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.
At 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.
Our 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!
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 1886edition of “Alice’s Adventures Underground”, so using the original title as written by Dodgson, as a facsimile of the actual original manuscript. 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.
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 delightful 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!
‘Tis two score years since Carroll’s art, 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, 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.
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.
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.
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 and would be remembered long beyond most other presents.
“Pay attention to where you are going because without meaning you might get nowhere.” said A. A. Milne.
Allen Alexander Milne was to create happiness for many adults and children with his verses and tales of Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh, yet he gained little pleasure from the success of the books.
The British-born “A.A. Milne,” as he was known to millions of readers, began his career as an essayist for the Punch magazine and moved onto producing light hearted plays and novels in his own right. His initial literary works enjoyed some notoriety and a loyal following. His early works included short stories, “The Sunny Side” (1921), A Gallery of Children” (1925) and the play “The Dover Road” (1921) which were all well received.
The first appearance of The Pooh character was in the Punch magazine as a poem, “Teddy Bear” published in February 1924 and again in a Christmas Eve story called “The Wrong Sort of Bees”. Milne was encouraged to write more children’s verses and “When We Were Very Young” was published in 1924, quickly followed by “Winnie the Pooh” in 1926. A further book of children’s verses was produced in 1927 in “Now We Are Six”. The charming illustrations were drawn by Ernest Shepard who had links with the Punch magazine and his drawings helped to promote the Winnie The Pooh stories into a rare and roaring success.
Milne was beginning to feel constrained by the restraints that his readers demanded to create more of the Pooh stories. He reluctantly obliged in his next book, “The House at Pooh Corner” in 1928. Milne continued to pursue his other literary persuits during this time producing the stories of “The Secret and Other Stories”(1929) and the plays “The Fourth Wall” (1928) and “The Ivory Door” (1929). Milne enjoyed writing whatever pleased him and appeared to revel in the movement from verse, play and story which was not encouraged by his Winnie The Pooh followers. Milne commented that he has “Said goodbye to all that in 70,000 words” (the length of the four principle children’s books) although his publisher, Methuen, continued to issue whatever Milne produced with approximately twenty five further works of novels, plays, political polemics and essays. These included “The Toad of Toad Hall” (1929), “Michael And Mary”(1930) and “Two People” (1931). Unfortunately these literary works did not come with the public recognition Milne sought and he continued to dislike being cast as a children’s author. “The World of Pooh” won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958 but I suspect that it held little joy for A. A. Milne to receive it.
“I don’t feel very much like Pooh today,” said Pooh. “There there,” said Piglet. “I’ll bring you tea and honey until you do.” A. A. Milne Winnie the Pooh
“It is a terrible thing for an author to have a lot of people running about his book without any invitation from him at all.” – A. A. Milne
To view more of his rare and first edition books visit our page A .A .Milne.
“Rackham gave his talk on Silhouettes to the Art Workers’ Guild in November 1919, the month in which Cinderella, the first of his two great silhouette books, was published. Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty differed from Rackham’s preceding books in relying almost wholly on silhouette for their effect. It is immediately clear from the collection of images that Rackham is a master of the medium, being able to evoke character and humour by profile and gesture alone and allowing the two-dimensional effect of his pen work to lead the reader through the book and keep the story going.” (James Hamilton. Arthur Rackham, A. Biography, p. 188).
As I hold this antique book of Cinderella (the rare signed first edition) open in my palms, the skill and beauty of Arthur Rackham’s silhouette masterpieces is truly enchanting.
The facing title page treats you to the only tipped in colour illustration of Cinderella. She looks longingly out of the window, dressed in soft rags and appearing vulnerable. Below her are stark black silhouettes of the ugly sisters, gaily dancing with equally unattractive beaux – the contrast in mood is masterful.
C.S. Evans, the author, proceeds to recount the tale of Cinderella and Rackham flawlessly instills life into this cherished tale. In “The Baroness and her Daughters, Evans introduces chapter IV with the words “Have you ever noticed that there are some people whom you are not going to like the first time you set eyes on them?”- Rackham depicts this clearly.
Rackham vividly presents the mood of these characters. Cinderella’s loneliness and sadness is tangible while the ugly sisters’ mistreat her and their horror is real when they see Cinderella’s foot fits in the shoe.
Rackham also expertly conveys humour through his illustrations. “We’ll have this fat fellow, because he has such a splendid set of whiskers.” The poor rat who is transformed into a coachman looks charmingly horrified!
The careful use of colour is another technique that Rackham employs with a brilliant rare touch. He adorns a double page spread with soft pink and green to illustrate the transformation of Cinderella and her coach, ensuring the magic flows from the page.
“The pumpkin immediately changed into a magnificent coach, all glass above and gilded panels below!” The way in which energy and movement is portrayed within Rackham’s illustrations is captivating. It is evident in the dancing scenes through his successful use of carefully placed small silhouettes that lay on the page at jaunty angles. “Dance succeeded dance” is the mood he creates.
Similarly Rackham beautifully generates the images for her flight from the ball. “Cinderella ran as she had never ran before. She lost herself in the shrubberies, and found her way out again, blundered among the flower beds, and snapped roses from their stalks in the speed of her flight.”
The final picture summarises Rackham’s skills in silhouette illustration– fine graceful lines that convey so much emotion and movement – “Cinderella and the Prince lived happily ever after for the rest of their lives.”
With much excitement (and a touch of sadness which I’ll explain later) we recently sold a rare, first edition set of The Chronicles of Narnia books and it started me thinking about the rather wonderful act of handing on antique treasured items of one’s childhood.
Recent high value sales of the Narnia series were significant for their personal attachment to the book – think of the 2012 sale of “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”, by the owner, Mr Hardie, who was the son of one of C. S. Lewis’s best friends. He knew Lewis simply as “Jack”, a friendly visitor who gave him books on his family visits. It was only years later that he realised how valuable the books were. Luckily for Mr Hardie, Lewis has signed the copy “Nicholas Hardie, with love from Jack Lewis” so added further value with the copy selling for around £12,000. The recent sale of a are full set which fetched £25,000 in June at Southerby’s, must clearly have meant a lot to the buyer! Our recent sale of the Chronicles set had been owned by a family who needed a boost of cash so reluctantly sold off their childhood favourite stories. It was pleasant to know that they were bought as a special gift for the purchaser’s wife who fondly remembered the Narnia stories from her youth.
As Mr Hardie said when he submitted his special Lewis edition for auction, “I’ve kept it safe all these years but I don’t know how much the new generation values antique books. Maybe this book can be passed into the hands of someone who will treat it with respect.”
Another full set of Narnia 1st editions is just about to to be listed, photographed and added to our website – it is always a special moment for me to ponder on the history and hands that rare books have passed through and when, as book dealers, we sell them, I am often just a little sad to see these treasured books go.
Rare and Antique Books feature many iconic illustrated children’s books and one of the most influential of the characters is the Golliwogg created by Florence Upton. Clearly the character is now culturally controversial, yet in it’s time the golliwog was initially created as an innocent and playful character which inspired the creation of a popular children’s toy throughout most of the 20th century. Who was the illustrator and creator of this children’s character?
The story of Florence Upton
Florence Upton was born in Flushing, New York on 22 February 1873 to British parents who had recently emigrated to America. She was the second of four children born into a creative and slightly eccentric household. In 1884, the family moved to central Manhattan near The National Acadamy of Design where free instruction was offered to anyone who could qualify. Her father enrolled Florence for evening class tuition in art where her artistic skills were nurtured. The premature death of her father in June 1889 resulted in a loss of a steady income and at the age of 16 Florence secured work as a professional illustrator of novels or books of short stories.
The Upton family finances finally stabilised and the family were able to visit Bertha’s relatives in Hampstead, London. Florence’s established reputation from her published work in New York, meant she was able to secure employment with London publishers and she remained in the England whilst her family returned to New York. Florence’s skill in illustrating developed as she enlisted in further art training and experimented with her ideas.
The fascination with children’s stories
Florence Upton started to consider working with children’s books and was inspired by her “penny wooden” dolls and an old childhood toy named “Golliwogg”, a toy she had played with as a small child in New York. The then-nameless “Negro minstrel doll” was treated roughly by the Upton children yet in her stories she developed his character into a friendly helpful toy. She developed the illustrations and character and worked with her mother, Bertha who wrote the verses, to produce their first story, “The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg”. This was in 1894 published by Longmans, Green & Co for the Christmas publication of 1895.
Florence’s Golliwogg proved to be highly popular in the time and Florence and her mother went onto to produce thirteen adventures until changing tastes made “Golliwogg in the African Jungle” the last in the series in 1909.
Influenced by Global travelling
Whilst in London, Florence Upton continued to provide illustrations for The Strand, the Idler and Punch magazine. After three years of work, she returned to New York to further her studies at the Art Students League and then in Paris and Holland. In 1906 Florence returned to London where she continued her career as an artist exhibiting in the Royal Academy, London. Unable to serve in the First World War due to ill health, Florence assisted the war effort by donating her dolls and original Golliwogg drawings for the Red Cross. The monies raised bought an ambulance named “Golliwogg” which went to the Front and served in France.
Florence continued working as an artist and illustrator, mainly of portraits, until her unfortunate death after abdominal surgery in 16 October 1922 at the age of 49. Her legacy of the Golliwogg toys inspired by her character are now displayed in the Museum of Childhood at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
A twist on the Golliwogg name
Unfortunately Florence Upton did not trademark her character and its name, spelled “golliwog”, became the generic name for dolls and images of a similar type. Recognising a large and profitable market, many toy companies took advantage of the popularity of the books and manufactured the doll. Other writers and illustrators took equal advantage, many changing the nature of the series. For example, the character was developed by Enid Blyton, often as a villain and sometimes as heroes, yet Upton’s Golliwogg was jovial, friendly and gallant.
The character exemplifies racial disharmony and is clearly socially inappropriate in modern times and so the character remains controversial today- little did Florence know when she created the image and character of the Golliwogg that it would play such an influential part in social history and children’s play through most of the 20th century.
Rare and Antique Books have several of the landmark Golliwogg books by Florence Upton which would add to any collection of socially significant children’s books.
First edition children’s books as a present? Struggling for ideas for a special birthday present for your loved one? For a while Red Letter Days had the answer but is there an emerging trend for first edition rare books to be that unusual gift? Not any old book but predominantly First edition children’s books with an attachment to fond childhood memories.
Recent sales of First edition children’s book:
Recent purchases from the Rare and Antique Book website indicate this trend. Sales of the full first edition set of The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, and the set of four Pooh books by A. A. Milne were bought as birthday presents for the respective buyers’ partners who had loved reading them as a child. With book sets listed at £6500 and £1250 respectively, these were clearly either very special birthdays or bought by those with higher disposable income than the average person on the street.
There seems to be another advantage in first edition books as presents -not only do books like these tug at the heart strings but they offer an even more unusual investment opportunity if, of course, the buyer can bare to part with them!
Check here for more rare first edition children’s book ideas for presents.