London: MacMillan & Co. Ltd., 1920. Rackham, Arthur. First Edition. Hardcover. First trade edition with Rackham illustrations. Very good. Item #21082362
British illustrator Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) is credited with renewing interest in book illustration at a vital moment of advances in printing technology. The subtle colours and thin lines were unlike anything that had come before, as if plucked from the fog of a wild imagination, breathing new life into the whole of children's book illustration. Part of Rackham's genius was his ability to convey both menace in his grotesque, humanoid trees and trolls, as well as delicate and almost ethereal beauty in his fairies, princesses and heroines.
This book, with tales written by James Stephens (1880-1950), is his re-telling of stories from the Fiannaíocht, that portion of Irish mythology which tell of the exploits of the mythical hero Fionn mac Cumhaill. Stephens was a friend of James Joyce, and formed a fast friendship with Arthur Rackham. One day they were sitting together in the garden of Rackham's house, when another friend "fiddled an Irish fairy reel and [Rackham's daughter, Barbara]...flitted here and there under the trees, while the poet [Stephens] softly intoned" one of his poems. Rackham's style perfectly complements these tales re-told by Stephens, and one can imagine them discussing the work together, each making suggestions to the other. Published the same year as the deluxe limited edition, this trade edition with the same number of pages and illustrations.
___DESCRIPTION: Bound in full green cloth over boards, vignettes and lettering in gilt on the front and spine, top edge stained light brown, coloured frontispiece one of sixteen bound in throughout, each with its lettered tissue guard, title page with black-and-white pictorial border, one of twenty-one bound throughout; octavo size (8.5" by 7"), pagination: [i-vi] vii-x, [1-2] 3-318, [319, blank] [320, publisher's ad for other books by James Stephens].
___CONDITION: Very good, the boards clean, straight corners with minimal rubbing, a strong, square text block with solid hinges, the interior is clean and bright, collated complete, and entirely free of prior owner markings (note that there is an old bookseller price of 7.50 and a code written in pencil at the top corner of the front free endpaper); some light wear at the head and tail of the spine including a very short tear at the bottom of the front joint, the gilt on the spine dulled, and a small spot of wear to the cloth at the rear fore-edge. Lacking the somewhat scarce dust jacket. Even with its few faults, a solid, very good example of this work.
___CITATIONS: Latimore and Haskell p. 52; Riall p. 138; Hudson, "Arthur Rackham, His Life and Work", p. 118.
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