Art Publisher Taschen: From Big Breasts To Brothers Grimm

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Art Publisher Taschen: From Big Breasts To Brothers Grimm
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Art Publisher Taschen: From Big Breasts To Brothers Grimm

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Art and architecture (and sex) publisher Taschen is making a foray into children’s literature with the upcoming publication of The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm this fall. It may seem curious that a publisher that puts out The Big Book of Breasts (now in 3D!) is catering to kids, but when you look at Taschen’s focus on putting art in center stage in its books, it seems like a smart brand extension.

Soon, you can read the tales in a new English translation (true to the Grimm brothers’ dark original version for children) and you don’t have to suffer along with poor illustrations. For a sneak peek inside, click on the gallery above.

As Taschen’s founder, Benedict Taschen, says in his editor’s note to the “Bookworms” who got the recent summer catalogue/magazine (with a print run of 600,000): “Now our faithful customers who’ve grown up on TASCHEN books can enjoy the TASCHEN design and quality they’ve become accustomed to when reading to their own (grand) children from books we think will appeal to young and old alike.”

The Taschen catalogue iPad ap is available here(For a sense of the scope of Taschen books, the catalogue has spreads on newly documented Soviet brutalist architecture, a retrospective of Linda McCartney’s life and photographs, and a visual diary of a sexual adventurer --that’s where the parental discretion comes in.)

Taschen, founded in 1980 in Germany, touts its limited edition line of books as good investments. A Jeff Koons art book, in an edition of 1,500, sold new for $1,000 in 2008, and has since fetched $4,500 at auction. Its other books, like The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm ($39.99), might not appreciate but they still have some cachet.

The editor of the Grimm volume, Noel Daniel, sourced vintage illustrations to accompany the 27 stories. Her last two books for Taschen, Circus and Magic--oversized history books stuffed with dramatic and tantalizing art--got her thinking about fantasy and its appeal to both children and adults, and led her to revisit the Grimm fairy tales.

The first volume of the Brothers Grimm tales, published in 1812, was not illustrated, but later the tales became inspiration for some of the great artists of the times. Children’s book illustrators per se are a more modern phenomenon.

Artists represented include Denmark’s Kay Nielsen (“The Three Feathers”), Switzerland’s Herbert Leupin (“Sleeping Beauty”), and Czech Divicia Landrova (“Little Red Riding Hood”). Charming silhouettes, many by the one living artist in the book, London-based Laura Barrett, punctuate the tales.

One word of warning to the squeamish from Creed Poulson, public relations manager of Taschen America in New York: “It’s not a Disney version.” But that’s just what makes it a Taschen book.

The tales are dark—the princes in "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" who fail to discover the princesses’ secret are beheaded (instead of disappearing mysteriously as they do in sanitized versions), and the stepmother in Cinderella orders one daughter to cut off her toe and the other to hack off a piece of her heel in order to get the shoe to fit.

Daniel said she’s read the Taschen-translated tales to her niece and nephew and finds the “color and humor” make up for the violence. “At the end of the day it’s important for readers to have the original material and make up their own mind and not have it cleansed of controversy,” she says.

Scary Grimm is in vogue. NBC is premiering a detective series called “Grimm” this fall very loosely based on the tales (girls wearing red hoods are abducted, for example). In the recent U.S. Supreme Court case overturning the California law that bans the sale of violent video games to children, Brown versus Entertainment Merchants Association, Justin Antonin Scalia cited the Grimm tales as evidence of the lack of restrictions on children’s access to depictions of violence in the U.S.

The launch of the children’s books line (Daniel is starting work on a Hans Christian Andersen volume next) isn’t the only news for Taschen. It comes amid initiatives to grab revenue in its catalogue from luxury advertisers, including auction house Phillips de Pury & Co. and jeweler Chopard. And Taschen, with four stores in the U.S. (New York, Miami, Hollywood and Beverly Hills), is opening its 12th store, in Amsterdam, in September.

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