Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Red Shoes, and other stories

Today is the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen, and thinking about his fairy stories got me thinking about the many kinds of stories that can be embodied in one copy of a book.  The Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture holds a copy of Andersen's Red Shoes and other stories, a rather gruesome tale about a girl whose shoes force her to dance against her will:

"When she wanted to dance to the right, the shoes would dance to the left, and when she wanted to dance up the room, the shoes danced back again, down the steps, into the street and out of the city gate..."

Andersen's story has been retold many times, including in the 1948 film by Powell and Pressburger, and the wearing of red shoes continues to have powerful cultural connotations.

frontispiece illustration to The Red Shoes and other stories, by Hans Christian Andersen
Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture ( CH5/5/19)

This book is part of MoDA's Charles Hasler Collection, and   features engravings by the renowned Brothers Dalziel. As a typographer and graphic designer, Hasler probably acquired the book because of his interest in nineteenth century printing and illustration.

But there are many other possible stories to tell about this copy of the book.  A bookplate in the front tells us that it was given as a prize for school attendance in 1879.  Who was the little boy, Frederick Eggleden who won this book?  And what did he make of the story of the red shoes?

Maybe that could be the starting point for a whole new story - what do you think?

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