May 17, 2017

It is not widely known that when Tasha was born her parents originally named her Starling Burgess after her father, the renowned Yacht designer, William Starling Burgess. It was only after reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace that her father fell in love with the name Natasha and decided to rechristen baby Starling “Tasha”. Tasha’s mother, Rosamond Tudor, was just as literary and saw to it that Tasha was exposed to classical literature at an early age. Many evenings were spent reading Greek myths, Shakespeare and classics such as Moby Dick aloud as a family. And so a lifelong love of reading began. Among Tasha’s favorite books were Lang's Fairy Books of Many Colors.

Rare first editions of all twelve volumes of the Fairy Books of Many Colors

Beginning in the late 1800's, Andrew Lang began collecting and editing fairy tales from around the world. He compiled the stories into twelve volumes, each of which had a different colored cover. The titles were The Yellow Fairy Book, The Violet Fairy Book, etc. These beautifully bound books held classics familiar to most of us, such as “Beauty and The Beast”, as well as more obscure tales from Japan, Native American cultures, Scandinavia, the Middle East, all across Africa, and more!

Illustration by H.J. Ford in The Green Fairy Book

One finds, on reading these collected tales, that the themes are not so divergent as one might suppose, given the wide range of origins. For, as has been said, the basic human conditions and moral tales are really quite universal. Everybody likes to see good triumph over evil in the end, and of course “living happily ever after” is a wonderful way for love stories to conclude!

H.J Ford's beautiful gilded cover design for the first edition of The Red Fairy Book, published in 1890

As a child Tasha poured through Lang’s many volumes and later shared her love of these stories with her own children, often reading a tale or two aloud in the evenings before bed. She was particularly impressed by the illustrations in pen and ink by the artist H.J. Ford. As an adult Tasha had the great fortunate to see an exhibit of Ford’s original artwork for the Fairy Books. To her surprise, these were very large, much larger than they appear in the books. She explained that if you want to have an illustration which has apparently fine detail, then making a large drawing and reducing it is the technique. In fact, Tasha kept a diminishing glass at her art table and would occasionally view her work through this lens, even though her artwork was generally close to the printed size in a book. A master of exquisitely fine detail in her pencil and watercolor illustrations, Tasha did not need to make larger size work. But seeing it smaller gave her a fresh perspective, she said.

Illustration from The Crimson Fairy Book

Tasha Tudor and Family is thrilled to carry ten out of the twelve Lang Fairy Books of Many Colors! We offer them to you for the first time in many years and have a limited supply. Our rainbow hued books feature all of H.J. Ford’s original illustrations so you can see the work that so inspired Tasha. We encourage you to emulate Tasha and her parents by sharing the joy of literature with your own families!

*Though these stories are wonderfully rich in magic and adventure, some might be a bit frightening to younger children. Lang did not believe in watering-down fairy tales and as anyone who has read the original tales of the Brother’s Grimm knows, these stories can at times be quite dark. We recommend these books for ages 10 and up. However, every child is different so parents should be the final judge!