Fairytales & Chivalry at the Centre for Research Collections

Posted on July 24, 2014 | in Collections, Featured, Library & University Collections | by

When I think of our rare book collections, I tend to think or row upon row of brown, leather bound volumes. This is true for a large part of the collections, but there are also many whose bindings are as bright and vibrant as their contents. This is particularly the case for some turn of the century fiction, c.1899-1900.

This week one of our readers ordered these two beauties to consult in the reading room, which led me to investigate their illustrations further:

hans christian anderson cover arabian nights cover

Both books were published in 1899 by George Newnes Ld. The Fairytales of Hans Christian Anderson (shelfmark SC9811) contains over 400 illustrations by Helen Stratton. The Arabian Nights (shelfmark SC9810) is illustrated by a group of artists: Helen Stratton, W. H. Robinson, A.D. McCormick, A.L. Davis and A.E. Norbury.

Very little information can be found about Helen Stratton (1867-1961). The internet yields wildly conflicting information, including one inconclusive suggestion that she studied in Glasgow. However, she was certainly a prolific artist who illustrated books typical of the Arts & Crafts Period, full of mystery and acts of heroism. Searching on the main library catalogue I came across another work featuring her illustrations:

princess story book

The Princess’s Story Book (shelfmark Corson A.17.GOM.1900) was published in 1900 by Archibald Constable & Co. The book is one of over 7,000 printed items in the Corson Collection of works by and about Sir Walter Scott, purchased by the University in 1975.

The Princess’s Story Book is a collection of short stories, with suitably melodramatic titles: ‘William I: Princesses in the Fighting Line’, ‘Richard I: In Camp and Tent’ and ‘Henry VIII: A Dishonoured Queen’. Even better are the list of illustrations, including: ‘Seating herself on the damp step while the rain descended in torrents upon her’ and ‘Gryme upheaved the silver cross and struck the Norman a blow’.

All of these items can be ordered to consult at the Centre for Research Collections – why not visit and transport yourself to another world of Knights and Bandits, Fairytales and Princesses.


Fran Baseby, Service Delivery Curator, CRC

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