London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1895.
First U.K. Edition, First Printing. Hardcover. Two fairies dart through a dreamy pond full of lily-pads on the cover of this 1895 science fantasy, which features fairy feuds and natural history facts in equal measure! 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 two-decade-long professional observation of arachnids 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.
8" X 5 1/2". xxxvi, 392pp, plus two pages of ads. Bound in full pale green cloth, with stylized pond scene stamped in dark green and gilt to upper board and spine, featuring lily pads, cattails, and a pair of McCook's "old farm fairies" in battle, with upper board and spine lettered in gilt outlined in green. Moderate wear to binding, with scattered rubbing and soiling to boards, corners turned in, bumping to extremities, and darkening to spine. Hinges stiff, likely reinforced with binder's glue at an earlier time. Binding is sound. Attractive green patterned endpapers. Previous owner's name to front free endpaper and half-title. Occasional smudge to margin and faint mustiness to pages, else clean and unmarked. Illustrated throughout in 150 vignettes. Good. Item #6983