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Fantasy: Realms of Imagination

Visit to the British Library
Fantasy: Realms of Imagination

Fairies and fiends, monsters and magic can be found in an ever-increasing number of bookshops and bookshelves around the world. They are the subject of the British Library’s extensive temporary exhibition entitled Fantasy: Realms of Imagination.
Fantasy: Realms of Imagination

Hello and welcome to my first blog post as a marketing Intern at Shapero Rare Books. I thought I’d post something on my recent visit to the British Library’s Fantasy: Realms of Imagination exhibition, which I recommend to anyone needing to take their minds off the day to day. I hope you enjoy it but don’t forget to browse through our selection of strange and fantastical texts here.

The exhibition is an atmospheric, informative experience which is generous in its range of texts. Visitors to the exhibition are led through Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books, Bernard Sleigh’s Ancient mappe of Fairyland... and Pan’s Labyrinth, before moving on to the tales of Sinbad, Piranesi’s Prisons, Gormenghast, The Hobbit, The Sandman, and Utopia.

Realms of Imagination is divided into several sections each with its own distinct atmosphere and content. Opening with an exploration of fairy tales and the fantastical woodland, it continues to cover subject matter which includes imaginary cities and worlds, the uncanny and magical portals.

In our own celebration of imaginary realms and stories, we have unearthed some of our most rare and intriguing and fantastical books, authors and items:

1. Paradise Lost. A Poem in Ten Books, by John Milton, first edition, 1669.
Paradise Lost | John Milton | Shapero Rare Books Paradise

One of the exhibition’s many striking exhibits includes an edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost illustrated by Gustave Doré. Paradise Lost has been published in countless editions since its first appearance in print in 1667, with Doré producing his distinctive illustrations in 1866. Sold over several years, the first edition of Milton’s work had its title page periodically updated, with a 1669 version on our shelves.

2. The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka, translated by A.L. Lloyd, 1937.

Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, opens, infamously, with Gregor Samsa who ‘awoke one morning from a troubled dream’ and ‘found himself changed in his bed to some monstrous kind of vermin’. An attractive copy of Kafka’s tale of alienation, human consciousness and social anxiety, in its scarce cellophane dustjacket. The striking initial scene is also here beautifully illustrated by Daniel Rohan Eason in My First Kafka from the British Library exhibition.

3. Autograph letter signed by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1973
Autograph letter signed by J.R.R. Tolkien | Shapero Rare Books Autograph letter signed by J.R.R. Tolkien | Shapero Rare Books
Tolkien memorabilia and texts feature prominently in the British Library exhibition, which includes a first edition of The Hobbit and items from the Peter Jackson adaptations of The Lord of the Rings. The range of translations and adaptions of Tolkien’s work is a testament to his enduring popularity today. Listed here is a signed letter by Tolkien.
4. The Book of The Thousand Nights and a Night [with] the Supplemental Nights, by Richard Burton, c. 1903.
The Book of The Thousand Nights and a Night [with] the Supplemental Nights | Richard Burton | Shapero Rare Books

Number 12 of a thousand copies of Burton’s translation, which, due to the explicit references in the source material and Burton’s discussion of them, was made available only to a limited number of subscribers. The story of One Thousand and One Nights is another widely adapted tale whose influence stretches across the borders of different nations. One such adaptation entitled 1001 Fantasy Pop Nights, is displayed in the British Library exhibition.

5. Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by J.M. Barrie, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, 1906.
Mabel Bent | Southern Arabia | Shapero Rare Books Mabel Bent | Southern Arabia | Shapero Rare Books

Arthur Rackham’s illustrated edition of Peter Pan in Kensington gardens, as seen in the British Library’s exhibition. Rackham’s pen and ink and watercolour illustrations, as well as his fantastical subject matter, make him a recognisable illustrator even to the present day.

6. The Ingoldsby Legends or Mirth & Marvels, by Thomas Ingoldsby, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, 1907.
Mabel Bent | Southern Arabia | Shapero Rare Books Mabel Bent | Southern Arabia | Shapero Rare Books

Now on sale, a Rackham illustrated edition of The Ingoldsby Legends, signed by Rackham, with tipped-in colour plates and black and white illustrations in the artist’s distinctive style.

Browse more rare fantastical texts now.
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