Fairy Tales by The Countess d'Aulnoy with illustrations by Gordon Browne and color plates after John Gilbert's designs
These fairy tales were translated by J. R. Planche and published by George Routledge and Sone, Limited, Broadway, Ludgate Hill in 1893.
The title page mentions sixty illustrations by Gordon Browne and twelve coloured plates but these are not credited. However the very same plates can be recognized in 1858 edition by the same publisher (then with slightly different name and ocation), where the illustrator was John Gilbert. His initials can be seen on a few of the plates which were apparently later colored by unknown artist and inserted into an edition with Browne's drawings.
We'll present only colored plates for now and add black and white drawings by Gordon Browne later. The titles will be associated with the pictures. If a specific title doesn't have one, this means, there is no color plate for this particular fairy tale. Additional drawings by Mr. Browne, as said, will follow.
Gracieuse and Percinet
This is a story about a king and queen who had a beautiful daughter - Gracieuse. but the queen died and the king remarried, this time with a rich duchess. She was very ugly and evil as well. She tried to get rid of her step daughter several times, helping herself with a wicked fairy and some additional magic, until a handsome page named Percinet who also had some magic powers rescued her and they married.
The Fair With Golden Hair
The Blue Bird
The Golden Branch
The Bee and the Orange Tree
The Good Little Mouse
The Yellow Dwarf
The Princess Carpillon
The Beneficient Frog
The Hind In The Wood
The White Cat
Belle Belle; or, The Chevalier Fortune
The Pigeon and the Dove
Princess Belle-Etoile and Prince Cheri
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Snow White with pictures by Gertrud Caspari
Snow White is one of the best know fairy tales today. Brothers Grimm included it in their first collection and it stayed in from then on. It shares some if not all important elements with other popular fairy tales, like Cinderella, Rapunzel, Goose Girl or The Sleeping Beauty:
A lady in distress.
An evil step-mother.
Presence of a helper.
An object with magical powers.
A prince who comes to the rescue.
Cruel punishment of the opponent.
Here is a short summary with beautiful color illustrations signed by Gertrud Caspari (1873-1948):
Once upon a time there was a queen who wished for a child.
One day the mirror told her she is not the the most beautiful anymore. Snow White became prettier.
Snow White got a new home at the seven dwarfs.
Evil queen disguised herself and visited Snow White.
Evil queen tricked Snow White again. This time with a poisoned comb. Snow White felt down again but dwarfs managed to rescued her for the second time.
When Snow White ate poisoned apple, she felt down for the third time. Dwarf couldn't find a way to help her.
She was too pretty to be buried. So the put her in a glass coffin. Not much later a handsome prince came by and immediately fell in love with a seemingly dead Snow White. He convinced dwarf to let him take the coffin to his castle but on the way the piece of apple - the reason for her death - dropped out of her throat. She was alive again and the wedding with the prince followed. The evil queen was invited to the party where she got hot iron shoes. She danced in them until she died!
The Happy Prince and Other Tales is a of five fairy tales written by Oscar Wilde, first published in 1888 with original illustrations by Walter Crane, but we'll present it with pictures of another remarkable artist - Charles Robinson. This version was published by Brentano's, New York in 1920.
As we can see the book is dedicated to Carlos Blacker (1859-1928), one of the dearest friends of Oscar and his wife Constance and one of the rare people who stayed loyal to him even after Oscar's fall with imprisonment and bankruptcy. Carlos Blacker was an interesting figure in literary circles, a friend to many writers and other artists, co-investor in several stage productions, and a figure with an unclear role in the Dreyfus affair, who was apparently writing all his life yet never published anything. The friendship between Oscar and Carlos ended soon after Constance's death.
While we have already mentioned Oscar's wife, we shall add her role in the next fairy tales was definitely very important although she is not credited for it. After the birth of their two sons, Constance and Oscar both believed fairy tales on the market are not good enough for children. So Constance rewrote a few classics and published them in There was Once and Oscar wrote a few originals (with already popular and well-known motifs). According to the preserved documents Constance very actively worked on Oscar's fairy tales, being their first critic and creative editor. More about her: https://hubpages.com/art/Constance-Lloyd
And now finally the fairy tales!
The Happy Prince
The Happy Prince is a story of contrasts in the city. We have a mayor and councilors who are so occupied with themselves that they can't see the problems of the people they represent. We also have a statue, made of precious stones and gold, The Happy Prince, who is so tall and sensitive he can feel the pain of people in town. He can't solve anything by himself but can send his own body parts with a help of a swallow.
They both did what they could, sacrificing their time, resources, and health until the statue loses all elements of any value and the swallow misses the right time for the flight to South. The bird dies and the statue of the Prince will be replaced by the statue of the mayor or one of the Councillors. But the body of the swallow and the heart of the Prince are carried by angels directly to heaven.
The Nightingale and the Rose
There are two pairs of characters in the story. The student who is in love with a young lady, which demands a red rose from him, and a nightingale who is so enchanted by student's love it decided to color one of the white roses in the garden by pressing its heart to its thorn. So the nightingale sacrifices its life for an ideal represented in the relationship between a student and his love. But when a perfect red rose is created and the bird dies, the student still fails to convince the girl to accept his invitation to dance.
Why? The girl had already got a more attractive gift from another man. The student throws the red rose away, white roses are still there and the nightingale's sacrifice was futile. The criticism of Victorian double standards is obvious. There are also several similarities with H. C. Andersen's fairy tale The Nightingale, but Andersen wrote his story with a different message, although still criticizing the society, but with an optimistic ending.
The Selfish Giant
The Selfish Giant is another story about the power of love. A giant has a garden and the kids come to play in it while the giant is away. When he returns from the long visit, he banishes the kids and builds the wall around his beautiful garden. But without children, spring and summer don't want to come to the garden either. One day he discovers the spring is back. He realizes the kids found a new way to come in and declares they should come always from then on.
At the end of the story the giant, already a very old man discovers that one of the children wasn't an ordinary kid. He was Jesus and he promises he'll accept the giant in his garden - Paradise. The religious tones, already present at The Happy Prince, are clear.
The Devoted Friend
This is a tale about two friends - a miller and a gardener. But their friendship is not real, the gardener only gives and the miller only takes. When a gardener needs some help, a miller offers him a wheelbarrow in exchange for numerous favors. He demands so much the gardener simply can't do everything he should to improve his situation to normal again. Finally, he dies in an accident which could be prevented if the miller hasn't denied help again.
The criticism of such one-way relationships is beautifully summarized in the last part where the miller uses the funeral of his friend to complain about the bad shape of the wheelbarrow and is determined to never be generous again.
The Remarkable Rocket
This story, the last in the book, is about a rocket who has so high opinion of itself it can't see or hear anything else in the world. Everybody who surrounds it is there just to admire the rocket's exceptionality, yet it fails to explode when it should and is thrown away just to be used as a stick on the fire. When it finally explodes, there is nobody who saw it, and even with an audience, there would be not much to see because it was daylight.
The Remarkable Rocket is probably the most typical representation of Wilde's literary style with numerous witty one-liners which are fun to read even out of the context.
Charles Robinson (1870-1937) did impressive work with the illustrations of Oscar Wilde's Happy Prince and Other Tales. There are twelve full-page color plates and close to one hundred vignettes, details, silhouettes and decorative capitals and borders in Art Nouveau style made in pen and ink line technique. We didn't include all of them, because they are effectively incorporated in the text, where they make the most possible impact and won't look so great as standalone graphics. You can still in them in the online version of the book which is in Public Domain: