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Highspots of Collectible Children's Books 1863 - 1963

100 YEARS / 100 Books

The world of collectible children's books has come of age. Although children's books have always been collected, it is only within the last ten years that they have blasted into the consciousness of the book collecting world in general and even into the minds of the non-collecting public. It now goes without saying that great first edition collections should also include firsts of classic children's literature as well.

A bit of explanation and a few caveats about this list are in order. The books included here are not necessarily representative of the best literature for children, but rather a list of what is currently collectible. Collecting in this field is no different than collecting in any other field; it is subject to fads. Fifty years ago Jacob Blanck included on his list of the best loved American children's books "Peter Parley to Penrod," two titles by John Townsend Trowbridge. Today, you'd be hard pressed to find any collector who is familiar with his name at all. In several cases, and for the sake of brevity, only one book by an author / illustrator has been included. Thus you will find Tom Sawyer but not Huckleberry Finn or you will see Winnie the Pooh but not When We Were Very Young.

You may also notice the absence of traditional "series" books which, although they are children's books, fall into a class of their own and thus are not included here. Using the hundred year parameter of 1863 - 1963 necessitated excluding some landmark figures. On the early end notably missing are Edward Lear, Hans Christian Andersen, Grimm Brothers, Charles Perrault, Heinrich Hoffmann and Nathaniel Hawthorne. On the modern side, Chris Van Allsburg is not included. These restrictions were necessary in order to keep the size from becoming unmanageable.

1863 marked the publication of Charles Kingsley's Water Babies, one of the first "modern" fantasies for children. One hundred years later in 1963 Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are sealed his name forever in the annals of collectible books. Almost every title listed has a "story" attached to it; printing histories, issue points and first edition determinations all factor in heavily. Naturally, the best place to hear these stories is to start with a specialist dealer in the field. For instance, you would wait a long time to find an 1865 British Alice but then you'd need that time to accumulate the funds to afford it. However a collection can do just fine with the American printing from the British sheets or with the 1866 British "first published" Alice and that is where expert guidance can help. If you're just beginning, you will also need advice on criteria that determine collectible condition, including the importance or unimportance of dustwrappers. As a general rule, children's books must be in very good-fine condition, but the same rigorous standards used in modern literature are really not applied here. Many of these titles are perfectly collectible without dustwrappers and if they do have dustwrappers, the fact that the wrapper may be chipped, torn or incomplete is not of great consequence. In other words, if you find a first issue of Baum's Wonderful Wizard of Oz but the dustwrapper is soiled and worn, don't wait around for a "better" copy - just grab it and run! However, if you are offered first editions of Winnie the Pooh or Charlotte's Web without dustwrappers, take a pass. Without beating a dead horse, a children's book specialist dealer will have had the experience to know which books are collectible in any condition and which need to be mint to have value.

If it can be said that there is a "problem" with collecting children's books, it is that the field is so broad and varied that one might not know where to begin. The list of "highspots" that follow should help address the challenge. This list can be used as an end in itself or used as a jumping off point to collect in any of the thousands of directions to which it may lead.

1863 Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. London: Macmillan
1865[6] Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. London:Macmillan
1865 Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge. New York: James O'Kane
1865-76 Walter Crane's Toybooks by. London: Routledge
1868-9 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. 2 Volumes. Boston: Roberts
1869 Wonderful Adventures of Humpty Dumpty by Thomas Nast. 2 Volumes. New York: McLoughlin Brothers
1870 In Fairyland Illustrated by Richard Doyle. London: Longmans, Green & Co.
1871 At the Back of the North Wind by George Macdonald. London: Strahan & Co. [First Edition in Book Form]
1872 Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. London
1876 Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Samuel Clemens. Hartford: American Pub. Co
1878 House That Jack Built by Randolph Caldecott [Plus] the 15 Books in the Set. London: Routledge
1878 Under the Window Illustrated by Kate Greenaway. London: Routledge
1881 Uncle Remus His Songs and Sayings by Joel Chandler Harris. New York: D. Appleton
1883 Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle. New York: Scribners
1883 Avventure Di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. First Ed. In Book Form [First Ed. In English 1892]
1884 Heidi by Johanna Spyri. 1st English Ed. 2 Vols. (Heidi's Early Experiences and Heidi's Further Experiences).
1887 Brownies: Their Book by Palmer Cox. New York: Century
1887 Internationaler Circus by Lothar Meggendorfer. Esslingen & Munchen: J.F. Schrieber
1888 Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. London: David Nutt [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1889 Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang [Plus] the 10 Other Color Fairy Books. London: Longmans, Green
1891 Maud Humphrey's Mother Goose Illus. by Maud Humphrey. New York: Stokes
1893 Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. 1st Ed. With the Illustrations by Laurence Housman. London: Macmillan [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition] [1st Is 1862]
1894 Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. London: Macmillan
1895 Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls by Florence Upton. London: Longmans, Green
1895 Arabella and Araminta Stories Illustrated by Gertrude Smith. Boston: Copeland and Day [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1896 Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson Illus. by Charles Robinson. London: John Lane, the Bodley Head [Issued Unillustrated First and this Illustrated Edition Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1896 Jeanne D'arc by M. Boutet De Monvel. Paris: Plon Nourrit [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1897 Mother Goose in Prose by L. Frank Baum Illus. by Maxfield Parrish. Chicago: Way & Williams
1899 Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman. London: Grant Richards
1899 Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit. London: T. Fisher Unwin
1900 Goops and How to Be Them by Gellett Burgess. New York: Stokes
1900 Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter - Privately Printed Ed. [Trade Edition First Published in 1902. London: Warne]
1900 Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Chicago: George M. Hill
1901 Denslow's Mother Goose by W.W. Denslow. New York: McClure Phillips
1902 Adventures of Uncle Lubin by W. Heath Robinson. London: Grant Richards
1904 Volga by Ivan Bilibin. St. Petersburg
1904 Poems of Childhood by Eugene Field Illus. by Maxfield Parrish. New York: Scribner
1905 Story of Noah's Ark by E. Boyd Smith. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
1906 Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. London: Hodder & Stoughton [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1906 Peter Poodle: Toy Maker to the King by Will Bradley. New York: Dodd Mead
1906 Roosevelt Bears Their Travels and Adventures by Seymour Eaton. Philadelphia: Stern
1908 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Boston: L.C. Page
1908 Hole Book by Peter Newell. New York: Harper Bros
1908 Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. London: Methuen
1908 Fables of Aesop Illustrated by Edward Detmold. London: Hodder & Stoughton [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1909 Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. Illustrated by Warwick Goble. London: Macmillan [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1910 Sleeping Beauty Illustrated by Edmund Dulac. London: Hodder & Stoughton [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1911 Peter and Wendy by J.m. Barrie. London: Hodder & Stoughton
1911 Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. NY: Stokes
1911 Treasure Island Illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. New York: Scribner
1912 Little Songs of Long Ago Illus. by H. Willebeek Le Mair. London: Augener [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1914 East of the Sun and West of the Moon Illustrated by Kay Nielsen. London: Hodder & Stoughton [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1914 Mother Goose Illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith. New York: Dodd Mead
1914 Old Mother West Wind
by Thornton Burgess. Boston: Little Brown
1915 House of Pomegranates
by Oscar Wilde Illus. by Jessie King. London: Methuen
1916 Fairy Tales by Hans Andersen Illustrated by Harry Clarke. London: George Harrap [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1918 Raggedy Ann Stories by Johnny Gruelle. Joliet: Volland
1919 Macao et Cosmage by Edy Legrand. Paris: Nouvelle Revue
1919 Ship That Sailed to Mars by William Timlin. London: Harrap
1920 Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. New York: Stokes
1922 Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Bianco. London: Heinemann
1922 Wonderful Adventures of Little Prince Toofat illustrated by Robert Lawson. New York: James McCann
1923 ABC by C.B. Falls. New York: Doubleday Page [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1924 Poppy Seed Cakes Illustrated by Maud & Miska Petersham. New York: Doubleday
1925 Knave of Hearts Illustrated by Maxfield Parrish. New York: Scribner
1926 Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne. London: Methuen [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1926 Fairyland by Ida Outhwaite. Melbourne: Ramsay Pub. [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1928 Bambi by Felix Salten. NY: Simon & Schuster 1st U.S. Ed.
1928 Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. NY: Coward McCann [Also Issued In Deluxe Edition]
1928 Willy Pogany's Mother Goose. New York: Nelson [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1929 Pirate Twins by William Nicholson. London: Faber & Faber [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1930 First Picture Book by Edward Steichen. New York: Harcourt Brace
1930 Mother Goose Picture Book by Berta and Elmer Hader. New York: Coward McCann
1930 Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. NY: Platt & Munk
1931 L'Histoire De Babar by Jean de Brunhoff. Paris: Jardin Des Modes [First Ed. In English pub. in 1933 in New York by Smith & Haas]
1931 Adventures of Mickey Mouse Book 1 by the Disney Studios. Philadelphia: McKay
1932 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. New York: Harper Bros.
1933 Story about Ping by Margery Flack illus. Kurt Wiese. New York: Viking
1934 Mary Poppins by P.l. Travers. London: Gerald Howe
1936 Giant Otto & Otto at Sea by William Pene du Bois. New York: Viking
1936 Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain . London: Oxford Univ. Press
1937 And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss. New York: Vanguard
1937 Hobbitt by J.R.R. Tolkien. London
1937 Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. New York: Viking
1937 Animals of the Bible Illustrated by Dorothy Lathrop. New York: Stokes
1938 Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. New York: Simon & Schuster
1938 Pumpkin Moonshine by Tasha Tudor. New York: Oxford Univ. Press
1939 Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
1939 World Is Round by Gertrude Stein. New York: William Scott [Also Issued in Limited Edition]
1939 Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Illus. by N.C. Wyeth. NY: Scribner. [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition in 1940]
1940 Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt. New York: Simon & Schuster
1941 Curious George by H.A. Rey. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
1941 Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. New York: Viking
1943 Little Prince by A. St. Exupery. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1947 Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. New York: Harper Brothers
1950 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. London: Bles
1952 Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. New York: Harper Bros.
1955 Eloise by Kay Thompson. New York: Simon & Schuster
1962 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. New York: Ariel
1963 Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. New York: Harper & Row

About the author

Helen Younger and her husband Marc, the proprietors of Aleph-Bet Books, are among the top children's book dealers in the country. This article first appeared in Firsts Magazine (Volume 3 No. 12) and is presented here, with our thanks, by permission of the author.