The Fantasy Book: An Illustrated History From Dracula To Tolkien

Welcome to Outdated Books From the UW Art Library, part 1 of ‘until I get bored of this’.

The rules are simple:

  1. I can’t review a book I’ve read before.
  2. The book must be in the UW Art Building Library and available for checkout.
  3. I must select said book by closing my eyes, wandering through the stacks, and picking one out at random.

With that said, let’s get started with the classic: The Fantasy Book: An Illustrated History From Dracula To Tolkien, by the one and only, uh… Franz Rottensteiner.


Alright, the idea of this book is simple. We’re going to cover all of fantasy literature, with pictures (so I guess that’s why this is in an art library), from when it started, in, uh, Gothic architecture and art, all the way up to, uh… Tolkein, with brief asides to all of the monsters in fantasy (being vampires, werewolves, and golems?) and then a couple of sectional asides to Cthulhu, Lewis Carroll, and a handful of other authors, including one on foreign authors.

Okay, so point number one. Pictures. They all, pretty much, suck. Like, book covers and other promotional materials. And here we find the first stupid (stupid) stupid problem with this book: there is next to no exclusive content and so basically, you know everything that is going to be in this book before you pick this up.

Point two? I actually read a fair bit of the text, because, let’s face it, 80% of the art book was text. The writing was 1) dry, 2) had this realllly weird cold war vibe floating through everything, and 3) was super extra boring.

Oh and, you know what? I wouldn’t mind it if they had ALL PICTURES AND AUTHORS I HAD SEEN BEFORE, if they ALSO even attempted to cover the span of time that they set out for themselves. But nope! It’s like someone walked into a used fantasy bookstore, took the top 15 selling titles, then picked 10 more at random and wrote on each of them. Stupid dumb stupid.

For all I hate this book though and it was a waste of my time to pick it off the shelf, it had a total of one (1) redeeming quality: It had those 10 other people at random – that ‘foreign works’ section. German golem folklore, ‘modern’ greek and russian and scandinavian writers, people and pictures I have never ever ever seen before which were pretty cool at the time! I mean, they were all part of that post-Tolkein fantasy boom, so they were essentially the same book, but there was some cool innovation there.

So, in short, they definitely should keep that one section of the book, then tear everything else out and throw it in a fire and then jump on it, repeatedly.

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