Charles van Sandwyk’s Delightful Private Press Fairy Books

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Charles van Sandwyk is a Vancouver artist, whose drawings and watercolours are reminiscent of the Golden Age of illustrators. He has illustrated several books for the Folio Society, and is also the author of numerous hand-made and private press books.

The video link above looks at a sample of his delightful fairy books, which he writes, designs, and illustrates, as well as overseeing every step of their publication. They are truly charming little books. I’d love to hear from any other van Sandwyk collectors out there, and do let me know if you’d like some videos on more of these delightful little volumes – I have a wonderful collection and they are some of my favourite books.

How to see fairies is one of Charles’ early books, being first published in 1993. It has 16 pages, including pen and ink drawings and watercolours, and the pages and cover are printed offset. There are at least three editions of this little book, with each print run being about 1000 copies. A very small number of special limited editions were also published around 2006, bound in olive cloth and containing some original etchings. Make sure to get one of the versions published by Charles himself (the Smithmark and Raincoast books were his first foray with a large publisher and their reproductions are muddy and disappointing).

In 1997, Charles published a companion volume titled ‘Van Sandwyk’s Pocket Guide to the Little People’. Both this book and the how to see fairies book were published in a compilation volume in 1999 in a box set along with a journal and some other ephemera that I will cover separately. Again, the version published by Charles is by far the most beautiful of those available.

The Gnome King’s Treasure Song was published in 2000 with a print run of 1000 copies. It’s 8 pages long, with 4 tipped in plates and letterpress engravings.

The Fairies’ Christmas was published in 2001. It tells the story of a Christmas a boy spent with his grandfather and their encounter with a gathering of fairies. Unusually, this story is typed and does not feature Charles’ trademark calligraphy. Typography is by Robert R. Reid and it was letterpress printed by David Clifford at Black Stone Press. The book was also distributed by the publishing company Heavenly Monkey as their Christmas gift. It’s a small octavo, about 7.75″ tall.

The Fairy Market was released in December 2009. It is one of his larger books, being square quarto in size and is illustrated with 9 colour plates with paintings of animals, plants and birds. It’s 16 pages long, and 6 of the 13 illustrations are tipped-in plates. The book is hand-sewn and printed letterpress.

The most recent addition to my collection is an adorable copy of ‘Letters from Fairyland”, which was published in May 2017 in a limited edition of 200. It has 12 pages including 5 “posted” letters and is printed on cream and buff paper. It features various pieces of correspondence between Charles and the fairy folk, ranging from party invitations to a selection of ‘fairy money’. I actually have a number of fairy doors and a letterbox outside my house, and local children post letters to the fairies there – and of course they also receive replies – and I have to say this book sparks exactly that sort of joy.


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