New York: Random House, . First edition. Small folio (10 1/4 inches tall), original blind and gilt stamped blue cloth, illustrated endpapers, original dust jacket. Book fine, bright dust jacket with tape repairs to folds of the verso, gentle edge-wear, minor soiling and creasing to upper margins of both panels. A near-fine copy. Item #571
"ONE OF THE GREATEST PIECES OF DEVOTIONAL MUSIC EVER PUBLISHED" First edition of Ave Maria, the illustrated companion to the stunning conclusion of Fantasia, Walt Disney's animated musical masterpiece. Fantasia—the creative summit of the Disney Studios pre-war productions—premiered in 1940 to rave reviews: "Motion picture history was made at the Broadway Theatre last night with the spectacular world premiere of Walt Disney's long-awaited Fantasia… Disney and his troop of little men, together with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra and a corps of sound engineers, have fashioned with music and colors and animated figures on a screen a creation so thoroughly delightful and exciting in its novelty that one's senses are captivated by it, one's imagination is deliciously inspired" (New York Times).
The Ave Maria sequence—the only lyrical segment of an instrumental film—swells up in the aftermath of the supernatural confrontation of Night on Bald Mountain to close the film. Rachel Field arranged this interpretation of Franz Schubert's enduring Marian hymn to accompany the torch-lit procession through a pre-dawn forest, a moment of indelible spirituality. A Foreword, by "The Publishers," explains how Field arranged the lyrics after viewing the illustrations, many of which were created (uncredited) by the great Danish illustrator, Kay Nielsen. Working on Fantasia, also published in 1940 as a companion book, must have been a bittersweet achievement for Nielsen. Despite the commercial triumph of Fantasia, Nielsen was dismissed by Disney the following year. Ave Maria is illustrated throughout, with thirteen color-printed illustrations (including one double-page) and illuminated with gilt vignettes, initials, and musical notations. A musical score with a half-title: "Ave Maria, a composition for voice and piano by Franz Schubert, lyrics by Rachel Field" is appended to the text.