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With sixteen coloured plates and other illustrations by Arthur Rackham. London: Macmillan, 1920. First edition. Small quarto. The First UK printing. pp. [x], 318. Bound in later full straight-grained brown Morocco, upper cover decorated with onlays of petals within white lined borders, spine divided into three panels by two raised bands, title in gilt on cream morocco label in the second, the remainder with white petal onlays. Green endbands. A fine copy in slipcase.
The fairy tales in this book include: The Story of Tuan mac Cairill; The Boyhood of Fionn; The Birth of Bran; Oisín’s Mother; The Wooing of Becfola; The Little Brawl at Allen; The Carl of the Drab Coat; The Enchanted Cave of Cesh Corran; Becuma of the White Skin; Morgan’s Frenzy. Rackham’s books for the English market in the early post-war years included Flora Annie Steel’s English Fairy Tales Retold (1918), and his friend James Stephen’s collection of Irish Fairy Tales. In the latter book, Rackham broke new ground in the illustration of Irish literature. He had been persuaded to tackle Stephens’s stories by Walter Starkie, who had vowed to give his uncle ‘no peace’ until he had agreed to illustrate them. In writing the stories, Stephens had attempted to create an Irish equivalent of The Arabian Nights, his own poetic retelling of the stories which existed in the oral tradition and in Gaelic texts, but which had not appeared accessibly in print. Rackham rose to the occasion, and his nephew’s haunting of him was justified. There are sixteen colour plates (including frontispiece), with descriptive tissue guards, and twenty-one drawings in black and white.


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