Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs, 1895.
First Edition. Hardcover. If the silvery spider webs crossing the covers of this arachnid fairy tale don't catch you, the fairy feuds and natural history facts within certainly will! In Old Farm Fairies, the clergyman-naturalist Henry Christopher McCook (1837–1911) set out to write "a book for youth wherein my observations [about spiders] should be personified in the imaginary creatures of fairy lore, and thus float into the young mind some of my natural history findings in such pleasant form that they would be received quite unconsciously, and at least an impression thereof retained with sufficient accuracy to open the way to more serious lessons in the future." McCook first thought of such a story, in which spiders are pixies or goblins, "the ill-natured fairies of Scotland and Northern England," while the Brownies, "friendly folk" or "household fairies," are the insects upon which spiders wage war, only a few years into the professional observation of arachnids over twenty years that would lead to his 1893 study American Spiders and Their Spinning Work, a treatise he was determined to publish before turning his hand to this more creative interpretation of his studies. In these pages, water spiders are smugglers, pirates, and sailors, burrowing and trapdoor spiders introduce tales of caves and subterranean abodes, and ballooning spiders recall modern military methods of reconnoissance, among many other imaginative demonstrations of spider haunts and habits. Illustrated in over 150 enchanting vignettes of fairies and spiders of all kinds, many by Daniel Carter Beard, founder of the Boy Scouts of America.
7 1/2" X 5 1/8". xxxvi, 392pp, plus four pages of ads. Ex libris The Library Company of Philadelphia, with their 1895 bookplate to front pastedown, blind stamp to title and occasional page throughout, and original stamped check-out card bearing dates from 1895-1897 in band at rear pastedown. Green cloth over boards, with a girl in a red plaid skirt and tam o' shanter cap fighting with sword against a spider creature in black with spider webs and daisy in silver and lettering in red and silver to upper board, with spine lettered in kind. Moderate wear to binding, with rubbing and bumping to extremities, shallow chipping to head and tail of spine, and patch showing where a label was removed above library lettering in white to spine. Attractive green patterned endpapers. Hinges are a touch tender, with spine occasionally visible in text block. Binding remains sound. Occasional faint smudge or very small tear to margin, else pages clean and unmarked. Illustrated throughout in 150 vignettes. Good. Item #6981