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SMITH, Pamela Colman.

Annancy Stories.

R. H. Russell, New York , 1899 Stock Code: 137852
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First and only edition of this celebrated collection of Jamaican folktales, rare in such well-preserved condition. Smith's illustrations "are the first known published drawings of Anansi, a traditional African folktale character who is also one of the most important characters in Caribbean folklore.... The setting of Pamela's tales is distinctly Jamaican, with several references to the practice of obeah. The term refers to a series of magical and religious practices that were popular in the Afro-Caribbean, notably Jamaica, but were outlawed during British imperial rule" (Kaplan, p. 28-29). The text is in a Jamaican patois which, as the introduction notes, would have reminded American readers of the Brer Rabbit stories. This was Smith's first book length collection - two of her stories, published earlier in the 1896 Journal of American Folklore, are credited as the first transcriptions that use Jamaican pidgin, rather than standard English.
Pamela Colman Smith (1878-1951) was born in London to American parents and spent her formative years in Jamaica, where she listened to the Annansi tales as a child. On her return to England in 1900 she began performing the tales with public readings. "While crowds flocked to Pamela's telling of Annancy stories in the U.S. and England... perhaps her greatest claim to lasting fame, ironically enough, came from what she termed 'A big job for very little cash!'". This was her illustrations for the Rider-Waite tarot deck, now the most popular tarot deck in England and America.
A pioneering artist, folklorist, poet, editor, publisher, suffragette and theatre designer, active from around the 1890s to the 1920s, "Pamela struggled with those who did not understand her and had a hard time positioning her within existing gender, class and racial categories... Pamela defied convention and easy categorisation and, most importantly, blazed an important path for female artists" (Kaplan, pp. 11-14).

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Large quarto. Original pale green cloth-backed illustrated paper-covered boards, titles to front board in red.


25 full-page black-and-white illustrations (including the frontispiece), title vignette, and head- and tail-pieces, all by the author.


Loosely inserted are the publisher's green-printed promotional leaflet for William Nicholson's Square Book of Animals, and a 4 pp. German order form for "roses, perennials, flower bulbs, and autumn seeds" with its return envelope addressed to "Herrn Gerard Telkamp" in Berlin. Slight wear to extremities, the binding otherwise bright, a little shaken, internally clean. An unusually well-preserved copy.


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