Arthur Rackham's long and distinguished career left a legacy of over 60 treasured picture books. Among them are many classic fairy tales but Sleeping Beauty is unique (along with Cinderella in 1919) in using a silhouette technique to tell the familiar story, along with a few full-color illustrations. One might think that silhouettes could be dull, or stark, but in Rackham's masterful hands this is far from the case. The level of detail and mood achieved in these illustrations is remarkable. The witch at the christening is menacing, the prince leaning over the sleeping Briar-Rose tender, the sleeping castle is eerily hushed, and all without faces. For this beautiful new edition, the distinguished illustrator Michael Hague has written a lovely introduction.
Rackham believed strongly in working closely with authors, and it is clear he and C.S. Evans collaborated well in rendering Perrault's basic elements. It is a version of its time (Edwardian) and place (Great Britain) and softens some of the story's more brutal elements. Where Evans truly excels is in detail, and as the story has been expanded to over 11,000 words he has plenty of room to describe the feast of the christening, the outrage of the town over the ban on spinning wheels, the remains of unsuccessful princes stuck in the briars surrounding the sleeping castle, and the glorious gifts the princess received for her birthdays as she grew up in royal splendor.