What is a book?

Technically, a book is simply a specific format of information. Theoretically, though, a book is a substantial collection of information. The codex format, which is the structure of modern books, allows for a lot of information to be gathered and presented together. Usually books take a while to research and write, so they often present established or developed information on a field, topic, or question. They may have developed out of a research article or articles, which come to form the chapters of the book, with an introduction and conclusion, which provide background information and a matured analysis of the information. Due to the nature of publication, the information is probably several years old before it is printed. As well, the publisher has considered the work of the author as being worthy of being published; based on the reputation, agenda, and audience of the publisher, this could be because the information is reliable, maintains the status quo, or is controversial, sensational, or appealing. 

monograph is a material in which information is presented in a single resource. It is a discrete source of information, as opposed to an ongoing source of information, like a serial. A book is the most common example of a monograph. 

primary text is original text written in the course of life. The text of a literary work, poem, diary, newspaper article, etc. are all examples of primary texts. 

secondary text is text written about and around primary texts. Commentaries, introductions, notes, discussions, etc. are secondary texts.

transcript is an exact reproduction of a primary text, including any marks, punctuation, errors, oddities. 

facsimile is a reproduction of a manuscript, book, map, piece of art, etc. which accurately replicates the scale, materials, color, condition, etc. of the original resource. A partial facsimile is a reproduction of only part of a resource. Facsimiles are used by researchers who cannot access the original resource, and by libraries and museums to allow a form of access to resources while preserving the originals.

critical edition is an authoritative, edited edition of an original text in its original language. These works are composed by a respected scholar and expert on the text, and are composed of the edited text, extensive background information, annotations, explanations, and discussions of the latest scholarship. In some cases, the critical edition presents a single, whole text. With many medieval texts which are fragmented and exist in multiple manuscripts, for example, this is impossible. Instead, a critical edition of such texts either selects a variant or combines the variant texts into a re-constructed "original" text. Research on a text should use a critical edition, if one is in existence. Critical editions provide a wealth of information, as well as an authoritative text. However, research and analysis using a critical edition should also note any limitations of a critical edition, if it is a partial or re-constructed version of a text. 

translation is a material which presents a text in a language different from that in which the text was originally written. Translations exist on a spectrum of literal to interpretive. Some translations convey each word exactly from one language into another. Some convey the same meaning, emotion, and intent, while recognizing and utilizing the structure and nature of different languages. 

Transcripts, critical editions, and translations are accompanied by editorial notes which explain the choices and reasons which the author made in presenting the material, and help the researcher understand exactly what information they are being presented with and how it was produced. 

Books of Folklore Materials

Both folklore itself and discussions of folklore have been collected as ethnographic accounts or collections of songs or tales that are published in monographic form.

Individuals have been collecting folktales, for example, since antiquity. Early extant examples of folktale collections include the Arabic ألف ليلة و ليلة‎ [One Thousand and One Nights] (c. 900), the Welsh Y Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch [The White Book of Rhydderch] (c. 1350) and Y Llyfr Coch Hergest [The Red Book of Hergest] (c. 1400), the Italian Le Piacevoli Notti Di M. Giovanfranscesco Straparola da Caravaggio [The Pleasant Nights of M. Giovanfranscesco Straparola da Caravaggio] (1551-1553) by Giovanni Francesco Straparola, and the French Contes de ma Mère l'Oye [Mother Goose Tales] (1607) by Charles Perrault. In the nineteeth-century, the collection, and in many instances annotation, of folktales became a wide-spread phenonmenon and it began to develop into a scholastic endeavor. 

Publishers such as Oxford University Press and Penguin Classics consistently produce excellent editions of texts which are suitable introductions to folktales. These texts are edited, and translated if appropriate, by prominent scholars and contain background materials, copious notes, and often excerpts or discussions of some of the most recent scholarship. Anthologies in English translation are a useful introduction to a number of folktales. They are appropriate to use in initial analysis. However, for more advanced research, the texts of the folktale variants should be studied and analyzed in the languages in which they were originally written. In addition, a number of collections of tales have been compiled for the general populace. Frequently beautifully illustrated, these works select and compile a wide variety of tales in countless combinations. These latter sources do not cite the original sources of the tales; they are not for scholarship but for entertainment. However, they themselves can be studied as manifestations of cultural ideas about fairytales.

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Russian Fairy Tales


Aleksandr Afanas'ev
1853 - 1863

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An Anthology of Russian Folk Epics

James Bailey & Tatyana Ivanova, editors

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Norse Myths

Kevin Crossley-Holland

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Celtic Fairy Tales

Joseph Jacobs

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The Classic Fairy Tales

Maria Tatar, editor

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One Hundred Favorite Folktales

Stith Thompson, editor

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The Classic of Poetry

Chu Binjie, editor

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Irish Fairy and Folk Tales

William Butler Yeats
1918, c2003

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The Great Fairy Tale Tradition

Jack Zipes, editor

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The Nibelungenlied

A.T. Hatto, editor

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The Saga of the Volsungs

Jesse L. Byock, editor

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The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki

Jesse L. Byock, editor

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The Prose Edda

Snorri Sturluson
c. 1220

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The Mabinogion

Sioned Davies, editor

For a more accessible, modernized translation written in collaboration with a playwright, try The Four Branches of the Mabinogi, by Celtic Studies scholar Matthieu Boyd (a Ph.D. graduate of Harvard's department of Celtic Languages and Literatures). This volume is especially recommended for newcomers to the Mabinogion.

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One Thousand and One Nights

Malcolm C. Lyons & Ursula Lyons, editors

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African Folktales

Paul Radin, editor

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Cajun and Creole Folktales

Barry Jean Ancelet

Worldwide Folktale Collections, continued

Worldwide Selection:

  • See the "Collections of Folktales" sub-page of this guide, which has a particularly strong selection from Europe, among other regions.
  • Black Short Fiction and Folklore: from Africa and the African Diaspora
    Aims to be an in-depth collection of African and African-Diaspora stories. When complete, it will feature the English-language literature of more than 15 countries, with additional units of French and Portuguese literature from the African continent.
  • To supplement the above, see the following (or search HOLLIS by region for items sharing similar subject heading terms with these):


East Asia:


  • See the "Collections of Folktales" sub-page of this guide, which has a particularly strong selection from Europe, among other regions.
  • Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race (by T.W. Rolleston)
    Thomas William Hazen Rolleston (1857-1920) was an Irish writer, literary figure and translator known for works that spanned a wide range of literary and political topics. He wrote Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race in 1911 in an attempt to revitalize what he felt was a waning appreciation for the heritage of all Celtic peoples. Perhaps the best representation and description of all the legends, myths and spiritual histories of Ireland, Britain and Wales, this collection includes the stories of Ultonian and Ossianic cycles, the voyage of Maeldum, and the myths and tales of the Cymry (Welsh). Rolleston also provides the fantastic narratives of Cuchulain, King Arthur, Deirdre, the Grail, and many more. This book is also available online via Project Gutenberg.

North and South America:

Subject contains tales* AND Subject contains Indians of North America AND Keywords anywhere contains shapeshifting OR transformation OR transmogrification OR metamorphosis

South Asia:

Southeast Asia: