The William Nicholson’s play “Shadowlands” is currently touring the UK portraying the remarkable romance between C.S. Lewis and an American called Joy Davidman. It provides opportunity to be learn more about the personal life of the bachelor academic and author and to be reminded of the works of C.S. Lewis. His books have been translated into over 30 languages and sold over million copies. The interest in him and his books does not seem to wain.
Born in Ireland, as a youngster Lewis had an interest in anthropomorphic animals, mythology and Norse legends. These early interests developed into studies of theology, poetry, and academic to name a few of his talents. He went onto hold academic positions in Oxford and Cambridge University. He is probably best know for his epic series, the Chronicles of Narnia, of which The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) is the most popular.
The Narnia books are some of the most sought after books by collectors. The works are all more valuable in their original state rather than rebound, particularly if the dust-jackets are well preserved. First editions of the Chronicles are often kept as a complete collection although individual volumes can achieve hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds, especially if they are signed. For example, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, first edition (1950) signed by the author, sold for £17,000 in October 2010 at the Bloomsbury Auctions. Or a price of £4,200 was achieved for The Last Battle, The Bodley Head (1956), first edition with dust-jacket, signed by the author at Sotherby’s in July 2007.
Lewis’s other notable works of Mere Christianity and The Ransom Trilogy are also popular and rare to find in good condition with their dust jackets. The Heritage Auctions achieved a sale of $5,676.25 in April 2007 for The Ransom Trilogy, first editions (1938, 1943, 1945), in a dust-jacket.
C. S Lewis completed works remain valuable and collectable items. Yet it is charming to also see that the personal effects of this remarkable man are also valued. A collection of unpublished correspondence between C. S. Lewis and his wife Joy, sold for £4,025 in April 1966. Lewis achieved exceptional success in his literary career and Shadowlands shows that he achieved much in his personal life too.
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 Adventuresby issuing several new editions, publicising them with a Punchcartoon 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 his 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
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. The 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. “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”.
Five of the best books for children? Well, they are my choice from 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.
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!
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.