A Carnival of Books – Mardi Gras, Carnaval & small-town carnivals
Who’d have thought a festival could generate so many diverse books? The Latin parties of Rio de Janeiro, Venice and Louisiana’s various Mardi Gras events are world famous but this Roman Catholic-based pre-Lent festival also occurs in the Caribbean, Germany’s Rhineland, Denmark, Portugal and various cities in South America with countless regional variations (including, oddly enough, the Protestant-based Shrove Tuesday celebration in Britain) along the way.
Many of these events are so colorful, so vibrant, so eye-catching that they have sparked photo-books, and books about the costumes, customs and masks. Carnival has also inspired travel books, children’s stories, cook books and fiction too.
This feature also extends to the less glamorous but just as interesting small-town touring carnivals and fairs of Britain and the U.S. – the rides, the freak shows, the architecture and even America’s carnival-carrying trains have been subjected to analysis and the camera.
Twenty Carnival Books
Carnival Glass: The Magic and the Mystery
Glen Steven Thistlewood
Over 300 color photographs and 200 black and white illustrations of carnival glass patterns.
Mardi Gras Customs and Costumes
Suzanne Smith Pruchnicki
The only copy on AbeBooks, limited to 60 copies and signed by the author.
New Orleans Carnival Cook Book
Published by Women's Republican Publications of New Orleans in 1951. Rare.
City of the Mardi Gras
Martin Yoseloff & Harry DeVore
Fifty pen and ink drawings of New Orleans accompanied by historical commentary.
The Fabulous World of the Carnival
An insight into the world of traveling carnivals, packed with photos.
Carnival in Venice
Shirley & David Rowen
A stunning 1989 color photography book showcasing the surreal and spectacular.
A 1956 travel book where an Australian visits the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean and finally Rio.
A Decade of the Sydney Mardi Gras
A hefty paperback, published in 1998, filled with images from one of Sydney’s top snappers.
The 2004 book examines the festival in four rural settings and 11 urban ones.
After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti
Published in 2002, one of Haiti’s top writers returns to her homeland and considers carnival.
Corpse at the Carnival
First published in 1958 - Bellairs was the nom de plume of Harold Blundell, a bank manager.
Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination
A serious study of the carnival freakshow during its heyday prior to World War II.
Those Wonderful, Colorful & Exciting Carnival Trains
A remarkable 1991 photo-book about the trains carrying carnivals and circuses.
Fairground Architecture. The World of Amusement Parks, Carnivals, and Fairs
A gem from 1968 – photos, drawings, scale plans, and even a glossary of carnival terms.
Fairground Art: The Art Forms of Traveling Fairs, Carousels, and Carnival Midways
Geoffrey Weedon & Richard Ward
First published in 1981, this books displays the rich history of fairground carving and imagery.
A Pictorial History of the American Carnival
There are three volumes of this book published in the 1970s and 1980s.
Little Grey Rabbit’s Pancake Day
From the author of the Sam Pig stories, published in 1967. Illustrations by Margaret Tempest.
The Sleep of Reason: Lyle Bonge's Ultimate Ash-Hauling Mardi Gras Photographs
A rare 1974 photo-book with 50+ images and an interview with Bonge by James Leo Herlihy
Carnival Masks of Venice: A Photographic Essay
A book with 125 photos of this city’s ancient ritual of wearing masks at carnival.
A 1976 photo-book about the strippers of touring small-town carnivals. First editions are rare.