Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Historically Annotated Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Henry John Steiner

This book contains Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, accompanied by Henry John Steiner’s footnotes, maps, illustrations and photographs of the exact locale in which the story takes place. Mr. Steiner, long-time resident and historian of Sleepy Hollow, makes clear his love of Irving’s classic tale, and also displays a strong awareness of the importance of the story’s setting in an historic time and place in American history.

Irving’s charming and ghostly story, beloved by generations of Americans, is a meticulous re-creation of a world that had already changed considerably from the time that he first encountered it, at the age of 15, to the time that the book was published some 20 odd years later in 1820. Irving surely had a strong awareness of the ephemeral and transitory nature of life, and his haunting tale is a wonderful evocation of a lost world that he sought to preserve for posterity. 

With this book, Mr. Steiner continues Irving’s original impetus to elucidate and preserve a certain time and place—he fixes the coordinates of all the locations in the story and maps them out for us with illustrations and photographs. He points us to the exact location of the old Van Tassel house—shows us where the great tulip tree once stood—and the route along the Post Road that Ichabod Crane took on his ill-fated ride. He also traces the possible and probable real life inspirations for all the major characters in the story.

The past does not merely slip away as if on a gentle stream—no, it is rendered by pick-axe and plough—assaulted by chain-saw and wrecker’s ball—buried—paved over—and should consider itself extremely fortunate if any of its particulars happen to be noted on a modest plaque or marker. It is a great miracle, for example, that the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow still stands—it being the exception rather than the rule. This relentless destruction underlines the importance of Mr. Steiner's book—it reminds us to remember our past, because the past slips away from us continuously.

Ghosts crowd the old roads and paths of Sleepy Hollow—they outnumber the living—and affect us in strange and unknowable ways.

Mr. Steiner wants us to know where we are—where we tread—and remind us of people and places that went before us. 

~Brian Späth, 2015

—Buy the book here.
—Visit the author's Headless Horseman Blog


  1. So glad you are back here again, after a sabbatical year. I was beginning to think that your presence here had melted into that past that slips away from us continuously.

    Let us indeed celebrate that which has gone with a power of appreciation that extends to last year, and then yesterday, and then the last hour; till finally it catches up with now, and let us synchronize finally, and praise now, for there is a constancy behind the changeability, an indestructibility that keeps recreating as it tears down; and even though age creeps up on us, and our parts slowly deterioriate, so long as we have perception, there is beauty for us to perceive, in so much abundance that we cannot grasp it all.

    Erm, I seem to have channelled the spirit of R W Emerson this morning, and heard whispers of Helen Keller chanelling Emanuel Swedenborg.

    May the sun shine through and melt the Tarrytown snows, as spring bursts forth in its due time. Greetings!

    PS the text size of this comments box is miniscule in comparison to the post itself. Is it me or blogger?

  2. Ah! Great to see you here, Vincent—just like old times. Yes, I have been absent for 13 months—but hope to start posting again on a regular basis. I revamped the blog design and, yes, the font size was way off (but now corrected). Thanks!