Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark’s best-known author, had a long and diverse career in the world of letters. Most widely recognized for his collections of fairy tales, Andersen was also a novelist, a poet and travel writer, the author of musical works, and a creator of original, whimsical papercuts. His retellings of traditional Danish fairy tales and the many fairy tales he created have been read and reread by generations of young people around the world. From their first publication in the mid-nineteenth century to today, Andersen’s fairy tales have remained continuously in print in numerous languages.
Andersen was born in 1805 in Odense, Denmark, left school at age 11, and moved to Copenhagen at 14, where a series of patrons and friends encouraged his literary talent. His first book of children’s stories, Eventyr fortalte for Børn (“Tales Told for Children”) was published in 1835. He died in Rolighed, Denmark in 1875.
This exhibit has been created for the bicentennial anniversary of Andersen’s birth and displays a representative collection of his writings held by the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. The bulk of the books on display have been taken from the Historical Children’s Literature Collection and the Augusta Baker Collection of African-American Children’s Literature and Folklore.
Case 1 contains examples of some of the first English translations of Andersen’s writings. Cases 2-6 each look at one of his classic fairy tales and explore how nineteenth- and twentieth-century children’s book illustrators have reacted to and interpreted the text, often in widely different ways. Unless otherwise noted, all books in the exhibit are by Andersen; any exceptions are noted on the item label. Additional questions about Andersen’s writings and our extensive holdings in children’s literature are welcome and encouraged.
– Jeffrey Makala
Rare Books and Special Collections