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.
The 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.