I just bought a copy of the astonishing Little Nemo in Slumberland: So Many Splendid Sundays, the single largest book I've ever owned, and quite possibly the most enchanting.
So Many Splendid Sundays collects 110 of the full-page Sunday color newspaper strips from Winsor McKay's Little Nemo in Slumberland, published at their original full size — 16 inches by 22 inches (this is more than a coffee-table book, in other words: add four legs and it could be a coffee-table).
It's the first time I've ever seen Little Nemo pages at the size they were published, back at the turn of the 20th century, and it's also the first time I've ever really gotten Little Nemo.
These strips, orginally published in breakfast-table-hogging broadsheets, were watercolor masterpieces, huge paintings that depicted the weekly dreamland adventures of Little Nemo, tripping through fantastic, surreal worlds that McKay brought vividly to life. Each page ends with a charming corner panel in which Nemo's mother wakes him for school, making Slumberland vanish.
I've seen them reproduced at generous (but smaller) sizes, and they always seemed a little goofy and uninteresting. I just couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about. But when I opened a copy of the mammoth Splendid Sundays collection, the appeal of Little Nemo hit me like a shovel upside the head. Once you've seen Little Nemo at full size, you'll get it too: as generous, gentle, beautiful and wildly imaginative paintings.
These 110 strips were chosen by Nemo collector Peter Maresca, who scanned and digitally restored them, a true labor of love. He left the backgrounds of each page slightly grey, lifting out the yellowing of age, but restoring that muted tone of fresh newsprint. That single detail makes a tremendous difference, especially when combined with the generous page-sizes: you can't help but feel transported a century back in time when you see this.
At $120, this might be the kind of book you'd only think of getting as a gift for a friend, and never treating yourself to, but you'd be cheating yourself. This is one $120 book that's worthy buying for your own enjoyment (though I can't imagine a better gift!).
See also: Expirable copyright makes giant-sized Little Nemo possible