Thursday, February 27, 2014

Remembering the World Mythologies Series of Illustrated Books

Originally published on Associated Content.
If you're a homeschooling or afterschooling parent who follows the Well-Trained Mind (or "trivium") approach to education, the 13-volume WORLD MYTHOLOGIES SERIES (sometimes called the WORLD MYTHOLOGY SERIES) of books published 1977 through 1991 is an excellent resource for students of world religions and histories.
These books, created in Britain, are exquisitely illustrated surveys of the mythologies and folklore of the great ancient cultures of the world. Suitable as both piecemeal real-alouds or sustained silent reading material, these books are simultaneously comprehensive while being selective enough to keep the attention of young readers.
Largely written by British academics and illustrated by London-based artists, these books were published in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia, under multiple imprints, including: Eurobook, Douglas & McIntyre, Peter Bedrick Books, Schocken Books, Peter Lowe, Octopus Publishing, Hodder & Stoughton, and McGraw Hill. (The UK-based Hamlyn Publishing Group, which was known for producing high-quality but affording cultural book series by commissioning creative work and doing the printing in lower-cost Eastern European or Mediterranean countries, may have been the original progenitor of this series.) There are also Spanish-language editions of several of these volumes. The books in this series were only issued in hardback, not in paperback. They were all originally issued with full-color dustjackets.
The reading level of these works ranges from about age 8 to age 18. Many of the short chapters would be suitable as read-alouds for enthusiastic younger students.
In several of the volumes the style of the artwork is intentionally reminiscent of the artwork of the culture being outlined. The South American volume uses many Aztec and Mayan motifs, the illustrations from the Chinese volume reference the style of Buddhist scroll art, and the illustrations in the Jewish volume pay homage to the pastels of the great Marc Chagall. The volumes that don't have a particularly stylized approach are illustrated with beautiful two-page paintings or pen-and-ink drawings. Each chapter also opens with a columnar black-and-white line drawing that includes many of the symbols and characters featured in that chapter's tales and legends.
Copies of books from this series are relatively easy to find at online and at used bookstores and library sales. While none are particularly rare, there appear to be fewer circulating copies of the Roman, Russian and Celtic mythology books. If you're looking for a copy, try bookfinder.com or abebooks.com, as well as Amazon and eBay, of course.
Volumes of the World Mythologies Series follow a standard format:
* Full-color dustjacket direct from one of the images appearing as an illustration in the book, with title on the cover and a one-sentence description and bullet-pointed list of attributes on the back cover. The front flap offers as summary of the book's content, the back flap is devoted to some combination of author biography and list of "other books in this series."
* Inside the book, each volume begins with a simple half title page.
* Two-page color-illustrated frontispiece and title page (this image is usually exclusive to the title page and not repeated elsewhere in the book), sometimes depicting a pantheon of gods, if such a thing exists in the cosmology of the mythology in question.
* Copyright page facing table of contents, both of which are footed by a preview of the chapter opening illustrations
* Full-color map of the region from whence this mythology came
* The first chapter of most of the volumes is a historical introduction to the culture, history and geography that produced the myths. (The Viking book does not offer this background material and just launches directly into the myths.)
* The books are then divided into approximately 10 to 15 chapters, each focusing on a certain subcultural, historical epoch, source text or a family tree branch of the deities. These chapters are then divided up into shorter sections that . A handful of volumes in the series (Greek, Viking, Egyptian) do not employ the structure of the longer chapters and subsections but rather just launch into a retelling of the most notable myths, generally in "chronological" order and then in descending order of cultural significance. Each new chapter is accompanied by a black-and-white line drawing illustrating the topic of the chapter. Within each chapter there will be at least one full-color, two-page illustration of a key story or image from the central topic of the chapter, as well as smaller black-and-white images that illustrate nearly every other page.
* The second-to-last element of most of the books is a "guide to the symbols of Mythology X" which provides an explanatory caption for the imagery used in each of the black-and-white columnar illustrations that introduce each chapter. Source materials, background materials, recommended additional reading, a brief guide to writing systems of the cultures in consideration (hieroglyphics, Cyrillic, et al.) and/or a pronounciation are listed after the symbols section in some but not all of the books.
* Finally, each volume includes an extensive index to the people and places mentioned in the book.
The volume of Jewish stories exhibits some slight variants on the standard styling of the series, perhaps hinting at a different editor or a change of administration. Among other things, the title appears on the spine in sentence case rather than all caps, and it lacks the full-color map of the area covered that appears in all of the other books.

WORLD MYTHOLOGIES SERIES
REGION/CULTURE: Greece, Asia Minor, Mediterranean Sea, Aegean Sea, Adriatic Sea
TITLE: Gods, Men & Monsters from the Greek Myths
TEXT AUTHOR: Michael Gibson
ILLUSTRATIONS: Giovanni Caselli
PUBLICATION DATE: 1977
STATISTICS: 27 stories, 156 pages, 22 paintings, 50 line drawings
REGION/CULTURE: Scandanavia, Iceland, Greeland, Spitsbergen, North Sea, Norway, Lappland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, British Isles
TITLE: Gods & Heroes from Viking Mythology
TEXT AUTHOR: Brian Branston
ILLUSTRATIONS: Giovanni Caselli
PUBLICATION DATE: 1978
STATISTICS: 28 stories, 156 pages, 24 paintings, 54 line drawings
REGION/CULTURE: China, Sichuan, Shandong, Guangdong, Fujian, Taiwan, Yangtze River, Yellow Sea, East China Sea
TITLE: Dragons, Gods & Spirits from Chinese Mythology`
TEXT AUTHOR: Tao Tao Liu Sanders, Ph.D.
ILLUSTRATIONS: Johnny Pau
PUBLICATION DATE: 1980
STATISTICS: 46 stories, 132 pages, 18 paintings, 37 line drawings
REGION/CULTURE: North America, Native American, American Indian, First Nations, indigenous peoples
TITLE: Spirits, Heroes & Hunters from North American Indian Mythology
TEXT AUTHOR: Marion Wood
COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: John Sibbick
BLACK & WHITE LINE ILLUSTRATIONS: Bill Donohoe
PUBLICATION DATE: 1981
STATISTICS: 26 stories, 132 pages, 18 paintings, 43 line drawings
REGION/CULTURE: Ancient Egypt, Nubian, Upper Egypt, Lower Egypt, Nile Valley
TITLE: Gods & Pharaohs from Egyptian Mythology
TEXT AUTHOR: Geraldine Harris
COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: David O'Connor
BLACK & WHITE LINE ILLUSTRATIONS: John Sibbick
PUBLICATION DATE: 1982
STATISTICS: 26 stories, 132 pages, 18 paintings, 43 line drawings
REGION/CULTURE: Central America, South American, Inca, Aztec, Maya, indigenous peoples
TITLE: Warriors, Gods & Spirits from Central and South American Mythology
TEXT AUTHOR: Douglas Gifford
ILLUSTRATIONS: John Sibbick
PUBLICATION DATE: 1983
STATISTICS: 45 stories, 132 pages, 18 paintings, 30 line drawings
REGION/CULTURE: Roman Empire
TITLE: Heroes, Gods & Emperors from Roman Mythology
TEXT AUTHOR: Kerry Usher
ILLUSTRATIONS: John Sibbick
PUBLICATION DATE: 1984
REGION/CULTURE: Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Nubia, Ethopia, Somalia, Sarahan Desert, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Fertile Crescent, Yemen, Islam, Arabian Nights, Persia, Sabaeans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Akkadians, Persian Gulf, Gulf of Aden
TITLE: Fabled Cities, Princes & Jinn from Arabic Myths & Legends
TEXT AUTHOR: Khairat Al-Saleh
COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: Rashad Salim
BLACK & WHITE LINE ILLUSTRATIONS: Peter Dennis
PUBLICATION DATE: 1985
STATISTICS: 40 stories, 132 pages, 18 paintings, 38 line drawings
REGION/CULTURE: Russia, Siberia, Ural mountains, Caucasus Mountains, Black Sea
TITLE: Heroes, Monsters and Other Worlds from Russian Mythology
TEXT AUTHOR: Elizabeth Warner
ILLUSTRATIONS: Alexander Koshkin
PUBLICATION DATE: 1985
STATISTICS: 43 stories, 132 pages, 18 paintings, 48 line drawings
REGION/CULTURE: African continent
TITLE: Kings, Gods and Spirits from African Mythology
TEXT AUTHOR: Jan Knappert
ILLUSTRATIONS: Francesca Pelizzoli
PUBLICATION DATE: 1986
STATISTICS: 35 stories, 92 pages, 12 paintings, 25 line drawings
REGION/CULTURE: Celtic people, British Islanes, Brittany, Gaul, Iberian Peninsula, Italian Peninsula, Greece, Scythia, Galatia, Celts, Druids
TITLE: Druids, Gods & Heroes from Celtic Mythology
TEXT AUTHOR: Anne Ross
COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: Roger Garland
BLACK & WHITE LINE ILLUSTRATIONS: John Sibbick
PUBLICATION DATE: 1986
STATISTICS: 43 stories, 132 pages, 18 paintings, 40 line drawings
REGION/CULTURE: Indian subcontinent, Indian, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Himalayas, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bengal, Arabian Sea, Hinduism
TITLE: Demons, Gods & Holy Men from Indian Myths & Legends
TEXT AUTHOR: Shahrukh Husain
ILLUSTRATIONS: Durga Prasad Das
PUBLICATION DATE: 1987
STATISTICS: 40 stories, 132 pages, 18 paintings, 30 line drawings
REGION/CULTURE: Jewish diaspora, Middle East, Europe
TITLE: Angels, Prophets, Rabbis & Kings from the Stories of the Jewish People
TEXT AUTHOR: Jose Patterson
COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: Claire Bushe
BLACK & WHITE LINE ILLUSTRATIONS: Edward Ripley
PUBLICATION DATE: 1991
STATISTICS: 50 stories, 144 pages, 16 paintings, 25 line drawings 

3 comments:

  1. I'm a Spanish historian and an absolutely fan of this series. It's strange that they stopped to publish without a volume covering Mesopotamia or Japan, among others mythologies.
    Trivia: the Spanish edition, published by Anaya, includes two volumes more:

    -Myths, heroes and monsters from Ancient Spain (Pollux Hernuñez, 1989)
    -Monsters, goblins and fantastic beings from Cantabrian Mythology (Pollux Hernuñez, 1997)

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  2. Im also a Spanish historian and teacher and love the series. Ive only to get the volume by Pollux Hernúñez, but the cheapest I can get is 45 euros. It is rather useful. Not only in my job but with my children. I cherish beautiful childhood memories from reading these books.

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    Replies
    1. Cuál de los dos, el de la mitología española o el de la cántabra?

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