While shuffling some things around I came across a stack of The Enchanted World series from Time Life Books. I quickly found myself sitting on the floor flipping through one after the other and enjoying myself immensely.

Published in the mid 1980s, there were 21 titles in the series, each devoted to a different aspect of mythology and folklore, with occasional references to 19th and early 20th Century literary creations. It wasn’t an academic study, but rather were written as stories, presenting its subjects as real people, places, and things. Following the conceit that everything had once been real, a common thread through several of them was its documentation of the decline and disappearance of magical stuff from “when the world was young.” Witches, dragons, vampires, giants, et al—all were covered. The text alone, honestly, was not enough incentive to buy the books: it was all pretty eh, you know?

The art on the other hand was another matter entirely—and more than enough reason now to scout the books out at used bookstores or on the internet. Each volume included scads of classic color pieces by N.C. Wyeth, William Holman Hunt, Arthur Rackham, John Everett Millais, Edward Burne-Jones, and many others—which was great all on it’s own. But the true icing on the cake was that the Time Life art directors commissioned a mountain of new paintings for the series by a youthful crop of illustrators that included John Collier, John Howe, Gary Kelley, James C. Christensen, Marshall Arisman, Kinuko Y. Craft, Yvonne Gilbert, Matt Mahurin, and MC’s own John Jude Palencar (one of his illos is at the top of this post) among many others. The series was a pretty well-paying (if short-deadline) job and it’s a shame that it didn’t take off and translate into more illustrated titles.

If you spot these at a garage sale, snatch them up. You’ll be glad you did.