Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, W. B. Yeats, Noble Prize 1923 Begin your St Patrick's Day with the little people

W. B. Yeats

If all are Irish on March 17, St. Patrick's Day, then all should own a copy of Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, selected and edited by W. B. Yeats.  I was surprised today while browsing a list of 5 books to help celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a link to a previously published 10 book list that there was no mention of this Yeats classic.  Ireland has a rich and diverse literary tradition but in my opinion, any serious reader of Irish literature must first become familiar with Irish myth and legend.

W.B. Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923 honoring his dramatic works and poetry.  A co-founder of the Irish National Theatre which later became the Abbey Theatre and remains Ireland's national theatre company, Yeats served as head playwright and many of his plays involved Irish mythology and legend. 

Dance of the Little People William Holmes Sullivan

Yeats was a prolific author but his first book, published in 1888 was Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, Walter Scott, Ltd., London which was then reprinted with the title Irish Fairy And Folk Tales in 1893.  Acquiring a copy of the first edition, first printing is possible but requires careful research.  Allan Wade in his A Bibliography of the Writings of W. B. Yeats, Rupert Hart-Davis, London, 1951 indicates that the there were 4 variant bindings of the first printing so careful research must be done to guarantee that what you order is actually a known first edition, first printing if that is your goal!   Surprisingly a first edition printing of the 1888 edition remains reasonably priced, $200-$400 for a decent copy, but scarce and there seems to be no copies of the 1893 edition available. 

Cover Illustration Irish Fary and Folk Tales
The Folio Society 2007, by Linda Farquharson
Numerous editions have been published since then and the collection remains the best introduction to Irish legend and lore.  I acquired The Folio Society illustrated edition published in 2007, Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, Selected and edited, with an introduction by W. B. Yeats, Foreword by Paul Muldoon, illustrations by Linda Farquharson, and am very happy with this edition.   

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