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>Doyle: Hunting Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake” Johnson. Online only auction Aug 3-14</b>
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>The Sportsman's Portfolio of American Field Sports.</i> 1855. Est: $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Bishop's Birds. Etchings of Water-Fowl and Upland Game Birds.</i> 1936. Est: $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hunting Big Game in Far Northwest British Columbia</i>. 1904. Est: $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Mananaland. Adventuring with Camera and Rifle Through California in Mexico.</i> 1929. Est: $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle: Hunting Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake” Johnson. Online only auction Aug 3-14</b>
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Grand Canyon Trails.</i> 1924. Est: $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia. A Narrative of a nine months’ journey..</i> 1902. Est: $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hunting in Tanzania [...in Zimbabwe; ...the Sudan; ...in Botswana; ...in Ethiopia; ...in Zambia; ...in South Africa; ...in Kenya]</i>. 1991-2000. Est: $800 to $1200
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hounds and Hunting through the Ages ... with an Introduction by the Earl of Lonsdale</i>. 1928. Est: $600 to $900
  • <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>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000

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