Fairies and Fairy Tales

The Special Collections Research Center is celebrating Halloween by exploring some of the fairy tales, folklore and fables in our Rare Books Collection.

As it turns out–the stacks are full of magic!

Fairy popping out of a book in Special Collections

Fairy popping out of a book in Special Collections: Fairies and Magical Creatures by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda, GR 549 .R45 2008

Fairies jump out from the pages of our rare book collection. In the pop-up volume shown here, Fairies and Magical Creatures, the authors Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda discuss the history and nature of fairies. According to the authors, the origins of fairy is in dispute. They write: “Whether fallen angels, the offspring of forgotten gods, or the very spirit of nature, fairies are said to share our world but are usually hidden from view.”

When researching fairies, it is important to remember that all fairies are not the same. Different geographic regions have different traditional stories of their fairy and nature spirits.

Cover art and Table of Contents from The Blue Flower by Henry Van Dyke.

Cover art and Table of Contents from The Blue Flower by Henry Van Dyke, PS 3117 .B6 1902


So, the terrible and beautiful aristocratic sidhe described by Irish poet W.B. Yeats are as different from the woodland nymphs of Ovid as they are different from William Shakespeare’s courtly Titania and Oberon. Despite their differences, these fairies share space in the stacks of the Special Collections Research Center.

Frontispiece from W.B. Yeats' The Celtic Twilight

A poem from W.B. Yeats’ The Celtic Twilight, PR 5904 .C4 1902

In the mythology of the British Isles, there are two different types of fairies: solitary fairies, who are mischievous loners, and trooping fairies, the aristocrats of the Fairy World who appear in amazing, long processions, such as in the fairy tale Tam Lin. Reinhart and Sabuda further specify that “solitary fairies are uncivilized loners who roam the woodlands, letting whim dictate whether they will help or hinder humankind. By contrast, their gregarious cousins, the trooping fairies, live according to fairy laws and etiquette.”
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The cast of characters from Purcell's Fairy Queen, based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

The cast of characters from Purcell’s The Fairy-Queen: An Opera, based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ML 50.2 .F145 P92 1692

Fairy Tales from other geographic regions can be found in Special Collections. This includes a German volume of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Kinder- und Hausmarchen or Children’s and Household Tales. This volume includes the classics, “The Frog King or Iron Heinrich,” “The Three Spinning Women,” and “Cinderella” or Aschenputtel. The fairies in Grimm’s Fairy Tales are known for their violence. Throughout the different editions, there have been changes made so that the stories are more suitable for children.

The Brothers Grimm, Kinder und Marchen

The Brothers Grimm, Kinder -und Hausmarchen, PT 2281 .G6 1920. Below: illustration from “Der Froschkonig oder der eisnerne Heinrich”









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To search the rare books collection for more fairy tales , search the Mason Catalog, click on “Set Limit” and limit by the location “Fenwick Special Collections.”

E-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have any questions. Appointments are not necessary to view collections.

Banned from the Library

This week, libraries across the country are celebrating Banned Books Week (September 25 – October 1) which honors the freedom to read. Hundreds of books are challenged or removed from the collections of libraries and schools across the United States every year. In 2014, the American Library Association documented at least 311 cases of books being challenged, and estimates that between 70-80% of challenges are never reported.

You don’t have to look hard to find banned books in the Special Collections Research Center. On the shelves of the SCRC, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway sits next to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter. Both have been challenged, and remain important pieces of literature as well as records of American history. These classics help faculty, students, and researchers learn more about our history.

Highlighted here are two notable examples of banned and challenged books found in Special Collections Research Center.

First, a peek at an 1852 copy of the abolitionist novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

An 1852 illustrated edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

An 1852 illustrated edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

In her “Preface” Stowe writes, “Good books, like good actions, best explain themselves; they most effectually storm both heart and head, their virtues drape them with greatest dignity, the less they are cumbered by eulogistic comment.”

Frontispiece from the 1852 illustrated edition of Uncle Tom's Cabin

Frontispiece and title page from the 1852 illustrated edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

With its marbled cover and leather binding, this 1852 edition looks innocuous. But for over 100 years, Uncle Tom’s Cabin has been challenged or banned because of its contextual, historically accurate depiction of slavery in the United States. It is also seen as popularizing stereotypes.

The Special Collections Research Center also holds a first edition of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Beloved by Toni Morrison.

Front cover of Beloved by Toni Morrison

Front cover of Beloved by Toni Morrison

A discussion on Banned Books that Shaped America says “Again and again, this Pulitzer-prize winning novel by perhaps the most influential African-American writer of all time is assigned to high school English students. And again and again, parental complaints are lodged against the book because of its violence, sexual content and discussion of bestiality.”

You can find these “banned” books and many others by searching the catalog on our website.

For more information or to view these books, visit the Special Collections Research Center in Fenwick Library 2400.

Email: speccoll@gmu.edu

Oral History Interview with Mr. Robert Flanagan

The George Mason University Oral History Program staff conducted an interview with Mason alumnus, Robert Flanagan (BIS, 1979 and MFA, 1983) on Wednesday, October 14th, 2015. The interview took place in Mason’s Gateway Library at the One-Button Studio in the Johnson Center. The interview focused mainly on his experiences as a nontraditional student (he began his undergraduate work at age 41 after 23 years in the military), Mason’s growth and change during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, and his affiliation with Master of Fine Arts-Creative Writing Program at George Mason, from which Mr. Flanagan was the first graduate. The interview also included his memories of the small but growing student facilities, Dr. George W. Johnson’s presidency, and Mr. Flanagan’s recent work as a columnist for The Hampshire Review in Romney, West Virginia and his trilogy of novels from a journal of his time as a soldier in Vietnam titled The A.S.A. Trilogy.

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Mr. Robert Flanagan at Gateway Library’s One-Button Studio

The interview is available for viewing in the Libraries’ Special Collections & Archives department. For more information about the University Libraries’ George Mason University Oral History Program, please visit the program’s website.



Digitized negatives from the Broadside photograph collection now available!

Archives Assistant Ignacio Bracamonte reflects on the Broadside scanning project and picks an image to share from the recently digitized, and now available online, box 7.

I was very excited to start this new project that Special Collections & Archives offered last semester. It has been over six months since my co-worker Liz and I started with the digitization of Broadside’s collection of photographs. I personally believe that working here, has involved me into George Mason more than ever. I am exposed to hundreds of images every day, where I witness the university’s development, history, important events, and even everyday life photos that were taken by students like me; the members of Broadside, George Mason’s student newspaper.

While  working at Special Collections & Archives, I have familiarized myself with many of Mason’s personalities and it is very easy for me to recognize them throughout the images: the faculty and staff members, the students, and the members of different organizations. After a while, you get a sense of affection to these personages and you can’t wait to know what happens next.


Rubenstein, Michele J. Opening of North Campus Broadside Office 5. October 14, 1973. George Mason University Broadside photograph collection, Collection #R0135, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

This is one of my favorite photographs, where Jay Caine, director of Broadside, is inaugurating the newspaper’s North Campus office. Next to his colleagues, Jay Caine is about to cut the ribbon and establish a new office for George Mason’s student newspaper. This is a very symbolic image because it represents the beginning of Broadside. Even though the photograph was taken on October 14th of 1973, the newspaper endures and remains apart of the student experience at George Mason today.

Ignacio is currently scanning negatives from the Broadside photograph collection. The first box (box 7 in the collection) of over 900 digitized images are now available online. For more on the history of the student newspaper at Mason see the student newspaper exhibit blog post or visit the exhibit on the second floor of Fenwick Library until late April 2014.