My “New” Books

Published February 21, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

The problem with volunteering/working at a museum is that you can fall in love with stuff you see in the collection.  Since it’s primarily a toy museum, that can be depressing, since the toys in question tend to be quite old, often eclectic, and almost always exceptionally hard to find.

It’s a slightly different story with the books in the library.  For various, complicated reasons, today was spent entirely working on re-cataloging all the books in the collection.  (And we didn’t get through even a tenth of them.  We’ll probably be working on this every weekend until the new wing opens, and maybe even after.)  There were a number of them that I really thought looked great, and one in particular that I fell so in love with that I went right out to a particularly nice used book store I know to see if I could get a copy…



It was that first volume (both are from the same multi-volume set, the number of volumes varying over time) that I fell in love with at the museum.  The really cool part about getting these books where I did, of course, is that the book store in question happens to be called the Book House.  “Through Fairy Halls” there is the original 1920 edition, while “From the Tower Window” is a 1965 edition.  The “My Book House” series is a collection of fairy and folk tales (adapted) for children.  (That being the case, I thought it would be appropriate to photograph them in a childish setting…so I put them on the trunk at the foot of my bed, which has been at the foot of my bed ever since I was a small child.)

My Bookhouse 2

I had to show this detail, because how cool is her hat!  She’s a fairy with butterfly wings, wearing a cute little flapper hat with butterfly antennae on it!  Seriously, I love that hat.  I love her whole “flapper version of the Blue Fairy” look, in fact.  (Heck, I love almost anything in a flapper outfit.  The Roaring Twenties had fantastic fashion sense.)

My Bookhouse 4

This title page makes it pretty clear why this 1920 1st edition book was actually affordable:  the child it had been bought for got his/her hands on it with a pencil at some point, and scribbled all over a number of pages.  I’m going to ask the assistant director at the museum if there’s a particular way to go about erasing pencil marks from old books with minimal risk of damage.  (The assistant director has a degree in historic preservation, so I figure she’s the one to ask.)

My Bookhouse 5

Isn’t that scroll wonderful?  I love the elaborate way this book is presented.  I wonder if children’s books still do things like this?

My Bookhouse 6

I admit it:  a lot of these photos are just of things I thought were cool and wanted to share.  (Like this one.)

My Bookhouse 7

I love everything about this illustration except the prince…



The only positive side to this book missing several pages is the fact that this is an identical edition to the one in the museum.  So next Saturday, I’m going to ask permission to take really nice, precise photos of the pages my copy is missing, and then print them out, so if I want to actually read the book (instead of just admiring the pretty pictures), I’ll be able to do so.  And at least these are the only missing pages.  (After coming across this, I checked through the rest of the book very thoroughly, needless to say!)

My Bookhouse 9

The illustrations have limited colors to work with — here, only yellow and black — but they manage to make it work quite well.

My Bookhouse 10

I think these books were strongly influenced by (and/or flat-out imitating) the Fairy Books of Andrew Lang, which means that they represent a wide mix of cultures, without the heavy racism of the period.  (It’s not entirely absent, I’m sure, but the majority of the illustrations are like this one, giving a relatively faithful portrayal of traditional costume of the region.)

My Bookhouse 11

In 1920, any and all talk of the Tsar must have been a bit more weighty than it is now…  (But, in all honesty, I didn’t photograph this because of the proximity of the Russian Revolution to the release of this book.  I just wanted to show that incredibly cool flying boat.)

Phaeton, Son of Helios

Phaethon, Son of Helios

Phaethon is a popular chap!  His story makes all the children’s books…which is odd, considering it involves a boy setting the world on fire and then falling to his death.  (That reminds me, have I done Phaethon yet in my myth re-tellings?  I don’t think I have.  Maybe I should do that one this week…)

My Bookhouse 13

I’m not familiar with this tale — “The Golden Bird” — but I’m intrigued, and looking forward to reading it!  Not that I’m going to have time to read these books anytime soon:  I’m currently reading The Second Treatise of Government by John Locke (which I must finish tomorrow, given a paper is due on it by Wednesday), still trying to finish up Plato’s Republic (almost done now!), working my way through a book of African mythology in preparation for April A to Z, just started a book on female philosophers of the Enlightenment (for the class’s final paper), and I’m still in the middle of the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes…

My Bookhouse 14

This picture makes it clear that everyone in the scroll on the title page is actually a character from the book.  That’s particularly cool, I think.

My Bookhouse 15

Yeah…it’s hard to know what to make of this.  From what I gleaned in leafing through it, it seems to be half writing out Punch and Judy sketches, and half talking about their history.

My Bookhouse 3

Isn’t the inside cover fun?  (Ignoring the pencil scratches, I mean.)  I love that castle.

My Bookhouse 16

The 1965 version doesn’t really do it for me.  The contents of the picture are more representative of the contents of the entire book series, but the style of the illustration doesn’t match the illustrations in the rest of the book.  (And the lovely scroll on the title page?  Absent in the 1965 edition.)

My Bookhouse 17

This was what sealed my decision to buy this volume.  I’ve been wanting to read the real version of his story — and I am going to, eventually — but seeing how it’s condensed (and no doubt whitewashed) for children should be a fascinating study, particularly since some people like to call him “the Irish Achilles.”  I know how Achilles’ story gets narrowed down and made “kid-friendly,” so I’m curious to see what they do to Cu Chulainn’s story in the same process.

Penelope at her loom

Penelope at her loom

That doesn’t look much like a shroud to me, personally.  But I’m just impressed (and pleased!) that they’re using the Greek names for the gods here!  (I would argue that, no matter how you slice it, the tale of Odysseus’ homecoming is not suitable for modern children’s reading, but…hey, it should be interesting to see how they attempt to remove his persistent adultery, not to mention how they clean up the mass murder at the end.  I didn’t take a picture of the illustrations, but they also covered the Odyssey-half of the Aeneid as well, another subject that doesn’t really lend itself to modern standards of what’s suitable for a child.)

Hrothgar's hall

Hrothgar’s hall

Yeah, they’ve got Beowulf in here, too.  In a condensed version, naturally.  That, too, should be an interesting study, to see how it compares to the real story.  (There’s considerably less sex to be removed, though…like, none at all, if I’m remembering correctly.)



I dunno about how they’ve envisioned Grendel looking.  I’d have to dig out my copy of the epic and check his description there, but something seems off somehow.  (Among other things, shouldn’t he be bigger than that?)

Anyway, as fantastic as these books are (and, believe me, if I’d had the money, I probably would have bought one of each of the 1920 volumes they had in stock, ’cause they’re just so cool), it’s not as though I’m likely to find all the books I see at the museum that look like I’ll want to check them out.  Among the other books I cataloged today was a book of Old English folk tales by S. Baring-Gould (not the same Medieval myths covered in the one of his books I have), which didn’t come up in an Amazon search.  But all his stuff is public domain now (as far as I know), so even if it’s not officially released on Kindle, it’s probably available as a .pdf from Google Books.  (Or not.  Who knows?  I don’t have time to go looking right now…but I’m totally going to eventually.)  Another book had me rolling my eyes at it when I was just seeing the title on the spine, but then automatically piqued my interest as soon as I saw the front cover.  And why, you may ask?  Well, because the title was “Father Goose, His Story” (or something like that) and the author was L. Frank Baum.  That makes a difference.  (Judging by the cover, I’d say the illustrations were probably by the same person who originally illustrated the The Wizard of Oz, too.  But I’m not sure of that.)  However, they didn’t have that one…and even if they had, it probably would have cost at least $150, based on the prices of the Baum books listed on their web page.  (The only one from the period that wasn’t an Oz book was still about that much.  Maybe only $110.  But still way more than I’d want to pay for a single book.  Especially since the museum will probably let me read their copy, so long as I wear the protective gloves.)

There’s one big drawback to having fallen in love with that book and subsequently bought these, though, in that I’m actually kind of broke right now, and just spent even more money at a different used book store on Friday (though not all of that was for me, as I paid for my brother’s books, ’cause I had a cash back deal for that store), so now I have to either stop spending any money for an entire month (or less, if I start getting paid before then) or swallow my pride and borrow some money from my parents.  Not appealing options, either way.  (I spent all my dolly money on books!  Augh!)


I should get back to reading Locke…

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