East of the Sun and West of the Moon, illustrated by Kay Nielson, Folio Society

{Ed Note:  This is another great review from LibraryThing user ParadigmTree.}

The Folio Society edition of East of the Sun and West of the Moon, published in 2000, is a reproduction of a famous 1914 edition illustrated by Kay Nielsen (1886-1957) and published by Hodder and Stoughton.  East of the Sun is a beautiful book and is considered by some to be a masterpiece from the “Golden Age of Illustration”.  The Golden Age of Illustration, which occurred from around 1880 until shortly after World War I, was brought about by improvements in printing techniques, particularly to color reproduction.  These improvements opened up many possibilities for artists and resulted in the creation of elaborate “gift books”.

Kay Nielsen was a Danish illustrator, who is considered one of the “greats” from Golden Age of Illustration.  He studied in art in Paris and then moved to England, where he illustrated several gift books, including East of the Sun. Nielsen went on to work in the theatre in Denmark, painting stage scenery and subsequently illustrating several more fairytale books.  In the late 1930s he moved to California and accepted a job with Walt Disney Studios.  Nielsen was lauded for his concept art and contributed designs to Fantasia, notably the “Night on Bald Mountain” piece.  Unfortunately, he was laid off from Disney in the early 1940s and died in poverty in 1957.  Nielsen’s work was relatively unknown at the time of his death and only began to be rediscovered in the 1970s.

East of the Sun is considered to be Kay Nielsen’s finest work and a masterpiece of book illustration.  The illustrations show an interesting mix of Nielsen’s influences ranging from Art Nouveau to the Middle East and Far East, as well as influence from fellow Scandinavian artists, such as John Bauer.  In my opinion, Nielsen’s style transcends these influences and is uniquely his own.  The illustrations are meticulous and detailed, while imparting a mythic quality to the tales.  They also appear to be theatrical and showcasing the drama of the stories, hinting at Nielsen’s later work in theater and animation.

Folio’s edition features a reproduction of the binding and pages of the original 1914 limited edition (Hodder and Stoughton also produced a trade edition, distinguished by its blue cloth cover). The original binding was done in vellum, while Folio has recreated theirs in the less expensive vegetable parchment. The original illustrations were printed on Japon (Japanese vellum), and Folio’s are not.  I don’t list these differences to be disparaging, but rather to say that Folio has created a more affordable reproduction of a very fine edition.  I have not had the privilege to see the original, and vegetable parchment is never going to have the same quality to it as vellum, however, Folio has created a beautiful and high quality version.

About the Edition

  • Published in 2000 by The Folio Society
  • 15 Norwegian folk-tales collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe
  • Translation by Sir George Dasent
  • 26 full colour illustrations, including frontispiece, and 21 monotone images by Kay Nielsen
  • Decorative endpapers by Kay Nielsen
  • Binding: Vegetable parchment blocked with a facsmilie of Kay Nielsen’s design for the 1914 Hodder & Stroughton edition.
  • Typeset in Founder’s Caslon.
  • Printed on Caxton Wove paper and bound at Butler & Tanner Ltd., Frome.
  • Size: 10” by 7.5”, 204 pages
  • Burgundy slipcase
Pictures
East of the Sun, Folio Society, Book in Slipcase
East of the Sun, Folio Society, Book in Slipcase
East of the Sun, Folio Society, Cover and Spine
East of the Sun, Folio Society, Front Cover
East of the Sun, Folio Society, Front Cover
East of the Sun, Folio Society, Cover
East of the Sun, Folio Society, End Papers
East of the Sun, Folio Society, Frontispiece and Title Page
East of the Sun, Folio Society, Colophon
East of the Sun, Folio Society, Contents
East of the Sun, Folio Society, Sample Pages with Text and Illustration
East of the Sun, Folio Society, Second Sample Pages with Text and Illustration
East of the Sun, Folio Society, Third Sample Pages with Text and Illustration
East of the Sun, Folio Society, Fourth Sample Pages with Text and Illustration

4 thoughts on “East of the Sun and West of the Moon, illustrated by Kay Nielson, Folio Society

  1. Hi,

    I picked up this book in a charity shop last year as I loved the pictures and am quite into fantasy stories.

    It does not have the red sleeve. It has small staining on the back and on the edges of the pages (doesn’t actually bleed into the page – if it does it’s about 1mm). Overall good condition hence why I picked it up.

    It’s the Folio Society 2000 edition, looks just like the one above.

    I only paid £2.99 but I’m guessing it’s worth slightly more than that.

    I was just wondering how much more than that it is worth.

    Thank you

  2. Hello, I have a copy of this book but with a navy cover and gold writing, this was given to me as a very young girl, i was just wondering if this book is a valuable collectable item, not sure it you can help me with this.

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