Thursday, October 27, 2016

Newly Republished: The Little Flowers of Saint Francis with Antique Illustrations

Years ago in Austria, I found a small rare book, called on its cover Franz von Assisi, and on its title page Legenden vom Heiligen Franz. The pocket-sized book, only 106 pages, contains selections from The Little Flowers of Saint Francis, translated by Karl Toth and illustrated by Maximilian Liebenwein. It appeared as part of the Kleine Amalthea-Bücherei from the Amalthea Verlag, Zürich-Wien-Leipzig, in 1921.

The illustrations are vigorous, clear, and dramatic, with the strong graphic design of their time period. Of particular note are the eight full-color plates, which were printed with gold, blue, and red, and then colored in with pencils.
From the 1921 edition in German
That was more than 15 years ago. Every once in a while, I would take the book down from my shelf and wonder anew at its artistry. After deciding that a simple facsimile, though doubtless intriguing to a German speaker, would do little for those of Anglophonic readership, my son and I set to work scanning the images and compiling the stories from an elegant English translation of The Little Flowers in the public domain, so that we could bring out a new edition and share this wonderful artwork with others.

We began with the stories that were already in the German volume, but as we went along, the charm of other stories worked on us irresistibly, and so we added them, too — hence the larger size of our volume. It is not the complete Little Flowers, but it delivers a respectable portion of classic stories about St. Francis and his early companions. These stories bring us face-to-face and heart-to-heart with the real St. Francis and with his genuine followers: radical Catholics; ascetics, holy fools, and mystics of the Mass; enthralling in their colorfulness, yet a challenge to our modern assumptions and an antidote to our contemporary poisons. There is much in these pages that Catholics have forgotten and need to recover. But I digress . . .

The book is available in two versions — a hardcover from Lulu (on the left in the photo below) and a paperback from CreateSpace (on the right; also available at Amazon). Both of these are 6" x 9", that is, much larger than the original volume.

Although the cover designs are different, the interior content is identical: 114 pages, with eight full-page color illustrations and 19 black and white drawings. Decorative red capitals are liberally spread throughout the book. (Note that the previews at Lulu and Amazon do not include any of the full-color pages — a good reason to share some more photos here.) The size of the print and the fine illustrations make it an ideal book for older children or for reading aloud. This is something I tested with my own family; the book was a great success.

My favorite of all the pages
I hope you will enjoy these stories and illustrations as much as we have.

The hardcover is available for purchase at Lulu.

The paperback is available for purchase at CreateSpace or Amazon.

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