The wizard's library
This post is a continuation of the my “wizard’s library” bookshelf tour, which begins here.
It’s basically a collection of wonderful books about magic and fairies, folklore and supernatural beasties, fantastic fantasy art, and basically everything you would need to homeschool yourself as a wizard, witch or sorcerer.
There’s a video below, as well as links to the books. Don’t hesitate to ask if there’s anything you’d like more information on!
The Video Tour - Part 2
Links to the books
Note: if you’d like to buy (in print) books from local Indie bookshops in the US, I’ve also created a “magical library” list on bookshop.org that you can use to find various volumes of interest included in the list below.
Gleanings from the Poets by Robert Inglis
A vintage collection of English poetry from Chaucer to Tennyson including biographical notes of the authors. There are several decorative editions of this collection (indeed of many poetry collections from around this time) – so you really need to see the cover to choose the one you want. Mine was published c1880.
Vaesen, Norse Gods and The Undead by Johan Egerkrans
A set of three stunning Viking mythology books, oversized, strong linen bindings, laid-in illustration and debossed ink on the covers, along with sewn bindings and a ribbon bookmark, and thick, glossy pages. The books are stand-alones, but you will want all three once you’ve seen one in person.
Where to buy:
Folk Tales of Britain: Narratives by Katharine M Briggs, illustrated by Hannah and Peter Firmin and Clare Melinsky
Katharine’s life work was compiling a definitive collection of Britain’s folk tales, from medieval manuscripts to oral transcripts, finally published in 1971 when she was 73 years old. These three volumes of narratives published by the Folio Society comprise the first part of her original Dictionary of British Folk-Tales and is divided into different categories and tale types. They have the typical high quality you would expect from Folio Society publications, with each volume being bound in decorative green buckram cloth, having a colour frontispiece and many internal black & white illustrations – volume I is illustrated by Hannah Firmin, volume II by Peter Firmin and volume III by Clare Melinsky.
Folk Tales of Britain: Legends by Katharine M Briggs, illustrated by Hannah and Peter Firmin and Clare Melinsky
This second Folio Society three-volume collection of Briggs’ tales contains over 1,000 ‘Legends’, that is, stories once believed to be true. Thus, actual places, people and historical events appear frequently in these tales, anchoring them to the real world. Matching the narratives set, each volume is bound in decorative maroon buckram cloth, with a colour frontispiece and more than 20 black & white illustrations per volumes – volume I is illustrated by Hannah Firmin, volume II by Peter Firmin and volume III by Clare Melinsky.
⮑ Learn more about Katherine Briggs’ Fairy Dictionaries [coming soon]
Fabulous Creatures and other Magical Beasts by Joel Levy
A field guide to the denizens of the supernatural realm from gnomes, fairies, and elves to unicorns, dragons, and minotaurs. With more than 600 colour illustrations, maps, etc.
The Kalevala is a Finnish national epic poem that covers Finnish folklore and mythology. Beginning with the world’s creation, it follows the stories of Vainamoinen, a shamanistic hero of song and story; his young rival, Joukahainen; and the handsome but arrogant Lemminkainen. They quest for love, revenge, truth, and the mysterious Sampo, the ultimate source of prosperity.
Forging Dragons by John Howe
An amazing collection of dragon art, created over Howe’s 30-year career, iconic fantasy artist John Howe explores the inspirations and techniques he uses to render these amazing beasts of myth and legend.
The Book of Little Folk by Lauren Mills
A beautifully illustrated collection of fairy tales retold and illustrated Lauren Mills. The collection includes both familiar and less well-known tales, such as Fairy Bread, The Little Elf, Thumbelina, The Moss-Green Princess, and Vasilisa the Beautiful.
Fabulous Places of Myth by Robert Ingpen
Brings to life Camelot, home of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table; Atlantis, long buried beneath the ocean; Valhalla, the final home of the great Norse warriors; and the Tower of Babel, birthplace of disputation and difference.
Out Of This World by Michael F Page, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
Six sections covering the sweep of fantasy & imagination. ‘The Cosmos’ describes the world’s mystic creatures (e.g. the Zodiac, the Goddess of Love, Zeus). ‘The Ground & The Underground’ deals with the creatures who live in our homes, underground and in the forests, hills & wilderness. ‘Wonderland’ guides us through such imaginary places as Atlantis, Treasure Island, King Solomon’s Mines and Utopia. ‘Magic, Science & Adventure’ covers alchemy, Frankenstein’s monster and Pygmalion’s ideal woman. ‘Water Sky & Air’ discusses mermaids, nymphs, argonauts, ghost ships, flying horses, sea serpents etc. ‘The Night’ introduces ‘the shuddersome creatures’ that emerge at twilight. Ingpen’s gorgeous illustrations pay homage to the work of Howard Pyle, Arthur Rackham and the ancient school of classical sculptors.
Leprechaun Companion by Robert Ingpen
An inventive collection of leprechaun lore that also looks at the links between leprechauns and the other faery folk of Ireland, and at their cousins in neighboring countries – brownies, boggarts, piskies, spriggans, kobolds and many more.
Fantasy Maps by various
A collection of real maps about fantastical places of literature, such as the Lord of the Rings and Discworld. I have a separate video about all the books in my fantasy map collection which looks at them in more detail.
Secret Histories series by Ari Berk
This secret history series retells natural histories, uncovers hidden worlds, and shares the magic and customs of various magical races, accompanied by some delightful illustrations by Ari Berk. Includes The Secret History of Mermaids, The Secret History of Giants and The Secret History of Hobgoblins.
→ Buy Mermaids from Book Depository
A Diversity of Dragons by Anne McCaffrey and Richard Woods, illustrated by John Howe
This oversized book is presented as a story of two friends sitting around the fireplace sharing tales of dragons from major fantasy authors. A few dozen summaries of favourite tales are shared, accompanied by Howe’s soft and fluid magnificent dragon illustrations. Dragons covered range from the time of the Bible and the Babylonians, the Arthurian Era and the Chinese Dynasties, to the current dragons invented by Robin McKinley, Gordon R. Dickson, Melanie Rowan, and McCaffrey herself.
The Discovery of Dragons by Graeme Base
In this faux journal, a Victorian scientist, R.W. Greasebeam, presents the ‘original’ correspondence of early explorers who encountered some of the world’s most fearsome dragons.
Trolls by Brian and Wendy Froud
A lovely, oversized volume, Trolls features new and classic work by both Brian and his wife, Wendy, woven together along with artifacts and symbols of the natural world to create a fascinating revelation about the world of trolls. The book explores trolls and troll culture, revealing their philosophies, their home life, and their world attitudes through their tales, mythology, and archaeology. Gorgeous illustrations as always, and photos of some delightfully crafted creatures.
Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee
Two talented artists share their gorgeous drawings and paintings to describe various kinds of elves and fairies found in myths, legends, and literature.
Goblins! by Brian Froud
Brian Froud actually has a bunch of Goblin books, it’s obviously one of his favourite inspirations along with the faeries. This one, Brian Froud’s Goblins!, co-authored with Ari Berk, is a hilarious field guide, presented as a reproduction of the ‘Codex Goblinensis’. The Goblin Companion is another field guide, this time annotated by the hilarious Terry Jones of Monty Python Fame. And I have another volume in my film shelves about his illustrations for the Goblins of the Labyrinth. Not to mention the pop-up book below…
Good Faeries, Bad Faeries by Brian Froud
A collection of fanciful sketches that encompasses both the benevolent and the malevolent species of the tribe Faeries. A flip book, with one side proclaiming ‘Good Faeries,’ matched on the flip side with the title ‘Bad Faeries.’ The illustrations are the heart of the book, done in black and white, sepia, or full color.
The World of the Dark Crystal by Brian Froud
The edition I show in the video is the original companion art book for the film, which was released probably 20 years ago and was long out of print. However, a wonderful new edition was released in early 2020, so it is luckily now available again.
Encyclopedia of Mysterious Places by Robert Ingpen and Philip Wilkinson
A guided tour of over 40 places around the world that for a variety of reasons have remained clouded in mystery – including forgotten cities, vast temples and enigmatic monuments that have piqued our curiosity and fired our imaginations.
Faeries and Demons by Edouard Brasey
Each of the four seasons has particular celebrations and this book aims to bring some of the background to these rituals and traditions. A massive, lavishly illustrated book – also published under the alternative title Dragons, Little People, Witches, Fairies, Trolls and Elves.
Gnomes by Poortvliet and Huygen
This translation of a Dutch original features illustrated observations of gnome habits, anatomy and lifestyle. It has a believable and detailed discussion of the foods that are most loved by gnomes, how they raise their children, when they marry, where they live, what sorts of pets they have, and how they tend to animals in the wild. Magical characters and magnificent illustrations. There are several in the series, including Secrets of the Gnomes, A Gnome’s Christmas and others.
→ Buy from Abes (OOP)
Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide by Holly Black and Terry DiTerlizzi
A companion to the Spiderwick Chronicles, but can really be enjoyed as a standalone book by anyone who loves magical creatures.
→ Buy from Amazon | Book Depository
The Adams Books of Myths, Legends and Lore series by various authors
This collection of myths, legends and lore includes a number of pretty books each focussing on different magical creatures. The fonts and monotone illustrations are colored to match the covers. Very cute.
⮑ Learn more about the Myths, Legends & Lore series here [coming soon]…
The Faeryland Companion by Beatrice Phillpotts
Accompanying a wide selection of classic paintings and engravings, fairy expert Beatrice Phillpotts follows the story of fairies from ancient mythology, through Shakespeare and Victorian art, to modern manifestations of fairy stories in the Disney films and beyond.
The Leprechaun’s Kingdom by Peter Haining
A collection of anecdotes and short tales of Irish magical creatures, with charming b&w illustrations. Included are changelings, daoine sidh, water sheerie, and little cluricaunes who hide in your cellar and drink your beer.
The Ologies series by various authors
The Ologies series includes many volumes of beautifully illustrated fictional encyclopaedias on various fantasy topics. Each large-format book contains many items of ephemera, from removable maps and postcards, to letters that can be unfolded, and other tactile items such as “fairy wings” or “dragon scales”.
Where to buy: