“Taste of the world” : a re-evaluation of the publication history and reception context of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Book series, 1889-1910
Hines, Sara Marie
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis examines Andrew Lang’s Fairy Book series (1889-1910) as a material and cultural commodity, thereby re-evaluating neglected or overlooked aspects of its significance as a printed collection of fairy tales. First, it defines the publishing context for fairy-tale collections printed in Britain prior to the publication of The Blue Fairy Book in 1889. As such, Chapter One addresses pervasive claims that Lang’s series systematically revived a waning interest in fairy tales. The chapter first offers context for Lang’s series by providing a bibliographic history of the classic fairy tales – most of which are included in The Blue Fairy Book – in English from 1691 to 1889. It then focuses specifically on the decade of the 1880s to examine types of fairy-tale collections that were available in print prior to the series’ first volume and suggests that the fairy tale as a publishing phenomenon was more prominent in the late nineteenth century than has been assumed. Chapter Two seeks to establish how the diverse literary, cultural, and intellectual course of Lang’s career made him particularly suitable to edit a collection of fairy tales. His academic interests in literature as well as his ongoing study of fairy tales influenced his editorial strategies for The Blue Fairy Book, which then provided a model for the remainder of the series. Chapter Three examines the phenomenon of the “literary series” through an exploration of paratextual elements, such as Longmans’ production, branding, and marketing strategies as well as Henry J. Ford’s book illustrations and designs. The seasonal context in which the books were published provides a further framework for situating Lang’s series within the history of publishing fairy tales in Britain. Chapter Four considers the series’ printings and sales numbers, along with themes that are present throughout the published reception of the series. While Longmans capitalizes on Lang’s name in their branding strategies, in the popular press Lang’s name became synonymous with fairy-tale narratives. Furthermore, the series’ immediate reception challenges more recent scholarly positions regarding the very significant group of translators who contributed towards the series. Finally, Chapter Five recognizes the colonial context of the period and positions interest in fairy tales within the wider nineteenth-century phenomenon of collecting objects and narratives from across the Empire. It further demonstrates how narratives of race and colonialism influenced both text and illustration in the Fairy Books. The conclusion consists of a brief overview of Fairy Book editions that have been produced from 1910 to the present. Not only did the series achieve immediate popularity during its initial publication, but it has also remained in print for over a century. Through an exploration of the series as a material, publishing phenomenon, and by attending closely to presentational devices, this thesis re-examines the cultural significance of Lang’s Fairy Books.