The Treasury of the Fantastic by David Sandner and Jacob Weisman

The Treasury of the Fantastic is an amazing collection of 44 poems, short stories and novellas, all fantasy related, all published before 1923. The anthology editors, David Sandner and Jacob Weisman, should be congratulated for managing to collect the rights to so many amazing stories. At the start of the book they openly provide the criteria they used for putting together this anthology. Unfortunately their criteria mean we miss out on a few great authors who were producing their best work right around the cut-off data, authors like Lovecraft and Howard, but that barely takes away from the excellent 44 stories that made the cut and are celebrated in this anthology.

The stories are arranged in chronological order, which is the only real theme (other than fantasy) tying these books together. It means that the normal flow and beats that you get from the arrangement of short stories is not really there, so feel free to skip around this book reading all of your favourite authors and stories first. Before each story starts, the editors have included a small biography about the author, and I loved reading these. The who package definitely helps to give an appreciation of fantasy writing in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

I'd read a few of these stories before - the popular ones like The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain, and Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll - but I was most excited about those stories I'd always meant to read, and even those stories I'd never heard of before. The poem Darkness by Lord Byron has aged well, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving was very different to what I expected, and the poem Morte D'Arthur by Alfred, Lord Tennyson was better than I had hoped for. Stories I hadn't heard of that really surprised me were the poem Because I Could Not Stop For Death by Emily Dickinson, They by Rudyard Kipling, and The Library Window by Margaret Oliphant.

The only thing I didn't really like was the foreword by Peter S. Beagle. It was a pretentious little essay about how things were so much better in the good old days, and that today editors "constantly urge the self-fulfilling necessity of lower and lower common denominators". The tone was completely off-putting and it still gnaws at me as I write this review.

But lets not allow the foreword to take away from what is a marvellous collection. I love the romanticism of early fantasy, it is very different to the type of fantasy we read now, and yet you can see all the seeds and sparks that inspire much of today's fantasy. The Treasury of the Fantastic is an anthology that easily fits in on your book shelf.

10/10 A marvellous collection. I love the romanticism of early fantasy.

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