Monday, May 16, 2011

Deluxe editions to treasure and savor


A few days ago, we were discussing the merits of books as tangible, aesthetic objects.  Pertinently, we now have quite a few beauties from Norton's "annotated" series on hand for your delectation!
"There is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." Illustrations by Arthur Rackham (left) and E. H. Shepard (right). Below, several interpretations of the incorrigible Mr. Toad. Charles van Sandwyk worked for two years on art (see Toad in washerwoman diguise, bottom right) for the Folio society edition. 
It goes without saying that these types of books are profusely illustrated; so for example, lovers of The Wind in the Willows are treated to images of Toad, Mole, Rat, and Badger by scads of great artists. They are also offered intriguing arcania and helpful glosses, such as recipes for Captain's biscuits and mulled wine; a running commentary on how Grahame used Homeric parallels in the story (take that, James Joyce!); observations on class differences amongst the various animals; the tidbit that Evelyn Waugh read the book aloud to his students; and instances in which Grahame sends up Dickens (particularly his Victorian deathbed scenes).

Much ink, many pixels, and even time on 60 Minutes have been expended on the controversy over a publisher substituting "slave" for the "N word" in Huckleberry Finn. In Norton's edition annotated by independent scholar Michael Patrick Hearn, the word is preserved in all of its dreadfulness, which any sensitive reader of the text will acknowledge was Twain's intent. Publishers Weekly waxed effusive about this edition of
"a seemingly transparent work that, as presented in Hearn's exhaustive research, harbors linguistic complexities worthy of an Eliot or a Joyce. In his long introduction, Hearn chronicles Huck's publishing history, from its on-again, off-again composition, to Twain's stormy relationship with his publishers, to the book's embattled trip to the printer (trailing censorious editors in its wake) and its instant success on the market. Hearn offers a thorough cataloguing of the book's critical reception and many controversies, an ample pinch of biography, a lengthy analysis of dialect and a fairly sketchy historical background. The notes themselves (presented alongside the text) are eclectic, sometimes charmingly so: we learn what a huckleberry is, and a sugar-hogshead, and how corn pone is made. Huck's vast repertory of Southern superstitions is carefully glossed, and Hearn wisely includes quotes about the book from Twain (who could scarcely open his mouth without saying something funny) whenever possible… This liberally illustrated and beautifully designed book offers many pleasures for the general reader." 
Coda:  If you're a Lewis Carroll fan, here's your chance to get Snarky! Or would you prefer to delve into the weird and wonderful world of fairy tales? Check out The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen!

3 comments:

  1. Love all of these illustrations.

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  2. As do I!! Also, it's always nice to see these classics again packaged with original art. They were such a labor of love!!

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  3. I'M A TOTAL SUCKER FOR ANNOTATED EDITIONS. I LOVE THE EXTRA INFO, SIDE NOTES FILLED WITH EXPLANATIONS THAT I WOULDN'T HAVE THOUGHT TO LOOK UP MYSELF. AND I CAN'T GET ENOUGH INFORMATION AND INSIGHT FROM THE AUTHORS THEMSELVES!

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