London: William Heinemann, 1909.
One of the less common of Rackham’s works and a beautiful example from the Golden Age of Illustration. It tells of a water-sprite, Undine, who can gain an immortal soul only through marriage to a mortal.
The tale is ideally suited to Rackham’s art nouveau style, capturing, as he does, both the tale’s medieval chivalry and its roots in northern folklore.
“It would seem unlikely that one of the most ethereal creatures to capture the imagination of translators and illustrators in the nineteenth-century should have been created by a Prussian officer and inspired by the writings of Paracelsus, the founder of the science of toxicology. Nevertheless, this was the pedigree of Undine, the heroine of Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s romance of the same name, who would inspire operas, ballets and numerous adaptations. Her elusive form can be glimpsed behind Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ and Dvo ák’s Rusalka, a symbol of all that is mysteriously enchanting and ultimately unattainable.” [Susan Halstead, Curator Czech and Slovak, British Library]. The legend had great cultural influence inspiring the English writer of the fairy realm, George MacDonald, to declare ‘of all fairytales I know, I think Undine the most beautiful’.
Provenance: Ex Libris William Crowle; James Fairfax (from his library at Retford Park, Bowral NSW, with bookplate).
Bibliography: Latimore and Haskell p. 34. Riall p. 93.
Quarto, limited edition of 1000, signed by Rackham, 15 tipped-in colour plates, captioned paper guards, half-title, original pictorial vellum, gilt, very occasional toning; lacks silk ties otherwise very good.
Price (AUD): $2,750.00 other currencies