How to See Fairies by Charles van Sandwyk

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How to See Fairies by Charles van Sandwyk

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Video Review

How to See Fairies editions

Today’s post covers the various editions of Charles van Sandwyk’s delightful book ‘How to See Fairies’, including the 1999 collector’s boxed set and the trade edition of the book, as well as with the 2018 Folio Society collection of tales, and the original handmade private press miniature books that started it all.

CVS Pinterest Thumb

I’ve been collecting Charles’ artist books for many years, and I actually do also have a free collector’s guide to his publications on this website for anyone who is interested in more of his work.

How to See Fairies Boxed Set

This cute boxed set was released by Raincoast books in 1999. The box includes a copy of the How To See Fairies book, a collection of stationery and this lovely little Fairy Journal which is designed for you to record your own fairy sightings within. Each page spread in the journal features a tiny line drawing or two, taken from his Pocket Guide to the Little People, which are both sweet and lightly humorous.

The box includes ribbons to help you remove the books, which is a nice touch. This trade hardback edition of How to See Fairies is actually a compilation of two original books put out by Charles’ own private press (‘The Fairy Press’), one of which was also called How to See Fairies and the other was a Pocket Guide to the Little People.

The original miniature books were changed a little in the transformation – the private press editions are smaller and the illustrations have been enlarged, moved around and in a few cases omitted from the trade press hardback.

The Rain Coast edition of How to See Fairies that comes in the boxed set is pretty similar to the Smithmark edition which was released separately, but they differ slightly in the cover design, and also on the decorations for the title page and size of the frontispiece illustration.

The box also includes a pocket filled with pretty fairy stationery that matches the books. There are three blank cards with reproductions of fairy watercolours on the front, along with an illustrated bookmark and a small poster featuring one of the full spread illustrations in the How to See Fairies book.

1999 CVS How to see fairies boxset
1999 CVS How to see fairies boxset open
CVS How to See Fairies trade edition 1
How to See Fairies ‘Fairy Press’ edition

How to See Fairies is a story of fairies told in verse first released in 1993. The original book had French flaps and hand-sewn pages.

The Pocket Guide to the Little People was released in 1997 and is mostly a collection of fairy folk illustrations and calligraphic text. For the edition in the boxed set, some of the line drawings from the original Pocket Guide were moved to the Fairy Journal instead.

How to See Fairies and Other Tales Folio Society Edition

Now let’s take a close look at the Folio Society edition. The long form title of this edition is actually “How to See Fairies and other tales” and it is in fact an anthology of seven of Charles’ earlier handmade books printed under his private press The Fairy Press, with some extra features as well. I’ve covered some of these books in detail in an earlier video that I’ll link above and below if you’re interested. It’s an enchanting collection of fairy folk illustrations and stories and I am sure that if you like fairies and whimsy, you should definitely invest in a copy for your own library – it will be a treasured heirloom.

The binding of this edition is a beautiful heavily textured cloth, yet they have still managed to block this with a delicate illustration that features a rich red and a bright gold that has been applied with real care and stability to the cover. The cover also features an inset paper illustration of some delightful fairy folk.

It comes in a decorated slipcase, gold printed with a pattern created especially for this edition. The illustrated endpapers are beautifully reproduced – it’s the same illustration that is used in the trade copy I showed earlier, but the colours in the FS edition are definitely more vibrant. This may also be related to the Italian paper used in the book, which is Modigliani Insize Neve and is lightly textured, which I’ll try to show in close-up here, because it adds a really nice tactile element to reading the book.

Other Fairy Press Books in the Folio Society Anthology

The first book presented in the anthology is The Fairy Market from 2009. This was one of Charles’ larger private press publications, so the illustrations are a similar size to the original. The private press book was printed on, and the texture of the FS book reflects this experience.

Next we have How to See Fairies as mentioned above. Then The Gnome King’s Treasure Song, which was released in 2000 and tells of the King’s adventures. And The Pocket Guide to the Little People, which is also discussed above.

Afterglow was printed in 2008, and it contains an Autumn poem about elfin revellers. The private press book was bound with a rainbow ribbon, and included a bookmark with a short poem. The gatefold illustration is actually reproduced in the Folio Society edition as a fold-out as well, in a lovely nod to the original booklet.

Wee Folk was a small volume of which only 40 copies were issued in 1994. The original book had sepia toned illustrations, and the pictures reproduced in the Folio Society book were hand-tinted by Charles for this edition, so this is a great way to see a copy of this very rare original publication.

The reproduction of The Fairies’ Christmas from 2001 is probably the most changed in comparison of all the original books. The original edition was illustrated with line drawings, but the Folio Society contains watercolour illustrations that were actually painted separately by Charles at the time the story was written, and their inclusion in this volume is their first appearance in publication.

The Folio Society book also includes new decorated elements, including borders and delightful little folk tailpieces. It’s an absolutely charming volume.

CVS How to See Fairies FS spread

If you’re interested in seeing more of Charles’ beautiful publications, you may like to check out the Fairies and Feathered Friends videos as well

Finally, a few additional links for the private press books listed above:


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Julieta · 19 May 2023 at 1:36 am

I love everything

    Daisy · 2 June 2023 at 8:11 pm

    Yes, all of van Sandwyk’s works are beautiful!

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