Friday, June 14, 2013

Romance of the East

An illustration featuring a man on an elephant, surrounded by other figures. A banner reads "Asia."A while back we blogged about a Unicorn sighting recounted in John Ogilby's America. We recently acquired another book from the series, Ogilby's Asia, the First Part: Being an Accurate Description of Persia, and the Several Provinces thereof: the Vast Empire of the Great Mogol, and other Parts of India : and their Several Kingdoms and Regions: with the Denominations and Descriptions of the Cities, Towns, and Places of Remark therein Contain'd: the Various Customs, Habits, Religion, and Languages of the Inhabitants: their Political Governments, and Way of Commerce: Also the Plants and Animals Peculiar to Each Country (London: John Ogilby, 1673). Despite it's long-winded title, it is a fairly concise description of Persia and India with a focus on the customs and mores of the peoples.

An illustration taking up a two-page spread, showing a caravan moving towards a distant city.
While America highlighted the exotic and fantastic, here Ogilby is more concerned with exhibiting the region's allure. The scene of a party of travelers coming over a ridge as they approach Soltanie captures England's romantic view of the East. The frontispiece, pictured above, shows a handsome man of wealth and power riding an elephant and surveying his realm. A mélange of adventure, intrigue and beauty invites the reader to tour the East through the book.

To see this early example of English Orientialism, ask for Rare DS257.O47 1673.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mother Goose - The B Sides

An illustration of four figures gathered around a fire.Almost everyone knows the stories of Cinderella, Bluebeard, Sleeping Beauty, Puss-in-Boots, and Little Red Riding Hood. But do you know the stories of Diamonds and Toads or Ricky? Despite their current obscurity, these two tales were included in Charles Perrault's Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé - better known today by its subtitle Les Contes de Ma Mère l'Oye or Mother Goose Tales.

A page of printed text in French, accompanied by an illustration for the story "Diamonds and Toads."Certainly Andrew Lang thought "Diamonds and Toads"- published as "Les Fées" or "The Fairies" in Perrault - was of interest as he included it in his Blue Fairy Book (London, New York: Longmans, Green, 1889). It tells the story of two sisters who encounter a fairy at a well. One sister is kind to the fairy and the other is insulting. The kind sister is granted the gift of having a precious object - a jewel, diamond or flower - fall from her mouth whenever she speaks. The rude sister is cursed with toads and snakes whenever she utters a word. A classic tale with the standard moral of "be kind to strangers as you never know who they might be."

A printed page of text in French, accompanied by an illustration. So why have these tales faded while the others have stayed in the mainstream? Were they like the b-sides or deep cuts from the days of vinyl -  interesting to the hard-core fan, but not really the main attraction? Or have other tales with similar stories and morals eclipsed them?

Our earliest copy of Mother Goose is from 1697 and maintains that it was printed in Paris. However, the catalog record indicates that it was printed in Amsterdam and was essentially an unauthorized pirate copy of the real Paris edition.

Ask for Rare Book PQ 1877 .C513 1697 to read this early Mother Goose - in French of course! The Blue Fairy Book can be had by asking for Sine Illus F66blu.