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A Christmas Carol Tradition with Rackham and Dickens

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with illustrations by Arthur Rackham.

The story of Scrooge is arguably one of the most famous stories that is retold over the festive period. Written by Charles Dickens, it was published just before the Christmas of 1984 and sold out immediately.
A-Christmas-Carol-Arthur-Rackham-1915A-Christmas-Carol-Arthur-Rackham-1915 (2)The novel describes the wealthy miser, Scrooge, whose unsociable and mean temperament is transformed after several ghostly visitations. The book has proved to be an enduring success. It has never been out of print and has been published in various formats and styles since it’s release.

Arthur Rackham, a leading illustrator of children’s books at the time, worked on one of the most famous editions in 1915. Rackham was very selective about the books he worked on generally only illustrating one a year and for this year A Christmas Carol was chosen. His vision of the characters completely captures the intentions of Charles Dickens. Rackham employs a novel use of bold outlines and colour washes to vividly portray the pre and post spirit of Scrooge. In addition, Rackham employs the popular technique of silhouette for his black and white illustrations within the book.

A publisher’s marketing ploy at the time was to publish two versions of a book. One was regarded as a “trade” edition with a simpler and cheaper use of paper and material for the covers. The other edition, made for the gift market, comprised of finer paper and was usually limited in numbers and signed by the illustrator.

Looking through the images of the book transports the reader to a Victorian Dickens Christmas. A rare festive treat!

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The Story Behind A First Edition Book – The Time Machine.

Often the story behind a first edition is untold – how a novel ever reaches publication can be a story in itself! The Time Machine has an interesting start in life. The author’s, H. G. Wells, childhood was spent reading extensively yet he was only able to pursue his literary career in young adulthood. He had been thinking and writing about time travel long before The Time Machine was ever published. His plot about an English scientist, who develops a time travel machine, explores social and scientific topics, from class conflict to evolution. When he was 22 years old he serialised his ideas of time travel in his own college newspaper, “The Science Schools Journal” as “The Chronic Argonauts” in 1888. Two further drafts were postulated from Wells’s writings and memoirs and from external sources. Apparently these texts were lost but six years later, in 1894, a fourth text caught the eye of William Ernest Henley from The National Observer. He published the story in a series of seven editions under the title of “The Time Traveler’s Story”. It was a simple version, undramatic and rather flat. The final conclusion was never published as Henley moved positions to become the editor of The New Review before it was released. In his new position at the New Review Henley asked Wells to adapt and enlarge the story for a five part serial. He renamed this improved draft as “The Time Machine” and published it in 1895 paying H. G. Wells £100 ( a considerable sum in today’s terms!) for the story.

Serial publication was a well-established format for novels to be launched at the time. In addition, the climate for stories of time travel and science was ripe and the stories were well received.  A good background for launching a novel about time travel. Wells was keen for a book publication of the story and approached an American publisher, Henry Holt who printed the novel in May 1895, the same year as the New Review publications. (By the way, if you have the first edition of this book the author is stated as H.S Wells – an error that was amended in the second printing!). Wells was also pursuing the London publisher, Heinemann to publish his story who finally released the first UK copy in May 1895. Heinemann produced 6,000 soft bound and 1,500 hard backed editions of “The Time Machine, An Invention”.

The Holt and Heinemann editions of the Time Machine were published within three weeks of each other and yet are noticeably different. Wells edited and took pieces from his earlier stories in the National Observer and The New Review serials for each publisher. The Holt edition is shorter having only twelve chapters against Heinemann’s sixteen chapters plus an epilogue. These two editions are commonly referred to as the “Holt text” and “Heinemann text”. Nearly all modern reprints reproduce the Heinemann text.

Books of the time were often in a large format with illustrations so Well’s short, 40,000 word story and half inch thick novella looked small on the shelf making initial sales a little slower than expected.  To improve the size and look of the  book Heinemann and Holt added a catalogue at the end of the book of later publications. Apparently some of the first edition books that were not selling were printed but not bound. When the stock levels were low these first editions were bound with catalogues of books from 1899 included at the end of the novel. This meant that the actual publication date of these books was later than the 1895 date printed on their pages.

The-Time-Machine-H.G.Wells first editionThe Time Machine proved to be a successful story touching upon the emerging scientific and sociological topics of the time. The novella became popular and was published with further amendments in 1924 along with “The Wonderful Visit” and other Stories by H.G. Wells in a 28 set volume titled “The Atlantic Edition of the Works of H. G. Wells”.  The Time Machine has been since published in many formats with several film and comic productions. It remains a cornerstone of science fiction novels and Wells is traditionally known as the “Father of Science Fiction”.

Knowing the historical journey of a first edition of “The Time Machine” makes the possession of such an antique book quite unique.

To view the first Heinemann edition (rare without a catalogue) go to The Time Machine 





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Who needs a reason to read Babar books?

Who needs a reason to read Babar books?

One of the delights in dealing in children’s first edition books is having an legitimate reason to dip into the children’s literary world for a short while. Allowing time to relish the humour of a well written children’s story and enjoy the colourful and charming pictures is a real pleasure. Babar the Elephant is one of those classic characters from the twentieth century who never fails to tempt adults and children alike. His creator, Jean De Brunhoff, produced definitive works of children’s writing and artwork that remain popular with all ages today.Le-Voyage-de-Babar-Jean-de-Brunhoff-first-edition (2)

Brunhoff wrote and illustrated a series of six Babar books plus an Elephant alphabet book. The books are often considered a personal reflection of Brunhoff’s life events. They depict birth, loss of a family member, a journey to a large city, education, marriage and the development of a kingdom (although the latter clearly not played out in Brunhoff’s life!). Brunhoff stories included tales of death and war yet he managed to portray these unpleasant topics in a straightforward and understandable manner. When they were published in 1930’s their large format and double page spread was considered distinctive and instantly appealing to children. In addition, the use of a cursive writing text encouraged an intimate relationship with the story. Primarily however, Brunhoff’s talented watercolour illustrations in detailed and bright colours were an instant attraction for children and his simple yet poetic prose spoke directly to his audience.The-Story-Of-Babar-with-preface-by-a.a.Milne-Jean-De-Brunhoff-First-edition-Methuen

Brunhoff had many life experiences to draw upon in his portrayal of Babar’s life. After graduation Brunhoff joined the French Army at the end of World War 1 and engaged in warfare on the front line. After studying with Othon Friesz, at the Acadamie de la Chamiere in Montparnasse he became a professional artist. He excelled in works of portraits, still lives and landscapes. Brunhoff married a talented pianist, Cecile Sabourand, in 1924 and they had three sons, Laurent, Mathieu and Thierry. It was Cecile who initially invented a bedtime story about a little elephant to amuse Matthieu who was ill at the time. The child and his brothers so loved the story of the little elephant who left the jungle for the big city that they encouraged their father to illustrate the story and make a book about the elephant. Brunhoff’s artistic skills turned the story into a picture book, with text, which became The Story of Babar.

Jean de Brunhoff came from a family of successful publishing professionals and his father actually ran a publishing house. His brothers were the editors of Paris Vogue and Le Decor D’Aujourd’hui. His sister was a photographer who was married to the chief of Conde Nast’s Le Jardin Des Modes. The familial influence no doubt encouraged the formulation of a book of the bedtime tales. The result was Histoire de Babar, le petit elephant which was published in 1931 by his brother in law’s publishers at Editions du Jardin Des Modes. The first USA publication was in 1933 by Harrison Smith & Robert Hass.The-Story-Of-Babar-with-preface-by-a.a.Milne-Jean-De-Brunhoff-First-edition-Methuen An English version was presented in the Daily Sketch and later published in 1934 by Methuen with an introduction by A.A. Milne. The Babar character was an instant success and Brunhoff was encouraged to write more stories about the elephant. He wrote a succession of Babar books over the next few years. Le Voyage de Babar (1932), Le Roi Babar (1933), Le ABC de Babar (1934), were  published by Jardin Des Modes. The last three stories, Les Vacance de Zephir (1936), Babar en Famille, (1938) and Babar et Pere Noel (1941), were all published by a different publisher, Hachette. English versions of all these books were soon published and the Babar character became internationally popular.

Unfortunately in the early 1930’s Brunhoff was diagnosed with tuberculosis and he was required to spend long periods of time in a Swiss sanatorium. Despite his illness Brunhoff was able to continue his work, yet he died at the age of 38 in 1937 before he was able to see his last few books published. Fortunately his son, Laurent, has safeguarded the style and writing of his father’s Babar books and continued to publish the Babar stories ten years after his death. There are now over fifty Babar titles and sales of the books are in their millions. Laurent De Brunhoff has ensured the success of the Babar character continues to this day.ABC-of-Babar-Jean-de-Brunhoff-first-edition-methuen (2)

Reviewers have praised the uniqueness of Brunhoff’s approach to children’s literature from the first publication date to today. John Piper (1903-92) from the Spectator commented that Brunhoff “had that power of careful observation that allowed him again and again to hit on ideas so simple and obvious that nobody has thought of them in that way before, although everybody wishes they had.” The children’s author, A.A. Milne, was an admirer of Brunhoff who wrote a fond introduction to the first UK edition of The Story of Babar in 1934. Milne’s charming words stated, “If you love elephants, you will love Babar and Celeste. If you have never loved elephants, you will love them now. If you who are grown-up have never been fascinated by a picture book before, then this is the one which will fascinate you…I salute M. de Brunhoff. I am at his feet.” More recently Roger Sale examined the enduring fascination of English children’s literary books and characters in his edition of “Fairy Tales and After: From Snow White to E.B White”. Of the Babar stories he commented they “rightly rank with the Beatrix Potter books as the best ever made for very young children.” The artwork of Burnhoff and his son has received similar acclaim. There have been many major exhibitions of both father and son’s illustrations in Paris, New York, Japan and Toronto plus many others. The Morgan Library and Museum, New York holds the original The Story of Babar manuscript and artwork. The manuscripts and artwork for The Travels of Babar and Zephyr’s Holidays are held in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

Jean De Brunhoff clearly meets the critieria for creating a significant literary children’s character and his son secured the legacy of his father’s work. Babar continues to bring delight to many children’s (and if we will admit it, adults!) lives. Who needs more of an excuse to dip into a Babar book?

Rare and Antique Books holds many first editions of his early works, including those with introductions by A. A. Milne (UK – Methuen and American – Smith & Haas).

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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – The fascination continues

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde:

The UK television of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has started with dramatic scenes of horror and intrigue. Holding the early edition book of this tale prompted a re look at the origins of the story and it’s publication. The plot recounts the investigation by a London lawyer into strange occurrences between his old friend Dr. Henry Jekyll and the evil Edward Hyde who, as we probably know, turn out to be the same person. The themes of the two extremes of good and evil run throughout the story.

The Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson, was interested in the personality traits between good and evil at an early age. In his teenage years he produced a play about the double life of the thief, Deacon Brodie. In 1884 he wrote “Markheim” another plot about a respectable murderer. His family members included a religious minister, a professor of philosophy, engineers and scientists and they all influenced his thinking about ideas of how personalities can affect a human. In addition, the scientific and religious climate in England was ripe for his macabre tales.

In 1859, when Stevenson was nine years old, Charles Darwin published “The Origin of Species” introducing the Theory of Evolution. The idea that all humans had evolved from more primitive forms challenged the belief of God creating the world in seven days. Many believed that science was dangerous. It was meddling with the natural order of things which only God had control over. This pull between science and religion was the backdrop in which the characters of the Jekyll and Hyde were set.

In addition, the Victorians increasing conflict between science and religion was compounded by the ideas that humans have a dual nature. On one side was the calm and rational way of life and on the other was violence and destruction. A split between the supernatural and nature; the good versus evil. The famous Jack the Ripper struck in 1888 igniting these issues. The stories of the murderer being of Royal blood or highly educated fueled ideas of the Jekyll and Hyde double nature of mankind yet further.

Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was first published by The New York firm of Charles Scribner’s Sons on January 5 1886. Four days later the first UK edition was published by Longmans Green Company. A Times review of 25th January 1886 gave it a favourable review and after that the book became an instant success. Over the next six months over forty thousand copies were sold. By 1901 it has sold a reputedly 250,000 copies in the United States. Stevenson’s biographer, Graham Balfour, commented in 1901 that the book’s success was probably rather to the “moral instincts of the public” than to any conscious perception of the quality of the writing. “It was read by those who never read fiction… quoted in multiple sermons and in religious papers”.

The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde novella is a remarkable tale set in remarkable times. Ratings for the first UK television production are high, proving that the fascination of the divide between good and evil continues to captivate people now. Holding an early edition of this intriguing story is a reminder of the Victorian interests and social issues of the time.

Dr-Jekyll-Mr-Hyde-3rd-Edition-R.L.StevensonStrange-Case-of-Dr-Jekyll-and-Mr-Hyde-R.L.Stevenson-1895 (2)

Rare and Antique books holds two copies of the early editions of The Strange Case of Dr Jeykell and Mr Hyde. The first is a third edition by Longman in 1886 and the second book is a twentieth edition dated 1895, both in very presentable condition.


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Collecting Ian Fleming First Edition Books

Collecting Ian Fleming First Edition Books:

Fleming’s Bond books are perhaps the most popular and iconic thriller series ever produced. There remains some attraction in identifying with the character and his lifestyle – how many men don’t secretly desire to be Bond at least in some small way! The James Bond “product” has generated all manner of associated gadgets and memorabilia, yet a Bond first edition book holds genuine authenticity and cudos over other merchandise. It would be hard to believe there are any around the world not proudly displayed in cabinets or on shelves.

With the launch on Monday 26th October of the new James Bond film, Spectre, focus on the collecting Ian Fleming’s first edition Bond books will be re-ignited. They have always remained consistently appealing to collectors of modern fiction but here are some interesting facts for the novice.

  • Ian Fleming only published fourteen James Bond novels so collecting them is a manageable task.  Anyone starting off a collection already has some boundaries set so there is no chance of getting carried away and going off piste!
  • Dr-No-Ian-Fleming-First-Edition-Collection-2Identifying the novels is relatively straightforward and so is an ideal way to start off collecting modern literature. Jonathan Cape published all the UK versions of the novels so recognising the publishing details are relatively clear. They should all say Jonathan Cape on the title page. Also they should state “First Published …” with the correct year on the back of the title page. Any second or later impressions will be clearly stated.
  • James-Bond-first-edition-collection-Ian-Fleming-Live-and-let-dieIdeally a good collection will consist of books with their original dust jackets and some of the fun in collecting them is to seek out such books. Beware of jackets from later editions being placed on original books. As a rule of thumb, knowing the sequence of books in the series and then checking to make sure a later book is not mentioned on the jacket of an earlier book, should help determine whether it is the correct jacket for the book or not. Identifying a first edition dust jacket can also be done by checking that no reviews from newspapers or journalists are included on the dust jacket flaps. Later impressions of the book will naturally have these reviews included. Those that have retained their pricing on the front flap are called ‘not price-clipped’ and will be more valuable. The only other point to note is that “Live and Let Die” had three ‘issues’ of the first edition, first impression. The first and most valuable edition has no reference to the jacket designer at all; the second edition has the reference centered in the white space below the text on the inside front flap of the jacket; for the third edition it is placed just below the text. They are all valuable books but decrease in cost from first to third.
  • James Bond novels can be relatively affordable especially for the later books. It is certainly best to start with the more recent and affordable publications. First editions become more expensive as you start moving toward the earlier books in the series. Of course, as ever, condition is the key but even poor condition copies of the earlier books can fetch a reasonable sum. Fine and pristine copies can be worth several thousand pounds but it is perfectly possible to build up a good collection of reasonable books priced at a few hundred pounds each.
  • James Bond books remain a beautifully designed set of books which look great on You-Only-Live-Twice-Ian-Fleming-1964-First-Editionthe shelf. Everyone has their favourite jacket design. The dust jacket designs by Kenneth Lewis, Pat Marriotand, of course, Richard Chopping, all have special attributes that set them apart from each other. Choppping’s  Trompe L’Oeil style was distinctive and menacing. He could even make a toad with a captured dragonfly seem menacing as he did for “You Only Live Twice.”
  • Collecting James Bond novels is especially fun when a new Bond film comes out! The release of the Casino Royale film in 2006 considerably increased the sales of the book of the same name. What was additionally great for book collectors was that the dust jacket for the book inspired the opening sequence of the film.
  • Casino-Royale-Ian-Fleming-rare-authentificationAdding to the fun of collecting Ian Fleming’s novel is the hunting down of the earlier copies of the Bond novels. These earlier titles were initially published in smaller quantities. The first novel, Casino Royale, had a print run of only 4,700 copies. Many of these went to libraries so were well used and invariably lost their jackets. The later books, such as Octopussy, had a run of 50,000 so great copies of these editions are more easily affordable.

Once started, a first edition collection of Ian Fleming books can become compelling! Finding a finer and better copy of a James Bond book is the new challenge. The subtleties of the condition of the book and dust jacket become more intense and it becomes a little like building up a fine wine collection! If you start on the quest of collecting Ian Fleming books we wish you good luck in your adventure! The thrill of completing the collection is amazing.

James-Bond-first-edition-collection-Ian-FlemingRare and Antique books holds the complete collection of James Bond books. See more Ian Fleming novels here.


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Five of the Best Books for Children

Five of the Best Books for Children

Someone recently challenged Barbara Chalk, the proprietor of Rare & Antique Books, to choose five of the best books for children from the Rare and Antique booksite. This is what she had to say.

Where do I start as I love them all! However, in the spirit of the task I have endeavoured to narrow them down to the following five which are of particular interest to me at the moment.

Miniature Editions of Through the Looking Glass and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Illustrated by John Tenniel 1907 & 1908

Of course I am cheating here as this is actually two books but they make such a charming pair I couldn’t separate them! The reason for their appeal is their size – they look like they have been given some of Alice’s size reducing potion! The original Tenniel’s illustrations are intact and in their original black and white format. In 1907 Macmillan marked the expiry of the copyright of Alice’s Adventures by issuing several new editions, publicising them with a Punch cartoon captioned ‘Tenniel’s Alice Reigns Supreme’. “The Sixpenny Series” was the first of these in December of that year. In 1903 they issued the “Little Folks Edition” with new colour pictures of Tenniel and an abbreviated text. The “Illustrated Pocket Classic” followed in 1904. This miniature edition published in 1907 was a real success and remains a highly collectable edition. A charming pair of books.

A Gallery of Children A. A. Milne

A selection of the best children’s books must surely include an A. A. Milne book. The well known Winnie the Pooh books are very endearing and an easy choice. However, Milne produced a wide range of novels, plays and short stories which merit celebration. One of these is this charming collection of children’s fantasy stories written between A-Gallery-Of-Children-A.A.Milne-First-EditionhisA-Gallery-Of-Children-A.A.Milne-First-Edition poetry book of “When We Were Very Young” 1924 and “Winnie The Pooh” 1926. It was his first book of prose for children. This hardcover book was first published in 1925 by the Stanley Paul & Co. London and the David McKay Company in Philadelphia. The illustrator Saida, otherwise known as H. Willebbek Le Mair, was initially famous for her illustrations for toothpaste advertisements in magazines. Her delightful pictures complement Milne’s twelve stories making this edition a wonderful demonstration of the writing talents of A. A. Milne.

The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman 1901

The-Story-Of-Little-Black-Sambo-Fifth-Edition-Helen-Bannerman (2)Chosen for its perfect condition this little book is absolutely charming with delightful illustrations. Much of the appeal of the book lies in its size as the book measures only 5-5 3/4 inches in size making it appear like a toy book. Reading the book has an element of anticipation of what is to come as the writing and images are only one side of the pages. The book was initially published by Grant Richards as a series of small formatted books called The Dumpy Books for Children between 1897 and 1904.  The classic and well known story is of a little boy and of course the terminology within the test is now obsolete and outdated. Yet in it’s time the book was a children’s favourite for more than half a century and so serves as a reminder of historical social change.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis 1950-1956

Again I think I am cheating by including more than one book! Yet this set of seven fantasy stories have featured in thousands of children’s bookshelves – over 100 million copies published in 47 languages. It remains a classic children’s work of literature covering themes of religion, race and gender and has been a source of controversial literary debate. Pauline Baynes’s fine pen and ink original illustrations, especially the maps of Narnia, are still used in publications today. ThThe-Chronicles-of-Narnia-C.S.Lewis-first-editione Chronicles tells of several children who are magically transported to the world of Narnia to protect the lion, Asian, from Evil and restore him to his rightful place on the throne. The adventures cover the entire history of Narnia ending in The Last Battle. The first five books were originally published by Geoffrey Bles over a few years. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe published first in 1950 and , although complete, the next books Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Horse and His Boy, were issued one at a time from 1951 to 1954. The Silver Chair was written after The Horse and His Boy but published after it in 1953. The Bodley Head published the last two books, The Magician’s Nephew and The Last Battle in 1955 and 1956. Again the Magician’s Nephew was written after, but published before The Last Battle. There has been much discussion over the years as to the order of reading the books as some publishers have produced them in chronological rather than first published order. Whichever way they are read they still remain an enchanting read!

The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant, with a preface by A. A. Milne 1934

Babar the elephant is one of the most delightful children’s illustrated books. This edition has the added value of an introduction by the author of Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne. In fact it was A. A. Milne who initially brought the little elephant to the attention of the British children’s book market. Milne first saw the French edition of the book at a friend’s house in 1932. He was so enthralled by the detailed illustrations and story that he persuaded his publishers, Methuen, to produce an English version. A. A. Milne wrote a charming introduction which helped to make the first edition an immediate success.
The-Story-Of-Babar-with-preface-by-a.a.Milne-Jean-De-Brunhoff-First-edition-MethuenThe-Story-Of-Babar-with-preface-by-a.a.Milne-Jean-De-Brunhoff-First-edition-Methuen“If you love elephants you will love Babar. If you have never loved elephants you will love them now. If you are a grown-up and have never been fascinated by a picture book before, then this is the one that will fascinate you. If you are a child do not take these enchanting people to your heart; if you do not spend delightful hours making sure that no detail of their adventures has escaped you; then you deserve to wear gloves and be kept off wet grass for the rest of your life. I can say no more. I salute M. De. Brunhoff. I am at his feet. A. Milne”. Enough said I think!

Five of the best books for children? Well, they are my choice form the Rare and Antique book store today. As I love them all if you ask me tomorrow the list may well be different.

See other Children’s books for more choices.

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Five Facts about J.R.R. Tolkien books

Rare and Antique Books hold some of Tolkien’s most famous and rare first edition novels – the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. These fantasy stories are not written purely from Tolkien’s imagination – here are some of the biographical and historical influences to his writing.Tolkien first edition

The Impacts of War: Tolkien reluctantly enlisted into the Army in 1915. He was ordered to France where he helped capture the German stronghold at Ovillers, two weeks after the first Somme assault. At the time he comments “It was like death”,  yet he witnessed courage and reliance which was expressed as a perpetual conflict between good and evil in his fantasy battles in Middle Earth. Of The Lord of the Rings he comments, “But I should say, if asked, the tale is not really about Power and Dominion: that only sets the wheels going; it is about Death and the desire for deathlessness. Which is hardly more than to say it is a tale written by a Man!” Humphrey Carpenter ed. (1981) The Letters of J.R.R.Tolkien

Romantic Influences: J.R.R.Tolkien married Edith Bratt in 1916 and their relationship was a source of inspiration for Tolkien’s writings. The separation of Beren and Lutherin mirrored their own time apart during the First World War. A walk in the woods with his wife Edith in 1917 inspired the love story of the fugitive warrior Beren and the elven-fair Lúthien – their names are even on the Tolkien’s Oxford gravestone. Following Edith’s death, Tolkien wrote the following in a letter to their son Christopher. “I never called Edith Luthien – but she was the source of the story that in time became the chief part of the Silmarillion. It was first conceived in a small woodland glade filled with hemlocks at Roos in Yorkshire (where I was for a brief time in command of an outpost of the Humber Garrison in 1917, and she was able to live with me for a while)Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 340, To Christopher Tolkien.The Fellowship of the Ring First edition
The Two towers J.R.R.Tolkien first editionThe Return of the King first edition



The Experience of Loss: Tolkien was orphaned at an early age. His father, Arthur, died when he was only 3 years old and his mother, Mabel, died from diabetes eight years later. Tolkien and his siblings were fostered by Father Francis Murray of the Roman Catholic Church. Several characters in his novels experience the loss of a loved one. Feanor, Prince of the Noldor, first loses his father and then his greatest conceptions, the Silmarils, through the conspiracies of the wicked Morgoth. The Return of the King explains how, after more than two hundred years of life, Aragorn dies leaving behind a sad and now-mortal Arwen. She then returns to one of the few places of pure happiness she knew in her life to die peacefully by the river, Nimrodel.

Tolkien Loved Languages: Tolkien was a professor philologist of ancient GermanicThe-Hobbit-J.R.R.Tolkien Languages specialising in Old English. His love of the Finnish Language led to the constructed of the Elvish language in his stories, such as Khuzdul the tongue of the Dwarves, and the Black Speech used by Sauon in the Second Age. Tolkien used Old Norse names for the Dwarves, but the name of Bilbos’s home was inspired in a more concrete manner – by his Aunt’s Farm, Bag End.

Influences on Publication: After the success of the Hobbit, his publishers, Allen and Unwin, requested a sequel The-Hobbit-J.R.R.Tolkiennovel- Tolkien obliged with a 200,000 word script written in 1949. However, Tolkien wrote complicated and lengthy scripts with detailed appendices, edits, and maps which inevitably created a delay in publication. Paper costs rocketed in The Second World War also affecting publication. As a result Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novel was redrafted into three separate books. The first of these books, The Fellowship of the Ring, was finally published in July 1954. This was followed by The Two Towers later the same year and then The Return of the King in October 1955 – a long publication journey indeed!

J.R.R. Tolkien’s books are complex and intelligent works of imagination –and our blog only retells a fraction of the influences upon his writing. Holding and reading the first edition of these wonderful books gives a real thrill of excitement knowing you are in possession of a classic!

See our Tolkien books – Lord of the Rings  The Hobbit  The Return of the King

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Rare books as unusual Christmas gifts.

Christmas gifts – how about a book? We all like a good read. Although the Kindle continues to gain popularity, especially as an alternative to holiday suitcases brimming with books, there’s still nothing quite like the tactile indulgence of a real book. To be able to view the cover, take time over admiring its size and pagination, to physically turn the page or perhaps simply to smell the real thing, is somehow so much more satisfying.

But choosing a book as a gift specifically for a book lover is certainly not easy or straight-forward. It’s akin to buying a woman a perfume she’s not tried before. Almost certain to be a disaster because, like a book, it is highly personal and very tricky to second guess.

But an old book, a rare book or a first edition of a favourite author, character or series, could very well prove to be a big hit. Whether it’s to read, to admire on the bookshelf, or simply to reminisce over as a childhood favourite read, a well chosen old or rare book as a gift is certain to bring a smile and genuine happiness to the recipient.

The-Chronicles-of-Narnia-C.S.Lewis-first-editionAt Rare & Antique Books almost all our books are first editions. Most are either famous children’s favourites such as Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, The Jungle Book or sets like Winnie the Pooh and Chronicles of Narnia.

Many are modern first editions from popular authors. These include H.G Wells’  The Time Machine or War of the Worlds, Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, or Ian Fleming’s Bond books.James-Bond-first-edition-collection-Ian-Fleming

Rip-Van-Winkle-Illustrated-By-Arthur-Rackham-First-Edition-1905Our beautifully illustrated books by Arthur Rackham dating from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1930’s are especially unique.

So this year, try a rare book as unusual Christmas gift. It might just prove to be the best present ever!

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Alice In Wonderland – The Charm And Value of Early Publications

We were recently asked for advice from a Canadian customer about his early edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Whilst responding, it got us thinking a blog would be useful on this complex subject – the various early and first editions of these most famous of children’s books.

After all, given that Alice in Wonderland as a book has never been out of print and has been published in at least 174 languages, the number of publications of the book will be vast! We’ll only concentrate on those up to 1908 as, after 1907 the copyright expired in the UK which generated at least 8 new editions in that year alone spiraling it further into popularity and value. The variety of illustrators for this work is similarly huge and includes the masters of Arthur Rackham, Milo Winter and Getrude Kay (with of course the original and most iconic John Tenniel!). Alice in Wonderland books are obviously highly collectable and Rare and Antique Books hold several of these scarce and delightful editions.

The genuine original illustrations were actually drawn by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) himself, in his original manuscript of the tale which was inspired by a boat trip in 1862 with three daughters of The Dean of Christ Church (one of whom was Alice Liddell) and The Rev. Robinson Duckworth of Trinity College. During the trip Dodgson narrated the tale to the girls and Alice persuade him to write out the story which he completed in 1863. He then gave the illustrated manuscript, titled Alice’s Adventures Underground, to Alice who ultimately sold it for a world record price of £15,400 at Sotherby’s Auction in 1928!

These original thirty seven drawings by Dodgson are contained in the rare 1886Alice's-Adventure-Underground-Lewis-Carroll-First-Edition-1886. Alice-In-Wonderland edition of “Alice’s Adventures Underground”, so using the original title as written by Dodgson, as a facsimile of the actual original manuscript.Alice's-Adventure-Underground-Lewis-Carroll-First-Edition-1886. Alice-In-Wonderland His charming and childlike drawings perfectly capture the wonderment of Alice and the fantasy world that he was creating. There is something rather special about seeing the word and images completed in Dodgson’s own handwriting!

This publication followed twenty years on from the first official edition – the 1866 publication published by Macmillan bound in red cloth, employed John Tenniel as the illustrator. It is clear to see how he developed Dodgson’s original images. Tenniel’s images were iconic and proved to be an instant success to children and adults alike. Whilst the book is dated 1866, it was distributed in time for Christmas 1865 but itself followed an earlier printing the same year that Dodgson recalled. A handful of these exceptionally rare 1865 copies did though survive and are, without doubt, the most valuable of all published editions. At this point in time Macmillan had no idea of the future success of the title, so released the book in small printings of a few thousand at a time.
The very first edition displayed no printing numbers on the title page and copies of this edition are extremely rare and valuable, especially in fine condition. This was then followed by later printings stating say “SEVENTH THOUSAND” and so on in ever increasing numbers for many years – obviously the lower the number and the earlier the publication stated, the more valuable the book, condition aside.

Next came the 1872 first edition sequel “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There” which made a charming pairing with the Alice In Wonderland book. This too followed the same style of ‘thousand’ printings on the title page and the very first edition on this book is still both rare and valuable.

Through-the-looking-glass-Lewis-Carroll-first-edition. Alice-In-Wonderland.The trade copies of Alice’s Adventures were released in 1887 when the publisher, Macmillan, took the opportunity to make several corrections to the original text. The books were published in lower grade materials to save costs and were labelled as ‘People’s Edition’ yet the bright green and illustrated covers do not detract from their charm. These too employed the same “Thousands printing” identification that continued to run well into the 20th century.

The miniature editions published again by Macmillan in 1907 (Alice) and 1908 (Looking Glass) are similarly appealing as they followed the same design style of covers to the original editions, just smaller. They make for a far more affordable, yet Alice's-Adventures-in-Wonderland-Through-the-looking-glass-first-edition-Lewis-Carroll-1907-1908delightful option for collecting or as a gift. On screen it is difficult to appreciate the charm of these small compact books which only measure 16 x 10 cm – it seems like they have taken an Alice potion to reduce their size! For the first time a more traditional identification system was used for the editions, stating the year and month of any reprint ie. “Through the Looking Glass Miniature Edition, October 1908, Reprinted December 1908”.

Once the copyright on illustration passed in 1907 there was a flurry of illustrators keen to work on Charles Dodgson’s books. At this time Arthur Rackham had recently shot to fame with his illustrated Rip Van Winkle and so his drawings were an ideal choice. Rackham’s illustrated book was published in 1907 by Heinemann with an introduction by Austin Dobson – maybe in an attempt to sway people to accept an illustrator other than Tenniel!Alice's-Adventures-In-Wonderland-by-Lewis-Carroll-Illustrated-By-Arthur-Rackham-First-Edition

‘Tis two score years since Carroll’s art,Alice's-Adventures-In-Wonderland-by-Lewis-Carroll-Illustrated-By-Arthur-Rackham-First-Edition
With topsy- turvy magic,
Sent Alice wondering through a part,
Half-comic and half-tragic.


                                        Enchanting Alice! black and white
Has made your deeds perennial;
And naught save “Chaos and old Night”
Can part you from Tenniel;

But still you are a Type, and based,Alice's-Adventures-In-Wonderland-by-Lewis-Carroll-Illustrated-By-Arthur-Rackham-First-Edition
In Truth, like Lear and Hamlet;
And Types may be redraped to taste
In cloth-of-gold or camlet.

Here comes a fresh Costumier, then;
That Taste may gain a wrinkle
From him who drew with such deft pen
The rags of Rip Van Winkle!


Although the initial reaction to any illustrator other than Tenniel was “just not right” the Rackham illustrations proved to be a success and are iconic Alice In Wonderland images today.

These antique and early editions of Alice in Wonderland mark the start of the profusion of illustrated books which we have witnessed since 1907 and so make them especially delightful and collectable books. To see these books and more editions by Charles Dodgson go to Lewis Carroll books.

The British Library has owned Charles Dodgson’s original manuscript since 1948 and it is now available to browse on their website. Their edition is unique in that it was created by Charles Dodgson as a gift for Alice Liddell in 1864 rather than for publication, which he adapted it for a year later. It is a fascinating read.

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What gift do you give the person who has everything?

It seems the later you get on in life, the harder it is to find something special or different as a gift for a loved one or friend. So often when asked, they say “really, don’t bother; I have everything I need”, even if they know it’s not entirely true!

Well, Rare and Antique Books have an interesting and different solution – a rare first edition book that’s of particular interest to the recipient. If it is a gift for him, perhaps he loves James Bond films. Imagine the kudos of showing off a first edition Casino Royale to his friends.James-Bond-first-edition-collection-Ian-Fleming
Or perhaps a childhood favourite was Babar the Elephant. The pleasure of reminiscing over the lovely illustrations in ‘The Story of Babar’ would be enough in itself but treasuring a first edition as a unique gift as well would be all the more special.
If it is for her, perhaps a favourite film such as ‘Hundred and One Dalmatians’ as a first edition would be a great gift idea.The-101-Dalmatians-Dodie-Smith-First-Edition (2)The-House-at-Pooh-Corner-When-we-were-very-young-Now-we-are-six-Winnie-the-Pooh-A.A.Milne-1st-edition

Or another childhood favourite read such as ‘Winnie the Pooh’ would tug at the heartstrings.

Yes, a rare and valuable old book is worth thinking about as an option. It would sit nicely on the mantelpiece, be an interesting talking point and potentially would be remembered long beyond most other presents.