"It is no slight thing to embody...the glamour and the humor both of the Celt and of the Hindoo. It is only a further proof that Fairy Tales are something more than Celtic or Hindoo. They are human." -Joseph Jacobs, page x. Indian Fairy Tales- Gathered from the Hindoos (Hindu), illustrated by John D Batten
I judge books by their covers all the time. I believe in this process with a passion. Not only in the way a book looks, but how it feels in my hands. It’s important that the weight, texture and binding fold, flop and flip in a certain rhythm. Yes, I even listen to my books. In my quiet house, by the warm woodfire with a steaming hot cup of tea, I can hear the swish of pages as my six year old and I sit- facing one another, on our new-to-us second hand leather and linen U-shaped couch with embroidered thistles that remind me just a tad of fleur-de-lis.
Recently, I acquired a book called Indian Fairy Tales from the publisher A.L. Burt, with a collection of stories gathered by Joseph Jacobs. It is in fair condition. Binding split at the front and back covers, leaves considerably stained, torn and some even taped into the binding with browning adhesive that doesn’t quite stick anymore. However, the teal green stamped canvas pictorial board covers illustrating a fairy queen flying upon a bee and the decorative spine with a gnome under a bright light, this mistreated book definitely has a list of redeeming qualities. Like the gold gilt lettering, though dull, it is clear and easily legible. This hundred and twenty year old book has that sad look to it of something well-loved and then forgotten like the velveteen rabbit. I imagine it took a trip upon the back of said bee, to the other side of the world and then journeyed home in the arms of a fairy to come back again. I love this book so much, I carried it around with me for a week. I held it, read it, shared it, caressed its embossed stamping along the front. Sometimes I would be working and look over at it and laugh a little bit. I was thinking about where it must have been and who has read its pages. Books are my best friends and that is for real -now that we are almost nine months into a global pandemic. So this book holds a special place in my heart. It's the oldest and most well worn books which bring me the most happiness. So of course, I had to photograph it and write about it! Two of the other things I love doing most! I put it up in my shop, to sit like a gallery with all the other beloved books I judged by their covers. All the other pieces of my collection, which I have gathered into long lists of facts. The way they look and feel and sound and smell. No, I don’t ever taste them, but I do sometimes like to guess what a book is going to tell me before I read it. Doesn’t everyone do that?
Anyway, I listed my favorite companion for sale, and consequently sold it -across the continent to another good home. Both a satisfying and daunting fate. It immediately set me into a tail -spin of longing and rejoice to be on the hunt for another well-loved and traveled book with a history of beauty and demise. These elaborately decorated and often illustrated novels from the turn of the 20th century are collections of timeless reading bound in pictorial elegance. Cover to cover, these A. L. Burt books from New York are highly collectible and make wonderful reading too. My favorite part is actually the introductory chapters written by the tale collector featured in each edition. I enjoy that this rough and tumble copy will be enjoyed without too much worry over hurting it. Though it is shabby, it's also quite durable and strong. A diamond in the rough.