Aleph-Bet Books has issued a new catalogue of Children's Books & Illustrated Books, or Catalogue 105, numerically speaking. As always, they manage to get precisely 600 items onto the pages, each with a complete description and a color photograph. Few children's books have anywhere near the detail and illustration of an Aleph-Bet catalogue. Here are some items we found this time.
We start with a first edition of The Night Before Christmas. Well, sort of. This edition of Clement Moore's classic (or whoever wrote it for those who do not believe it was Moore) was published in 1858. The world first read the poem half a century earlier. However, Moore did not call it “The Night Before Christmas.” His title was “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Somewhere along the line, readers must have decided they liked the poem's opening line better than Moore's choice for a title, as few know it by the original name anymore. Item 131. Priced at $2,750.
Going back a century and longer, many books written for children were filled with ugly stereotypes – racial, ethnic, religious and more. And then, sometimes you find a book that was promoting values we firmly hold today, but were way ahead of their time then. Item 26 comes from a time when women could not vote, and were generally limited to housework no matter what their own dreams and capabilities might have been. The title is Our Famous Women. An Authorized Record of the Lives and Deeds of Distinguished American Women of Our Times. Their time was 1884, and this book contains profiles of 30 notable women who helped shape their times. Many of the women profiled also wrote profiles of others. The publisher states that the hope is that these stories of women overcoming discouragement and struggle would inspire others to achieve their ambitions. Among the women profiled were Susan B. Anthony, Louisa May Alcott, Clara Barton, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Julia Ward Howe, and Lucretia Mott. Writers included Stowe and Howe, along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others. $400.
Item 107 is an inscribed copy of one of those great childhood classics, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. No, Mike hasn't inscribed it, nor has Mary Anne, the steam shovel. However, author Virginia Lee Burton has put her signature to the 1939 first edition, first printing, thanking the recipient for his help. $8,500.
While Mary Anne is Ms. Burton's most famous piece of heavy equipment, in 1943 she published the story of Katy and the Big Snow. Katy was a snow plow, and with the city of Geoppolis buried in snow, and various important people in desperate need of help, Katy led the way to their rescue. And, she didn't even have to be converted into a boiler like poor Mary Anne to become a hero. Item 109. $2,850.
Item 568 is a double-signed copy of Love Letters of Mark Twain, signed by the author both as “Mark Twain” and “S. L. Clemens.” This is from a limited edition of 155 copies, published in 1949. Twain was 114 years old at the time, making his signatures amazingly steady for someone of his age. It is even more amazing when one considers that in 1949, Twain had been dead for 39 years. There is an explanation, and no, forgery is not it. Fifty years earlier, Harper Brothers planned a signed Twain book and had Twain sign pages in advance of publication. It took a little longer than anyone expected for Harper to pull the old pages out of the vault and bind them within a new Twain edition. $5,000.