenport. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

The students also were drawn in by several fabulous pop-up books from the Brenda Foreman Collection of Pop-Up and Moveable Books.

Molly and the students take a closer look at pop-up books. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Molly and the students take a closer look at pop-up books. (Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Hansel and Gretel from the "Pop-Up" Cinderella and Other Tales with illustrations by Harold B. Lentz, 1933.  (PZ92 .F6 L46 1933b. Brenda Forman Collection of Pop-Up and Moveable Books. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Hansel and Gretel from Harold P. Lentz’s  “Pop-Up” Cinderella and Other Tales, 1933. (PZ92 .F6 L46 1933b. Brenda Forman Collection of Pop-Up and Moveable Books. Photograph by Petrina Jackson)

Perhaps a student paper or two about these magical books will be in hand by the semester’s end, inspired by this wonderful introduction!

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2 thoughts on “Class Notes: 250 Years of Fairy Tales in Print

  1. I have two movable picture books by Hilde Langen that were given to me as a young child by my dad. I’m curious about Langen and have not had any success in locating any infor about her. Wondering if you have any suggestions.-

    • I was able to find a fascinating brief biography of Langen’s sister Gerda, which includes some information on Hilde, at this link: http://biographien.kulturimpuls.org/detail.php?&id=807. it is in German, but if you put it into Google Translate and can make it through the messy translation, you learn that the sisters grew up with powerfully intellectual parents in a household closely affiliated with Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf movement. Sorry not to have more for you, but that’s a start! I’m so glad you found our blog.

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