Golden Age of Children’s Literature: Grimm’s Fairy Tales

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By: Ellie Campbell, JD and University of Alabama MLIS Graduate student

While Maleficent is showing in movie theaters, come take a look at some rare books featuring the characters of Grimm’s Fairy Tales! The exhibition, which will be put up this week, features a case of material relating to the classic fairy tales from Germany. 


Fairy Tales (1931) by the Brothers Grimm, Rare Books PZ8.G882 F55 1931

The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected and popularized German folktales as part of their academic studies. Their collections included such famous tales as “Cinderella,” “The Frog Prince,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Rapunzel,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” and “Snow White.” Born thirteen months apart in 1785 and 1786, the brothers were raised in the German town of Hanua. They both attended the University of Marburg, where they developed a curiosity about German folklore, which grew into a lifelong dedication to collecting German folk tales. The rise of romanticism and the development of the German nation-state in the nineteenth century revived interest in traditional folk stories, which represented a form of national literature and culture. The brothers developed a methodology for collecting and recording folk stories that became the basis for folklore studies.

Their first collection of folk tales, Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales), was published in 1812. Between 1812 and 1857, they revised the collection many times, adding over a hundred stories to the first eighty-six. These later editions sanitized the stories’ cruelty and violence in response to criticism that the stories were not suitable for children. The brothers sometimes published versions of tales that had appeared in collections by other authors like Charles Perrault. In addition to writing and modifying German folk tales, the brothers also created collections of Scandinavian, Irish, and Danish folk stories. The brothers’ stories remain popular; the tales are available in more than 100 translations, have influenced countless numbers of books for young and adult audiences, and have been adapted by filmmakers including Lotte Reiniger and Walt Disney, in films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Sleeping Beauty.


The Sleeping Beauty (1951) Rare Books PZ8.S38 P42 1951

R. Anning Bell, trans. Jack the Giant-Killer and Beauty and the Beast. London: J.M. Dent &Co., 1894.

Jack the Giant-Killer and Beauty and the Beast was illustrated by R. Anning Bell, a British artist and designer. He taught at the Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Art and exhibited at the Royal Academy, the New English Art Club and the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colors. He also designed several mosaics for the Palace of Westminster. This item contains an inscription which reads, “For Marie, with Merry Christmas from Mrs. Cadle.”

The Brothers Grimm. Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Stories and Tales of Elves, Goblins, and Fairies. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1917.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales: Stories and Tales of Elves, Goblins, and Fairies contains sixty-seven of the Brothers’ Grimm fairy tales, including Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpel-stilts-ken, Snow White, and Hansel and Gretel.

This book was illustrated by Louis Rhead, who also provided the preface. Rhead was a prominent poster artist whose work was featured in magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Harper’s Magazine, St. Nicolas, Century Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, and Scribner’s Magazine in the 1890s. He later turned to book illustration for many popular titles, most notably Robin Hood, The Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, The Deerslayer, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Heidi, and this edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. This particular copy includes a book plate that reads “This book belongs to Betsy Ann Plank,” and a bookstore plate from The Studio Book Shop in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Brothers Grimm. Fairy Tales. Offenbach, Germany: The Limited Editions Club, 1931.

Fairy Tales contains eleven of the Brothers’ Grimm fairy tales, including Snow White and Rose Red, Rapunzel, and Hansel and Gretel.

Wilheim Gerstung at Offenback AM, Germany, printed 1500 copies of this book for the members of The Limited Editions Club; this item is number 1161. The volume was designed by Rudolf Koch, a leading German calligrapher, typographic artist and teacher in the early twentieth century. It was illustrated with hand-colored woodcuts by Fritz Kredel, a student of Koch’s who later became a graphic designer and professor at Cooper Union in New York. Fredel produced illustrations for over 400 books in German and English and received many awards and honors. The book’s colophon was signed and numbered by Fritz Kredel. The introduction was written by Harry Hansen, an American journalist, editor, literary critic and historian for the New York World, Chicago Tribune, Harper’s Magazine and Redbook. In the introduction, Hansen notes that his maternal grandfather had been a student of Jacob Grimm’s while attending the University of Gottingen.

M. Perrault, trans. G.M. Gent, ed. J. Saxon Childers. Histories of Tales of Past Times Told By Mother Goose with Morals. London: The Nonesuch Press, 1925.

Histories of Tales of Past Times Told By Mother Goose with Morals is number 530 of an edition of 1250, printed in Edinburgh by R&R Clark, Ltd. The illustrations are handcolored, with Dutch mould-made text paper and Chinese cover paper.

Roland Pym, illus. The Sleeping Beauty: A Peepshow Book. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1951.

The Sleeping Beauty is part of a series of peep-show books depicting children’s fairy tales. The peep-show books feature paper covered boards housing six intricate pop-up scenes and can be displayed in the round. Other titles include Cinderella, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and Puss-in Boots.


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