Precious Books: Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book

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Created by Terry Jones (yes, that one) and Brian Froud, I discovered this book back when I worked in a pokey remainder bookshop on Charing Cross Road (I’m being dismissive, but I loved that shop). It is as the title suggests, a book of fairies, their images preserved like pressed flowers, squashed between the pages. It’s based loosely on the Cottingley fairies, which were photographs of fairies taken by two young children in the early nineteen hundreds, although in contrast to Lady Cottington’s fairies, those photos eventually turned out to be fake.

The text that accompanies the squashed fairies, is the handwritten diary entries of Lady Cottington, starting in childhood as she squashes the poor fairies between the pages of her notebook. The fairies (and goblins too) get their own back occasionally by taunting her, but sometimes it seems they actually want to be caught.Β The notes continue into her adulthood as the fairies continue to visit her and she struggles with being disbelieved by her family.

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I wanted to write a post about this book, even though it was published over twenty years ago, because there really isn’t anything else like it. The paintings of the fairiesΒ are delicate and bizarre; the writing is entertaining, and although it is difficult to like Lady Cottington, we get caught up in her adventures.

A brilliant idea executed in a perfect way.

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22 thoughts on “Precious Books: Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book

  1. I loved this. I had a fairy book at one time – and a goblin book – but gave them to one of the children and hope they are now with the grands. We don’t see enough fairies/sprites/goblins these days – perhaps the world would be a better place if we did??

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    1. It would be a more interesting place, certainly. I think these days aliens and angels have replaced fairies, but maybe they’ll make a comeback in future πŸ™‚ Thank you for commenting!

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  2. Fantastic book. Thank you for reminding me of it. A friend gave me a journal based on it with the pictures of the pressed fairies on the pages. It was fun to write my thoughts over the images. The same friend gave me “The Secret Lives of Elves & Fairies, From the Private Journal of The Rev. Robert Kirk” (real author John Matthews). A mixture of folklore and fantasy, very enjoyable and at times creepy, with “authentic” illustrations.

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  3. Omgomg yesyesyes! I bloody love this book! I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since it came out!? I still have my copy. And all the other ones that followed. I even had the calendar, although i’ve misplaced that somehow. Brian Froud is one of my heroes. I have quite a few of his booksies on my book shelf! There’s also a lovely one he did with Alan Lee (which i have, of course!) . Alan Lee’s illustrations are wonderful.
    So yeah…this post made me say “Squeee!”. I’m actually more into fairies ( and faeries) than i let on. I used to make faerie dolls, and drew quite a few of them too. Was considering drawing some again, and this post is a sign that i should!
    Anyhoo, i’m envious that you got to work on a book shop. I have fantasies of being a sort of more benevolent version of Bernard black, and running a gorgeous little bookshop,… (and drinking wine in there with a few kooky friends )…sigh…

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      1. A sloping rope makes better poetry sense, facts should never get in the way of lyrical invention. And on a roof is also fine, we once had an eclipse and I stood on the roof for that – all things make sense eventually πŸ™‚

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    1. Ah Black Books is great! I rewatched that recently, it’s such a joyful, lyrical, inventive show. I don’t know the Alan Lee book, shall have a hunt around now.
      And faeries, I was just having a think that there are no mystical beings in my life, maybe I should get some – when I’m on my own in the flat is a good time – easy to have a chat to the air, or lose stuff and decide it’s been shifted by unseen hands. πŸ™‚

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      1. Honestly, i can’t tell you just how many times i’ve watched Black Books. I have them all on DVD, and watch them often. They just never get old. Especially the first series. Dylan Moran plus Graham Linehan is a writing match made in heaven.
        Yeah, definitely give it a squizz- it’s called simply: ‘FAERIES’ ( by Froud and Lee, obviously). Alan Lee isn’t as quirky as Froud , (he designed a lot of the stuff in the Lord Of The Rings movies, and that stuff, to me, really epitomises his aesthetic .) . But his and Froud’s styles really complement one another.
        Yes, i highly recommend that you get some faeries into your life! Yep, they shift my stuff around all the time πŸ˜‰

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      2. Have checked out the book, it looks ace. I’m working on the summoning of faeries, I figure they can’t be rushed. Christmas day seems like a good day to be listening out for them, as the whisky kicks in πŸ˜‰ a fairy happy Christmas to you!

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