Practicing Publishing: Fairy Tale Anthologies

Submitted in 2016 by Juli McLoone, Curator, Special Collections Research Center at UMichigan

This advanced class uses published fairy tales from a range of eras and countries to introduce students to the perils and rewards of scholarly editing. Students become editors and reflect critically on the elements they consider for their decisions.

Learning Objectives
•       Students will be able to confidently and safely handle fragile and rare materials.
•       Students will gain a better understanding of how organizational and stylistic decisions are related to target audience, and how material elements impact the reading experience.

Preparation, Materials, and Set-up
•       20-30 fairy tale anthologies in logical groupings (ex. Grimm’s, H.C. Andersen, French, Russian, Japanese, etc.)
•       Book supports, book weights, etc.
Set up 4-5 stations (ideally separate tables), each for a different category of anthologies, ideally including a range of publication dates, formats, or styles.  Ideally, there should be enough book supports for every student in the group to examine books simultaneously, but at a minimum offer one set of small and one set of large book cushions.

Class Outline:
1.    [10 min.]  Open with a conversation about different fairy tales that have been read in class to date. Who has published them? Who is expected to read them? Have there been multiple versions of the same story?

2. (5 min.)  Briefly explain that although much is made of “first editions,” most books only ever have one edition as they are not popular enough for a publisher to find a second edition commercially attractive. The stories loosely categorized together as fairy tales are an exception to that – they are frequently published in new editions, in new combinations, with illustrations and design targeting many different audiences. They’re also an attractive proposition because pre-1923 renditions are not subject to copyright. 

3.   [10 min.]   Explain that today, students will have an opportunity to take on the role of an editorial team selecting historical fairy tale anthologies for re-publication, and share their reasoning with their peers.

4.      Demonstrate and explain proper handling procedures, particularly pointing out any especially fragile materials. Break into groups of no more than four.

5.      [20-40 min.] Allow plenty of time for students to explore and discuss in small groups. As either a worksheet or powerpoint slide, provide the following instructions:

Each group is an editorial team for a publishing house reviewing fairy tale anthologies under consideration for re-publication in a new edition. You have two tasks:
•       Select the three anthologies you think are most worthy of re-publication: ones that will bring in sales, receive critical acclaim, and/or deliver a worthy message. Prepare a short statement to share with the class that explains your reasoning for each of your selections.
•       For each selected anthology, consider its weaknesses and prepare a list of questions or changes that you would like to consider when preparing the new edition for a contemporary audience.

6.     [10-20 min]  Either open up a group discussion inviting students to share their discoveries and decisions, or if time allows, request more formal presentations to the large group. Ask questions (and invite students to do the same) to draw out members of each group and ask them to think more deeply about their choices.