London: William Heinemann, 1909. Quarto, measuring 11.5 x 9 inches: viii, 136. Original full vellum, front board lettered and decorated in gilt with vignette by Rackham, spine elaborately ornamented in gilt, top edge gilt, other edges uncut, stiff brown endpapers. Half-title, with limitation signed by Rackham on verso. Title page printed in green and black. Frontispiece and fourteen full-page color plates tipped onto heavy brown paper with printed tissue guards; black-and-white headpieces and tailpieces by Rackham throughout text. Lacking silk ties. Light bowing and soiling to boards, with a few faint abrasions, some toning to pages adjacent to brown paper leaves.
Signed limited first edition, number 425 of 1000 copies, of Arthur Rackham’s illustrated version of this German tale, first published in 1811. Celebrated for his depictions of fairy creatures, Rackham is ideally suited for this tale of a water spirit seeking a soul: “below sparkle, stately and solemn, many noble ruins, washed by the loving waters which win from them delicate moss-flowers and entwining clusters of sea-grass. Those who dwell there are very fair.” Rackham’s wave designs, in particular, lend a Japanese woodblock-inspired Art Nouveau element to the work, as in the image of Undine sinking into the Danube. A near-fine example of the best of the Golden Age of Illustration.