Once Upon a Time: Cinderella

November 11, 2016 | Nicole

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Our new exhibit, Once Upon a Time: Fairy Tales from the Osborne Collection is now open in the Toronto Reference Library's TD Gallery. Admission is free and the gallery is open to all during regular library hours. It runs until January 15, 2017. 

The exhibit celebrates the enduring appeal of “classic” stories from the western fairy tale tradition. Let's take a sneak peak at one of the best-loved fairy tales featured in the exhibit: Cinderella.

Cinderella Display Case in Once upon a time_TDGallery

The exhibit features just a small selection of the many, many versions of Cinderella found in the Osborne collection. They range in formats and style: illustrated books, toys, games, wallpaper, advertising, modest chapbooks to deluxe illustrated gift books, pop-ups and spoofs. 

Look closely and you will also spot one of Cinderella's glass slippers! The slipper is on loan from the Bata Shoe Museum


The History of Cinderella, or, The Glass Slipper The History of Cinderella, or, The Glass Slipper: Embellished with [Coloured] Engravings, London: R. Miller, [ca. 1820]

Here is Cinderella doing the dishes. Will she get to go to the ball? Not if her cruel stepmother and stepsisters have their way. Perhaps with the help of her fairy godmother, who waves her magic wand…

"Yè Xiàn" in China, "Cenerentola" in Italy, "Rashin Coatie" in Scotland — this “rags to riches” tale is known around the world. The most famous version of the tale is Charles Perrault’s "Cinderella" first published in Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé in 1697. In Perrault's version, the girl is helped by a fairy godmother, who transforms pumpkin into coach, mice into horses, lizards into footmen, and rat into coachman. 


The Sleeping Beauty: And Other Fairy Tales from the Old French, Retold by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, 1863-1944, Illustrated by Edmund Dulac, 1882-1953, London: Hodder & Stoughton, [1910]

Golden age artist Edmund Dulac illustrated deluxe volumes of fairy tales and other classics in the decade leading up to the First World War. His fairy godmother is an ethereal beauty with sparkling, jewel-encrusted hair. Her dress is lit with fireflies, butterflies and glowworms.

From Cinderella Retold by CS Evans

 From Cinderella, retold by C.S. Evans, 1883-1944, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, 1867-1939, London: William Heinemann, 1919

In his silhouette-style illustration, Arthur Rackham captures the key moment when fairy godmother transforms pumpkin into coach and Cinderella’s rags into ball gown.


Cinderella, or, The Little Glass Slipper. A free translation from the French of Charles Perrault

Reprinted with the permission of Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, from Cinderella by Marcia Brown. Copyright © 1954 Marcia Brown; copyright renewed © 1982 Marcia Brown. All rights reserved.

Also on display is this enchanting work in watercolour, ink and crayon. It is the original dust jacket and endpaper design for Marcia Brown's enchanting 1954 edition of Cinderella, or, The Little Glass Slipper.


Cinderella Toy Theatre

Cinderella toy theatre, ca. 1890 to 1910

In this Cinderella-themed toy theatre, the child turns the cranks at the top of the wooden frame to advance or reverse the story. Toy theatres (also known as “juvenile drama”) were very popular in the 19th century. They were collected by adults and children, often as souvenirs of current plays being performed on London stages.

Cinderella, or, The Little Glass Slipper Writing Sheet                                              

Cinderella, or, The Little Glass Slipper writing sheet London: Langley & Belch, ca. 1809, ink and watercolour

Writing sheets were popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These printed sheets with decorative borders were left blank in the middle for children to fill in with their best handwriting. This sheet is signed “John Ellyatt his piece December 19th, 1809.” 

Cinderilla, or, The Little Glass Slipper_1820Cinderilla, or, The Little Glass Slipper, York: J. Kendrew, [ca, 1820?]

This 16-page chapbook retells Cinderella’s story in rhyme. Chapbooks were cheaply-printed booklets, in circulation from the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries. They were widely read by children, containing fairy tales, fables, abridgements of popular novels, religious works and other content. 


Cinderella, or, The Little Glass Slipper

Cinderella, or, The Little Glass Slipper: Beautifully Versified and Illustrated with Figures, London: S. and J. Fuller, 1814

This paper doll and book set combines a rhymed text with seven hand-coloured paper figures. Cinderella’s head is detachable, and can be moved from doll to doll.

Perrault's Cinderella has been adapted and revisited again and again in story, stage and film. This weekend, for example, The National Ballet of Canada opens their 2016 production of Sergei Prokofiev's Cinderella.


Fairy tales have been the inspiration for many of the great ballets, including Cinderella, The Nutcracker, and The Sleeping Beauty. 

SLE 2015 91 (300)

When you visit the Toronto Reference Library, be sure to stop by the Browsery on the first floor to see a display of tutus from The National Ballet of Canada’s production of The Sleeping Beauty, designed by Nicholas Georgiadis. It is a rare chance to get up close and see the incredible workmanship and detail that went into these costumes, which were inspired by the decadent French court of King Louis XIV. The display will be up until January 2017.