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.
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!
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.
The students also were drawn in by several fabulous pop-up books from the Brenda Foreman Collection of Pop-Up and Moveable Books.
Perhaps a student paper or two about these magical books will be in hand by the semester’s end, inspired by this wonderful introduction!