I mentioned in a previous post that I am fascinated by Czech illustration (of children's books) and since I just recently found another lovely example of this genre, I thought it was finally time to share the Google Docs spreadsheet I've been compiling for a while now that lists titles, authors, illustrators and subject matter in this area. (And don't think I didn't slave over those Czech diacritical marks!) Behold and rejoice, Internets:
GOOGLE DOCS SPREADSHEET: Czech-Illustrated Children's Folklore and Mythology Books, English-Language Editions
Just for background, during the Cold War, British and American publishers discovered that they could produce and print high-quality translations of fairy-tale books (et al) in what was then Czechoslovakia for much less than they would pay if they used homegrown authors and illustrators.
Paul Hamlyn was apparently the pioneer in this field, and I think many of the imprints of these books are either his or his corporate descendants. His big discovery was Jiří Trnka, who is often described as the "Walt Disney of the East," although I think that gives his importance--not to mention his completely unique style--short shrift.
Beginning with a multi-volume run starring Trnka, the business of cheap Czech imports seemed to take off in the late 1950s. As far as I can tell, it carried on briskly throughout the 1960s and 1970s, until it apparently petered out in the early 1980s. (Although it's possible I just haven't found the relevant post-1982 works.) (FWIW, I suspect that economic conditions on both ends of the bargain changed sufficiently to just kill the business model.)
Anyway, as a treat for reading this far into a blog post on Czech-illustrated children's books what the hell, here are some scans for you art junkies to enjoy:
|"The Owl King" by Karel Franta, from The Book of Goodnight Stories|
|"Kŕesomysl and Horymír" by Jiří Trnka, from Legends of Old Bohemia by Alois Jirásek|
|"Seigfried and Beautiful Kriemhild" by Vojtěch Kubašta, from Folk Tales and Legends|