Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lost and found

My husband, Mark, and I hunted for years for a box of books that we were certain had to be in the house. We looked high and low, that is, from the basement to the attic, and the rooms in between. I was desperate to find it, because it contained four of the 12 volumes in Andrew Lang's famed, fairy tale collection: Blue Fairy Book (1889), Red Fairy Book (1890), Green Fairy Book (1892) and Yellow Fairy Book (1894). I loved these books and was mystified by their disappearance.

Unfortunately, we found the box after a pipe burst in the basement. Seems it had been mislabeled. Gulp, by me. It broke my heart to discover that not only were my books damaged, but so were a dozen or so books that had belonged to Mark's mother when she was a child.

The fairy books didn't survive but we saved most of my late mother-in-law's books - and that's where the illustrations here come in. They are by Pauli Ebner, who I assumed was a man. Wrong. Pauli, I discovered, was a variation of Pauline or Paula. Ebner (1873-1949) is well-known to postcard collectors but wasn't on my radar even though a quick look through my collection this week turned up quite a few of her postcards (take a peek of four others via the New York Public Library's digital gallery).

The only way to describe her style is as sweet. It's soothing, winsome and oh-so-easy to imagine sharing with a child. I removed damaged areas and managed to save every color plate. Now, I'm at a loss as to whether I should frame them, sell them as is or use them in my collages - my usual dilemma.


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