Gnomes (1976) by Rien Poortvliet & Wil Huygen
A few months ago, I was wandering the aisles of Pioneer Book, a beautiful second-hand bookstore in Provo, Utah. This store is full-to-bursting with old books, new books and antique books, some going back to before the turn of the century.
As I meandered through the shelves, the spine of one book in particular caught my eye, so I picked it up. In that moment, my life forever changed. It was like a moment from some fantasy adventure movie from the 80's or 90's, where some kid finds himself in a library and pulls an old leatherbound tome from a shelf, blowing off the dust to discover that he's found a long-forgotten spellbook and goes on to use his newfound wizard powers to save the world from evil.
That fateful day, I walked out of the store with a Dutch cryptozoological field guide about the culture, anatomy, distinguishing characteristics of gnomes.
From the cover you may surmise that this is a kids book. But you would be wrong in thinking so. No, this is a full-on treatise on all things "gnome" that reads less like a fantasy book, and more like a detailed 212-page notebook that Charles Darwin might have compiled if he studied gnomes instead of Galapagos tortoises.
If you want an idea of just how detailed this book gets, take a look at this page, which shows the gnome's geographic distribution across Europe:
Or how about this pervy little gnome and his glee at telling you about the gnome reproductive cycle:
Oh yeah, I neglected to mention. This is not a book aimed at kids. At least not kids with American sensibilities. First and foremost, this is a coffee-table book with some beautiful artistry, to be viewed with maturity and a dry sense of European humor. The above image illustrates the humor I'm talking about ("In the literature everyone remains scrupulously silent on the subject.")
But based on the above image alone, you may guess that you'd be in for some explicit stuff. That is not the case. Everything in this book is in good taste, but my only caveat would be that a couple images may require you to file this art somewhere in your brain next to Michelangelo's David or Botticelli's Birth of Venus. That's all I'll say on the matter.
What about the fact that gnomes apparently keep mice as dog-like pets?
Or that gnomes spend more time in the restroom than I do, and decorate their toilets like little thrones?
This book book was truly a find, filled with beautiful paintings, elegant penmanship, and imaginative world-building in textbook-style format. Frankly, I was only a little surprised to find that this book had somewhat of a cult following when I looked it up on Goodreads. I highly suggest it if any of the images or descriptions above piqued your interest.
If you simply must get your hands on this book, please support this blog and buy it from the link below! The art is magnificent to look at, and the book makes a great conversation piece.