London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd, 1920. Item #02063
"Mr. Rackham Breaks New Ground in the Illustration of Irish Literature…"
One of 520 Signed Copies
[RACKHAM, Arthur, illustrator]. STEPHENS, James. Irish Fairy Tales. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. London: Macmillan & Co., 1920.
Deluxe Edition. Limited to 520 copies, signed by the artist. Large quarto. [2, blank], [2, limitation leaf], x, 318, [2, blank] pp. Sixteen color plates (including frontispiece) mounted on cream paper, with descriptive tissue guards, and twenty-one drawings in black and white.
Original quarter vellum, ruled in gilt, over parchment boards. Front cover and spine decoratively stamped and lettered in gilt. Top edge gilt, others uncut. Covers very lightly browned and some light offsetting to end-papers. A couple of very light marks on upper cover and a tiny and almost unnoticeable amount of (insect) damage on the lower-edge turn-ins. Armorial bookplate of Agnes Marion Armitage on front pastedown. Overall an excellent copy of one of Mr. Rackham's best titles.
The fairy tales in this book include:
The Story of Tuan mac Cairill
The Boyhood of Fionn
The Birth of Bran
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
"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. The Dublin Independent was particularly warm in welcoming the collection, remarking: 'We read English tales with appreciation because pictures have familiarised us with English imagery. A Fenian tale lacks imagery because we have no art to give it colour and shape to what are presently only names. Some of Mr. Rackham's pictures are pure poems - they set you dreaming." (Hamilton, p. 128).
"Rackham's two great books of the twenties were James Stephens' Irish Fairy Tales of 1920 and Shakespeare's Tempest of 1926... Beyond the softness of style and inventiveness, the most striking thing about the colour plates for Irish Fairy Tales is the felicitous and appropriate use of celtic borders" (Gettings, p. 143).
Latimore and Haskell, p. 52. Riall, p. 138. Gettings, p.179. Hamilton, p. 185.