Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - February - 2010 Issue

Children's Books from Aleph-Bet

Alephbet93

Six hundred more books from Aleph-Bet.


By Michael Stillman

Aleph-Bet Books recently issued their Catalogue 93 of Children's Books and Illustrated Books. Those familiar with Aleph-Bet's catalogues will recognize it instantly. As always, there are 600 items, each well described, with an accompanying color photograph. It is filled with the books of your childhood, and those of your ancestors, back perhaps six or seven generations. Children's books provide a wonderful look at their eras, combining fantasy with the morals, values, and prejudices each generation wanted to instill within its children. Sometimes the messages are subtle, other times blatant (such as a Dr. Seuss creature encouraging parents to buy war bonds). Whichever, these books tell us as much about the real world of their times as they do about the imaginary ones they often describe. Here are a few of them.

No book has come to symbolize the prejudices of another era as much as this book, though it is hardly one of the greatest offenders. Item 81 is an 1899 first edition of Little Black Sambo, by Helen Bannerman. It is the story of a little boy, from India, not Africa, who eventually outwits some tigers who steal his clothes. The story itself is inoffensive, and if Bannerman had not used the word "black" to describe the character, it might well still be a popular and uncontroversial tale. However, particularly as later editions used increasingly stereotypical and offensive illustrations, "Sambo" became a degrading term. It's all terribly unfortunate. The era was filled with children's books far more offensive, including countless versions of the "Ten Little N.....s." Priced at $12,500.

The English world had its stereotypical views of foreigners a century ago too. Item 308 is My Very First Little Book of Other Countries, featuring the illustrations of John Hassall, published in 1910. For example, in the brief description of Turkey, it says, "They take things easy there - a Turk is never very fond of work." $150.

In the 18th century, children's writers were still focused on the more basic of lessons to teach their young. Item 237 is The School of Good Manners, an 1808 Boston edition of a book originally published in England in 1754. It teaches children important lessons, such as "Spit not in the room, but in the fireplace," and "If thou wantest any thing from the servants call to them softly." Yes, I must remember to treat my servants more politely. $1,200.

Some "children's" books are really meant for adults. Item 27 is an alphabet book entitled Little Book of Bores, by Oliver Herford, published in 1906. For example, "T is the Terrible Tot / Who says things he'd much better not / A thing of that age / Should be kept in a cage / And fed (if at all) through a slot." I don't think this was really meant for children. $150.

Item 193 is the first English language edition of a tale that became a children's favorite: Story of a Puppet, or the Adventures of Pinocchio. The story had first been published serially in a magazine from 1881-1883, and published in book form in Italy in 1883. However, it took almost a decade before it reached the English-speaking world with this 1892 edition. $8,000.

Here is a book I cannot see a need for: Guidebook for the Basic Primer Fun with Dick and Jane, by William and Lillian Gray, published in 1940. Was there a need for a teachers' edition of this book? Is there some deep meaning to "Run, Spot, Run" that requires a further explanation? Teachers couldn't figure this out without a cheat sheet? Item 213. $300.

You most likely think of L. Frank Baum as the writer of the Oz books, but if quantity is the prime consideration, then that title belongs to Ruth Plumly Thompson. Thompson took over for Baum after he died in 1919, and wrote more Oz books over the next two decades than Baum wrote. When she retired from the post, the next couple of books were written by John R. Neill, who had illustrated all but the first of Baum's Oz books and all of Thompson's. While the two collaborated on all of Thompson's Oz books, they worked together on only one non-Oz book, The Curious Cruise of Captain Santa, published in 1926. This was a Christmas fantasy written by Thompson and illustrated by Neill. Item 544. $800.

Aleph-Bet Books may be reached at 914-764-7410 or Helen@alephbet.com. Their website is found at www.alephbet.com.

You will find many of Aleph-Bet's books listed in "Books For Sale" on this site. Click here.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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