Monday, March 26, 2012

History

-By Arnie Fenner


While shuffling some things around I came across a stack of The Enchanted World series from Time Life Books. I quickly found myself sitting on the floor flipping through one after the other and enjoying myself immensely.


Published in the mid 1980s, there were 21 titles in the series, each devoted to a different aspect of mythology and folklore, with occasional references to 19th and early 20th Century literary creations. It wasn't an academic study, but rather were written as stories, presenting its subjects as real people, places, and things. Following the conceit that everything had once been real, a common thread through several of them was its documentation of the decline and disappearance of magical stuff from "when the world was young." Witches, dragons, vampires, giants, et al—all were covered. The text alone, honestly, was not enough incentive to buy the books: it was all pretty eh, you know?

The art on the other hand was another matter entirely—and more than enough reason now to scout the books out at used bookstores or on the internet. Each volume included scads of classic color pieces by N.C. Wyeth, William Holman Hunt, Arthur Rackham, John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones, and many others—which was great all on it's own. But the true icing on the cake was that the Time Life art directors commissioned a mountain of new paintings for the series by a youthful crop of illustrators that included John Collier, John Howe, Gary Kelley, James C. Christensen, Marshall Arisman, Kinuko Y. Craft, Yvonne Gilbert, Matt Mahurin, and MC's own John Jude Palencar (one of his illos is at the top of this post) among many others. The series was a pretty well-paying (if short-deadline) job and it's a shame that it didn't take off and translate into more illustrated titles.

If you spot these at a garage sale, snatch them up. You'll be glad you did.



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9 comments:

  1. I think I bought one of these books from the local library for like, $0.50 when I was a kid. I guess I didnt realize it was part of a collection.

    Wish I still had it. Damn.

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    1. Little sis just confirmed it, We had the one with what she said was 'the sleeping beauty chick' in it.

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  2. I remember Jim showing me some of these as he worked on them. Brings back memories. I still have a couple of them shoved into my bookcase somewhere. Thanks Arnie!

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  3. These were great! Found a really good used bookstore in AZ when i was on the west coast and purchased a bunch for next to nothing. The art was always inspiring. As a kid i had a few and lost em'. happy to find them again. great memories!!

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  4. THe Ghost one was great. Ton of Matt Mahurn (paintings not the digital or photo type work) and Marshall Arisman. I second the books in the series. I liked a lot of the Gary Kelley and Palencar images as well throughout the series. Happy hunting.

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  5. I've owned this entire series since I was a kid. I still love cracking them open every so often and flipping through them. Aside from the great art, having a collection of myths from all over the world is really good inspiration as well.

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  6. i too had these books delivered once a month as a kid. they were my entrance into fantasy art. it was tough for future fantasy art to top Waterhouse in my view.

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  7. My step-father had a bunch of these and I fell in love. In fact, the first JJP piece I ever saw was in the Wizards volume, and I quickly became a fan. Later on, I went and tracked down every volume... even the 'Christmas' volume, which surprisingly isn't as lame as it sounds.

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  8. My mum collected these when I was a kid; they now all sit on my own bookshelf. Very inspiring set of books, and great to see you've posted about them here.

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