For this post I’ll be focusing on a comparison between two of the loveliest editions of East of the Sun, West of the Moon with Kay Nielsen’s incomparable illustrations. I think these are some of the most exquisite illustrations in children’s literature of all time.
First published in 1914, East of the Sun and West of the Moon is a celebrated collection of fifteen fairy tales, gathered by legendary Norwegian folklorists Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Engebretsen Moe on their journeys across Norway in the mid-nineteenth century.
The Folio Society edition is a faithful facsimile of that original 1914 Hodder & Stoughton volume, whilst the Taschen edition has been beautifully re-designed and includes double-page spreads, and fascinating essays that are illustrated with many additional artworks by Nielsen.
One of the first things you’ll notice is the size difference – Taschen’s volume is much taller and thinner than the Folio edition. The Taschen slipcase is a half case – with a very pretty design, but very flimsy materials, and is unlikely to stand up to any rough handling. The Folio slipcase on the other hand is typically robust, but made of simple plain red boards.
Similar to the original book, Folio has an elegant cover, featuring gilt cover and spine designs on cream vegetable parchment boards with silk headbands. The Taschen is much more bright and colourful and is brightly illustrated on both front and back boards. Both feature the same stunning endpapers on the front and the back.
Folio follows the original design with a frontispiece and front matter only modified to include the Folio Society name. Taschen opens with close details of Nielsen’s artwork and several sensitively designed new introductory pages, and the title page includes reference to the additional essays and appendix in this volume.
The Folio book includes a short illustrated preface. The paper is thick and luxurious and the print is large and clear. Taschen starts with the preface, followed by an essay on the origins of Norway’s folktales, history and background information, beautiful images, design work, Nielsen’s life, fantastic detail and glorious double page spreads – so many stunning illustrations and lots of fascinating history.
To compare the the images – the Taschen are very much larger. The layout and design is really beautiful in the Taschen, although the text is smaller and the pages are much thinner. The folio society reproduction of the images is to a beautiful and high standard, but so is the quality of the Taschen – the main difference is that Folio use a pebbled paper and Taschen use a glossy style.
The FS book is out of print, but copies aren’t terribly difficult to find on the second hand market. The Taschen edition is still available new, and I think it is so gorgeous it’s well worth the price – click on the photos below to find a link for whichever one takes your fancy. Also – although I didn’t have it to show in the video, the Calla Editions book is very similar in look and layout to the FS edition – I feel that the image reproductions are marginally less sharp, but it’s still available new and depending on where you live it may be more accessible than the FS edition, so I’ve linked that in below as well.