Children's and Illustrated Books from Aleph-Bet
The latest from Aleph-Bet Books.
Aleph-Bet Books has issued its Catalogue 98 of Children's Books and Illustrated Books. These works are primarily both, children's and illustrated books, and though 600 items are offered, each has at least one color illustration accompanying it. As such, there are probably a few covers shown that you will remember from your childhood, especially if that time was quite awhile ago. Once again, Aleph-Bet takes us back to a time of innocence, or at least seeming innocence for we were very young.
There are but a handful of children's books that rise to the level of popularity and collectibility of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This tale of a place very unlike Kansas had already spawned dozens of books, both by its author, L. Frank Baum, and his successors, by the time it was made into one of the best known movies ever filmed. Item 60 is a copy of the first edition of this classic, published in 1900. Priced at $32,000.
Baum wrote for both children and adults, but after the great success of the Wizard, few thought of him as anything but a children's author. In fact, the association was so great that he feared using his name on other types of books could hurt his very successful career. So, when he published a novel for adults in 1908, he did so anonymously. Item 67 is The Last Egyptian: a romance of the Nile. This, too, would be made into a movie, in 1914, but unlike Judy Garland's version of the Wizard, this film was a flop. $275.
While the original Wizard was illustrated by W.W. Denslow, the next 35 of the “canonical” Oz books were illustrated by John R. Neill. In fact, Neill wrote three Oz books in the early 1940s, dying while writing a fourth. However, his work was not limited to Oz, and the year after illustrating his first title in that series, he provided the illustrations for this work: Romero and Julietta, by Tudor Jenks, published in 1905. This is the story of a princess who becomes very small, is rescued by a small prince, and then has to address the problem that arises in their relationship when she returns to full size. Item 379. $225.
After Baum died, the series was continued by Ruth Plumly Thompson. She would go on to write the next 19 “canonical” books in the series, more than anyone else, Baum included. Thompson wrote a few other books, though not nearly as many as her Oz titles. Her one book published before she started writing for Oz is this one: The Perhappsy Chaps. Published in 1918, it consists of fairy tales written in verse. Item 553. $975.
Not all children's books were meant for pure entertainment. Some carried weighty messages. Item 79 is A Home in the South, or Two Years at Uncle Warren's, by “A Lady.” Published in 1857 by the American Reform Book and Tract Society, this work was designed to instruct children in the horrors of slavery. In the story, three children lose their parents, and as a result are sent to live with their Uncle Warren in the South. The children are forewarned that the slaves are “poor degraded half brutalized creatures,” whom they should do all they can to help. Uncle Warren is oblivious to all this, but in time, he, like the children, comes to see and understand the wrongs, and by the end, frees his slaves. Unfortunately, few other slaveholders saw the light, so civil war would come a few years later to force them to act as did the fictional Uncle Warren. $1,200.
Children's and Illustrated Books from Aleph-Bet
The Ten Little Suffergets.
Here is another children's work with a message, and a biting one at that. Published circa 1918, the title is Ten Little Suffergets. Following the format of the traditional counting rhyme, the unnamed author pokes fun at the “suffergets,” cherubic little girls who represent the woman's suffrage movement. By the end, of course, “And then there is none,” but the “suffergets” would have the last laugh when women obtained the right to vote three years later. Item 221. $1,950.
Item 142 is the first American edition of the classic puppet-boy tale of Pinocchio. Carlo Collodi's story was first released in America under the familiar-sounding title Pinocchio's Adventures in Wonderland. There is a story or two behind this title. Collodi did not know from Wonderland, but his American publishers wanted to parlay the enormous success of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, hence the copied title. Or there may have been another reason. Originally set to be published in 1892, this first American translated edition never made it to the press, its publisher gone bankrupt. Six years later, Jordan-Marsh, the large Boston department store with its own publishing division, released the tale. However, they gave no credit to either Collodi or the illustrator, naming only Hezekiah Butterworth, who wrote a brief introduction, and themselves. Nevertheless, this was essentially the earlier translation, not a different book, though perhaps Jordan Marsh wished to disguise their literary theft. Jordan Marsh would get their comeuppance a century later when the firm went out of business, taken over by Macy's. $475.
Jordan Marsh wasn't the only company to attempt to make Pinocchio its own. From 1940 onward, most Americans would come to associate Pinocchio with Walt Disney more than Carlo Collodi. Disney's version was less complex and “safer” for children in terms of insulating them from the issues of the real world Collodi saw. Disney's Pinocchio would be very popular, first as a book, and then as a film. Item 169 is Walt Disney's Pinocchio, published in 1939. $350.
Aleph-Bet Books may be reached at 914-764-7410 or Helen@alephbet.com. Their website is found at www.alephbet.com.