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Investigating the Book

FAIRY LEGENDS and     

    TRADITIONS of

      SOUTHERN IRELAND

THE START

       Thomas Crofton Croker was born in Cork, Ireland on January 15th, 1798. Though he at one point held a position in the Admiralty, he devoted himself to ancient Irish poetry and folklore eventually. He and his wife, Marianne Croker, and artist and author herself, added significant understanding to the Irish language lament - keening, or wailing for the dead during funeral proceedings - and surrounding traditions. The first portion of Fairy Legends and Traditions of Southern Ireland was published in 1825, eventually going through six subsequent editions and translated into German by the Brother’s Grimm. The other two parts were published in 1828. Thomas Frances Dillon Croker, his only child, was born in 1831 and became a poet and collector of legends and traditions like his father. His memoir of T. Crofton Croker appears in this edition of the book. Thomas Wright, a close friend of T. Crofton Croker, edited this edition, though both Thomas Wright and T. F. Dillon Croker had their writings in previous editions. Wright was an antiquary as well, which is what T. Crofton Croker was referred to as, and so it was fitting that he write the preface for the editions following T. Crofton Croker’s death.

THE BOOK

       This particular copy of Fairy Legends and Traditions of Southern Ireland was probably printed between 1873 and 1875, though without a dated title page it can’t be exactly determined. The reason it can be narrowed to those years is because of the printer’s name and emblem printed on the back of the decorated title page: “Watson & Hazell, Printers, London and Aylesbury.” Based on the history of the company, which was absorbed into the Maxwell Communications Corporation in 1981, the year 1873 was when Walter Hazell joined the firm, as well as when the second branch was formed in London, and by 1875 the firm’s name changed with the addition of another partner, John Elliott Viney. Therefore, the printing and publication of this book must be between those dates, especially since their emblem, reading “He Who Reads Rules,” with a W and H resting in it, would have been cut as a die for them to use on multiple books. I cannot find the book elsewhere, not even in institutions, in this particular edition, but earlier ones show that the illustrations were not consistent in every edition and changed frequently, though the decorative title page stays the same.

       The book was bought from Fred Hanna Booksellers on Nassau Street in Dublin, which closed in 1999, what is labeled as November 11th, 1948. There is what is suspected to be a price next to the date, but is £41, which would be about €1,585 in today’s Euros. This doesn’t seem to translate well, especially since these books were pretty popular so there were many of them around. I will trust the date however, as it lines up with the supposed owner of the text, Mary Francis Kiely, who would have been about 35 when she was most likely researching for a book, as she wrote many books all through her life, her most notable being O’Donnell of Destiny. It was about Hugh O’Donnell, a prince from Donegal who must fight to keep his title as chief when his father dies. According to family legend, this book was adapted by Walt Disney Studios into the movie The Fighting Prince of Donegal, not crediting Mary, in the 1960s, and though  

she took them to court they very easily out-lawyered her. Luckily the movie was not very well received and isn’t well remembered up to now, which bodes well for Irish grudges like the Kiely family’s. This provenance has value in that it was most likely a research book of hers as well as a personal familial value to me and to my father, who is Mary’s great-nephew.

       Someone, whether Mary or not, has gone through the book and annotated specific illustrations and taken other illustrations from

the binding, though they have been replaced to their correct positions within the book. Most of these have folding marks on them, two each, meaning that each was folded twice, possibly one inside another, and in some certain order, mostly because you can see that some are inconsistently folded with the others. The annotations have no clear instruction, just marking the illustrations it seems. The foldings were probably done to take these illustrations elsewhere, possibly to be copied, or to be compared against other books or illustrations, though I can’t be sure without asking Mary, who unfortunately died in 1980 at 75.

THE MARKET

       This copy of Fairy Legends, because of its condition and need for conservation, is useful for practicing and understanding binding and conservation of the book’s publication period, but because of its disrepair and marginal value in provenance it may not fetch a high price, though it is not really out there on the market in this copy. There are reproductions out there in the world that are constantly being made and sold, but original copies in any condition are hard to come by, only one printed a few years before this one is found and is being sold for about $20. If I were to put this one up on the market (though I don’t think I would ever want to) I would probably price it, once conserved, at around $25-$40, mostly because of the work I would have put into it to make sure it was still readable. To see how I got these prices, click here to visit the worksheets page.

All works used are listed in the bibliography under this biography's title heading.

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