Fairy Tales and Family Heirlooms

Hans Christian Andersen was born today, April 2, in 1805, and was a pretty prolific fairy tale weaver.  We can thank him for such classics as The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, and The Princess and the Pea, among others.  A fairly extensive collection of his work can be found here.

I have a handful of H.C. Andersen’s fairy tale collections that I’ll share with my little guy when he’s old enough.  But one of my favorite editions of Andersen’s stories, SPROOKJES,  is a book that I suppose could be considered a family heirloom.  The book is Dutch, and printed sometime after 1915, based on the date of the forward.  There’s no copyright info, just the publisher’s info: W. De Haan, Utrecht. 

ImageThe book belonged to my father’s uncle, who married my grandmother’s sister – his name is stamped in purple-blue ink on the third page, with 12/12 ’22 written below it in careful penciled penmanship.  I remember meeting him once – Uncle John – when I was very young and he was very old.  He lived in New York city, in a tiny apartment filled with things of wonder to a wide-eyed little girl.  Somehow, his book  made its way to my bookshelf.  It smells delightfully old, the thick pages liver-spotted with age and the binding a bit loose from wear, with beautiful prints pasted into the book as spacers between the stories.  I wish I could read it in the original Dutch, but I’m reduced to a toddler – enjoying the pictures and recognizing the letters, but not able to make sense of the words.  Instead, I flip through the pages, pausing on the illustrations, and remember bits and pieces of my childhood.

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