monday memories - east of the sun and west of the moon

Emma of Miss Print and Nicole at The Book Bandit have started a new weekly feature called Monday Memories.  To participate, all you have to do is take a photo of one of your books (or a library book that means a lot to you) and talk a bit about why it made an impression.  Today I'm going to talk about Kay Nielsen's illustrated masterpiece East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

kay nielsen fairy tale art

My love of reading is no accident - I come from a family of strong women who read (and gift) books to their daughters.  East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Old Tales From the North was a gift from my great-grandmother to my grandmother for Christmas in 1926.  1926!  My grandmother was seven years old that year (and she's still reading every day - I hope I'm doing the same at 95!).  In time, she read it to her own children, and when I was a kid she sent it to my mother to share with my siblings and me.  When my parents downsized their book collection, I asked for it.  It remains one of my most precious possessions.


It's a beautiful book, and even better, it's well-preserved.  I don't know how, exactly, as it has by now been through three generations of children, and kids can be pretty careless when it comes to books.  There is one illustration and a couple of other pages with enthusiastic pencil scribbles all over them, but otherwise the text is pristine.


And what pages!  This is an Art Deco-styled piece of, well... ART.  From the endpapers to the in-text black-and-white prints to the full-color illustrations pasted in (they were printed separately and then painstakingly inserted onto individual pages by hand!), it's all beautiful.  That visual splendor is why my childhood self adored this book, but now it's the sentimental connection that makes it dear to me.  I open it occasionally when I need to bask in the glory of books and family history.  Or when I want to reread some of my favorite fairy tales.  I've loved fairy tales from the very beginning, and I've never stopped.


As you can see, the art is a combination of patterns, wistful, magical illustration, and text design.  The pages are heavy, creamy and substantial, the letters slightly indented from the printing method.  They just don't make books like this anymore.  It's truly a treasure.  Thank you great-grandmother, Nana, and Mom!  I adore this book.


If you'd like to see more Monday Memories posts, head over to this week's link list.

9 comments:

readingunderground.org said...

How sweet! A beautiful book to go along with a beautiful memory of family. My mom collects illustrated books, so whenever I see a beautifully illustrated book like this one, it makes me think of my book-loving family too!

Liviania said...

That's lovely! I enjoy beautiful old editions of books, and it is even better when it is a gift and full of memories.

Tia Dalley said...

I have several of my grandmother's books. They are such special items to me. I wish I had some from my great grandmother.

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

What a wonderful treasure. It's a beautiful object by itself, but the fact that it was your grandmother's makes it mean so much more! And what a cool meme!

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Gorgeous! I'm glad you were able to get this from your parents. I have an old Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that my grandmother got for her eighth birthday, and it's one of my most treasured possessions.

missprint said...

This story warmed the cockles of my heart. And thank you so much for sharing some of the beautiful illustrations. I have a paperback of this book somewhere in my TBR bookcase and want to read it right away now.

kelley jensen said...

What a beautiful book! That is one of my favorite fairy tales. Thanks for sharing your memories.

Jamie said...

Beautiful book. Great post.

Heidi said...

I remember you mentioning this book recently (was it on Instagram), and am SO HAPPY you decided to put a full post together for it. It is stunning, and I too am so impressed with how well preserved it is. I love love love the art AND the stories therein--totally understand why this one is so special to you!

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