Undine (frontispiece) 1897
Undine (frontispiece detail) 1897
Undine (cover and spine) 1897

I found this Victorian Era copy of Undine by Friedrich de La Motte Fouque in the toss away bin on one of my recent book hunts. This copy, published in 1897, is illustrated by Rosie M. M. Pitman. The cover and binding are water damaged but the pages and pictures are in pretty good shape. It appears to be unread since it still has uncut pages. One of my favorite stories about a water nymph who falls in love with a mortal and is gifted with a soul. It’s rather an epic fairy tale which someone aptly described as fairy tale noir. A lovely book with a well rounded and sympathetic heroine. Mischievous and somewhat unseelie water sprite steal a few scenes. There is a later version with Arthur Rackham illustrations. I’ve scanned a few of these less well known interpretations. The detail on the Frontispiece (pictured above) depicts the water sprites who mock Undine for falling in love with a human.

 For God has given to us a wonderfully beautiful child.

“The roses and the withered oak leaves which lie upon the world represent the love and advanced age of the poor couple; the leaves burn up into a flame, the energy from heat producing a new creation in the form of a child, while the angel brings the spirit that will never die.”

Undine, the dove.

“Undine, generous hearted and full of love, flies down as a dove and saves her enemy, Bertalda, and the Knight, her husband.”

Undine (Tailpiece)

“Symbolical of the Knight carried along by the impulse of his emotions, at first with his eyes open – afterward giving himself up to the destiny he has shaped for himself with his emotions.”

Now that I’ve shared a few teasers and highlights, I think I’ll curl up by the fire and revisit the world of Undine.

4 thoughts on “Undine

  1. So beautiful! Thank you for sharing! I love Undine muchly. And I agree w/ CP. The quality and workmanship in those old books, the amount of love and detail is what I adore about them.

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