Category Archives: Children’s Books

A Donation to Children’s Illustration: A Short Tribute to Randolph Caldecott

Randolph Caldecott was born in March of 1846 in a city called Chester, England. He left school at the tender age of fifteen and went to work in a bank branch. In 1861 he saw published his first drawing – and despite the fact that he was to be most remembered for his humorous depictions and lively countryside scenes, Caldecott’s first published work would be of a catastrophic fire at the Queens Railway Hotel in Chester which, along with his write-up of the event, appeared in the Illustrated London News. In his early twenties Caldecott was able to transfer to the Manchester & Salford Bank in the thriving Northern city and began to take night classes at the Manchester School of Art, all while continuing to have his sketches published locally. Upon making the acquaintance of Henry Blackburn and getting published in the London Society, Caldecott realized his talent could be enough to support him and at the young age of 26, he quit his banking job to move to London. In 1869 Caldecott exhibited an illustration in the Royal Manchester Institute, and 7 years later was displayed once more, this time at the Royal Academy. In 1872 he was elected to the Royal Institute of Watercolour Painting.

Randolph Caldecott.

One of the only surviving images of Randolph Caldecott. 

In 1877 Caldecott’s life would change forever, as he filled in for Walter Crane’s absence in the production of two small children’s Christmas Books – The House that Jack Built and The Diverting History of John Gilpin with color printer Edmund Evans. He would go on to create/illustrate two children’s stories for Evans at Christmastime until his death in 1886. These children’s stories became standards as Christmas annuals and were immensely popular, bringing Caldecott fame from around the world. As an enterprising young man, he also became quite wealthy from his work. As the website states, “Randolph Caldecott is believed to be the first author/illustrator to have negotiated with his publisher to receive, instead of a fixed fee, a ‘Royalty’ per book sold: he received one old penny per book (there were 12 pence to the shilling). The first print run was a cautious 10,000 copies. They were so popular that by July 1886, 5 months after his death, over 800,000 copies had been sold.

Caldecott often visited warmer climates in the winter months, due to consistently bad health (after an illness at a young age the illustrator continuously suffered from a heart condition and gastritis). The last winter of his life, he and his wife Marian Brind traveled to New York and down to Florida. Unfortunately it was an abnormally cold winter, even in Florida, and Caldecott took ill and never returned to the United Kingdom. His last days were lived in St. Augustine, where he died on February 12th, 1886.

The Caldecott Medal with it's replication of The Diverting History of John Gilpin illustration.

The Caldecott Medal with its replication of The Diverting History of John Gilpin illustration.

Let us now turn to the story behind the annual award to a children’s book illustrator named in Caldecott’s honor. Rene Paul Chambellan, an American architectural sculptor who specialized in the Art Deco style, designed the medal in 1937. The medal itself depicts two of Caldecott’s most famous illustrations – a scene from his work The Diverting History of John Gilpin and one of his nursery rhyme “Song of Sixpence.” After the Newbery medal was created (also in 1937 – as an award for distinguished children’s literature), “many persons became concerned that the artists creating picture books for children were as deserving of honor and encouragement as were the authors of children’s books, Frederic G. Melcher suggested in 1937 the establishment of a second annual medal. This medal is to be given to the artist who had created the most distinguished picture book of the year” ( – American Library Association). The rules of the Caldecott award are quite simple, really. It must be a book with original work (whether also written by the illustrator or not) by an American citizen or resident (or in a U.S. Commonwealth) that distinguishes itself in the field of children’s illustration. The medal itself weighs just over 3 pounds, and is not worn but rather presented in a box for display.

"And the Dish ran away with the Spoon!" An Illustration by Caldecott, demonstrating his humorous, exciting and moving illustrations.

“And the Dish ran away with the Spoon!” An Illustration by Caldecott, demonstrating his humorous, exciting and moving illustrations.

Though the reason for a British illustrator being chosen as the figurehead/namesake of an American award continues to confuse some of the American public, the American Library Association website claims (rightly so) that Caldecott was one of three of the most influential children’s illustrators working in the 19th century. Along with Walter Crane and Kate Greenaway, Caldecott helped shape an entirely new generation of children’s illustration with his humorous visuals. As ALA states, “his illustrations for children were unique to their time in both their humor, and their ability to create a sense of movement, vitality, and action that complemented the stories they accompanied.” We cannot deny the fame that Caldecott experienced, even in his short period as an artist, but we also cannot deny the influence he exerted on illustrating for children and the importance of humor, color and excitement in his pieces. Thank you Randolph Caldecott!


Tavistock Books’ Almost-Annual Reference Book Workshop

There is a significant difference between booksellers who advertise their wares with professional descriptions, a clear understanding of the item in question, an honest assessment with regard to the item’s condition… and your typical eBay/Amazon blasters: “FREE SHIPPING! May or may not have highlighting and/or missing pages.” The pride in being a Good (or VG+) bookseller comes from the ability to sell something about which you are knowledgeable and which is priced confidently and accurately.

Oftentimes, as booksellers, we hear the question “Why?” Why is this book worth $495? Why would I pay that much for a book which Joe Shmoe, Bookseller offers for $29.99? There is no shame in asking these questions. Even booksellers can look at their colleagues’ wares and stare confusedly at the screen while waiting for the computer to sprout tiny-computer legs and giggle, while simultaneously erasing that last 0 or two. All that being said, however…. what can give booksellers the ability to price confidently and describe accurately? Two words.

Reference Books.Reference Books

If you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you have looked at listings of antiquarian books before and have noticed some crazy notations in our write-ups. What is a BAL11092? Or a Gabler G2390? An average person has a good chance of not particularly understanding what the numbers mean. Heck, another bookseller might not even have a clue to what you are referring. A good bookseller will know, however, that the inclusion of those small jumbles of letters and numbers beyond their edition statements represent the dedication and honesty of the person offering the item. They have gone to the trouble of understanding what they hold in their hands, so that their customer can have the guarantee and peace-of-mind that they are buying a 1st/1st, a 1st edition thus, or a reprint. What allows a reference book to (sometimes) up the price or (often) lower the price? Well… I guess you’ll just have to take the Tavistock Books’ Reference Book Workshop to find out!

This year’s course took place this past Saturday, the 23rd of August. The day-long course consists of an intense look at different genres of reference books, their scope, and their usefulness to the book-selling, book-collecting and book-cataloguing trades. Sections covered include Literature (do the acronyms NUC or NCBEL mean anything to you? Here’s where you will find them explained!), Americana (with an emphasis on Western Americana & California… can you say Kurutz three times fast?), Children’s Books, Early Printed Books, and Online Reference Tools. This course is a fast-paced survey, useful for any bookseller, collector, or librarian interested in understanding the tools booksellers use to identify and price their books.

Workshop 2014

This year’s workshop was attended by 4 booksellers (some new, some slightly seasoned), two librarians, and a lover of all things book-related. Intelligent questions were asked, anecdotes shared, and quite a bit of knowledge imparted on these smiling (though, by the end of the day, slightly haggard) faces. Due to the limited amount of space in the shop (where the workshop is held), we cap the number of “pupils” at 7 per year. Should you be interested in attending, please email and ask to be included on our mailing list, so that when the reminder comes about next spring to sign up, you can be first on the list!

The workshop truly is helpful to those dealing with the book-trade, and the Tavistock Books Reference Collection of over 3,000 reference volumes alone are worth the trip to see! And, as per tradition, lunch is on us at a great sushi place on our charming island of Alameda, CA. Interested in attending a workshop one day? Let us know!



Horatio Alger, Jr: Failed Minister Turned Juvenile Fiction Author

Today we remember Horatio Alger, Jr for his numerous children’s novels–and often little else. The prolific author’s life was shrouded in mystery and fabrication for decades, making him an even more fascinating figure for collectors of rare and antiquarian books.

A Childhood of Privation

Born on January 13, 1832 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Alger was the son of Reverend Horatio Alger and Oliv (Fenno) Alger. His mother was the daughter of a wealthy local merchant, but the Alger family always struggled financially. Reverend Alger was an able minister, but the post didn’t pay much. After all, as the saying goes, “A doornail is as dead as Chelsea.”

To supplement his pastoral income, the elder Alger served as the town’s postmaster, tended a small farm, and even occasionally taught grammar school. These various pursuits left little time for educating his son; Alger supposedly did not learn his alphabet until he was six years old or receive any formal education until age ten. his education was also skewed toward algebra and Latin.

Alger's work first appeared in print when he was only seventeen years old, in 'Chivalry & Voices of the Past' in Pictorial National Library.

Alger’s work first appeared in print when he was only seventeen years old, in ‘Chivalry & Voices of the Past’ in Pictorial National Library.

Ultimately Reverend Alger’s efforts were insufficient, and he had to surrender the family’s land to creditors in 1844. The family moved to Marlborough, about halfway between Boston and Worchester. Alger attended Gates Academy there for three years, from 1845 to 1847, graduating at age fifteen.

The following year, Alger attended Harvard University. He paid for tuition by acting as the “President’s freshman,” that is, the student who runs errands for the president. Alger’s uncle Cyril Alger, a wealthy industrialist, also contributed to his tuition. Alger distinguished himself as a student, winning numerous academic awards and prizes for his essays. After Alger graduated in 1852, he reflected, “no period in my life has been one of such unmixed happiness as the four years which have been spent within college walls.”

An Uncertain Future

In September 1853, Alger entered Harvard Divinity School–but soon withdrew to take a position as assistant editor of the Boston Daily Advertiser. He soon left that position as well, taking a series of jobs as teacher, principal, and private tutor. During this period, Alger published two hardcover books: a collection of previously published works, Bertha’s Christmas Vision (1856); and the satirical poem Nothing to Do (1857). Even with both teaching and writing, Alger couldn’t earn a decent living. He reentered Harvard Divinity School in July 1857 and graduated on July 17, 1860.

Horatio_Alger_JrAlger’s first assignment was a congregation in Chicopee, Massachusetts. He took the post and immediately started planning a grand tour of Europe. To fund the trip, Alger agreed to write travel columns for the New York Sun. He set off in September 1860 and would remain in Europe for ten months. Alger returned to an embattled country at the dawn of the Civil War.

Though he was drafted, Alger’s poor health and diminutive stature kept him on the home front. Meanwhile, Alger was increasingly frustrated with his inability to make a living as a writer. At this point, the majority of his works had been comedic sketches for adults. Many of them were published under pseudonyms because Alger himself thought them second-rate.

Noting that books for children weren’t exactly in great supply, Alger decided to shift his focus to writing children’s dime novels. He contacted AK Loring with an outline for Frank’s Campaign, a story about a boy who assembles a junior army while his father is fighting in the Civil War. The book was published in 1864. In November of that year, Alger accepted a new ministerial position in Brewster, Massachusetts. While still fulfilling all his pastoral responsibilities, Alger wrote Paul Prescott’s Charge (1865), which received favorable reviews.

In January 1866, two boys in Alger’s congregation accused the minister of having molested them. Alger admitted that his behavior had been “imprudent” and immediately submitted his resignation. Though the congregation wanted to charge Alger publicly, the American Unitarian Association convinced them to keep the matter quiet and be satisfied with Alger’s resignation and the assurance that he would never be a minister again. The congregation acquiesced, and after a brief stint at his parents’ home, Alger moved to New York City.

New Start in the Big Apple

That year Alger published three books: Timothy Crump’s Ward, Charlie Codman’s Cruise, and Helen Ford. The first two were merely revisions of earlier serial strories. The books were well received, but they didn’t generate particularly strong sales. In 1867, Alger submitted Ragged Dick, or Street Life in New York to Student and Schoolmate magazine. Ragged Dick recounted the tale of a young bootblack living on the streets of New York.

The story built on Alger’s fascination with boys who lived on the city’s streets, then known as “street Arabs.” Alger visited the places these boys frequented, including the Newsboys’ Lodging House, where the boys could get a meal and a bed for whatever they could afford to pay. Alger often championed their cause and also took boys in himself. These boys often served as the inspiration for his stories.

Ragged Dick was so popular that Student and Schoolmate invited Alger to be a regular contributor, and Loring published an expanded version later that year. Alger signed on with Loring to write five more books in the Ragged Dick series: Fame and Fortune (1868); Mark the Match Boy (1869); Rough and Ready (1869); Ben the Luggage Boy (1870); and Rufus and Rose (1870). None of these were anywhere near as popular as Ragged Dick. But Alger, determined to make his living as an author, wrote at an incredible pace. He submitted articles to a number of magazines, from Ballou’s and Harper’s, to New York Weekly and Young Israel.


Photo Credit: Stanford University

He also agreed to write more series for Loring. These included the “Luck and Pluck Series,” the “Brave and Bold Series,” and the “Tattered Tim Series.” Many of these remained in print for quite a while. It’s evident, too, from the cover of the Boy’s Home Weekly (pictured at right), that Alger’s name sold magazines; that’s why it appears not once, but twice on the magazine’s cover.

Meanwhile Alger still aspired to write for adults–a dream he’d never fully realize. Though a few pieces were published, children’s dime novels financially sustained him. He published a poetry collection, Grand’ther Baldwin’s Thanksgiving in 1875 and a novel called The New Schoolma’am; or, A Summer in North Sparta in 1877.

Alger also wrote a novel called Mabel Parker but decided to wait to publish it because of a slump in the book trade. It would be published posthumously by Edward Stratemeyer with revisions and under the title Jerry, the Backwoods Boy (1904). Gary Scharnhorst published the original version in 1986 under the Archon Books imprint.

Time for Reinvention as an Author

In 1873, Alger took a second tour of Europe, this time returning in time for the stock market crash of 1874. Soon after, he departed on a tour of the western United States. Alger found himself running out of ideas, so he shifted his books’ settings, placing them in new locales rather than big cities. These works sold well, but by this time Alger was publishing to a saturated market. Dime novels for children had proliferated, and Alger’s sales began to drop.

Deadwood_Dick_Denver_DollsTo keep up with the market, Alger began making his stories more lurid. He incorporated violence and criminal activity, similar to what one would find in Edward S Ellis’ Deadwood Dick stories. This proved an ill-advised move. Newspapers, schools, and other organizations had begun protesting violent literature for children.

The Boston Herald editors specifically called out Alger, noting that “boys who are raw at reading [and want] fighting, killing, and thrilling adventures…go for ‘Oliver Optic’ and Horatio Alger’s books.” Clearly this strategy was not the answer Alger had been looking for.

When President James Garfield died in 1881, Alger’s friend John R Anderson suggested that Alger write a biography of the president for children. By this time, sales were flagging, and Alger needed a new source of income. He reasoned that critics could hardly say something terrible about a presidential biography without seeming unpatriotic, so he gave it a try. Alger put together the manuscript in only fourteen days, using other biographies and news clippings. From Canal Boy to President got good reviews, so Alger wrote two more biographies. From Boy to Senator (about Daniel Webster) was published in 1882, and Abraham Lincoln, the Backwoods Boy came out in 1883.

Alger increasingly spent time out of the city to protect his lungs from smoke and soot. When his health began failing in 1898, he permanently relocated to his sister’s farm. Alger desperately wanted to keep writing, but he simply couldn’t. He decided to hire a ghostwriter to complete the manuscript of Out for Business, settling on editor Edward Stratemeyer. Stratemeyer was ill as well, and was not able to begin work on the manuscript until after Alger had died on July 18th, 1899. By the time Stratemeyer finished the book (both parts – Out for Business and Falling in with Fortune) in 1900, the book would be published posthumously in Alger’s name.

Collecting Books by and about Horatio Alger, Jr

When Alger passed away, his sister respected his wishes that his diaries and personal correspondence be destroyed. That left a momentous task for any would-be biographers. In 1927, Herbert Mayes was commissioned to write Alger’s biography but quickly grew frustrated with the task; there was little extant record of Alger’s life, and his contemporaries were reluctant to share information.

Mayes gave up. He decided to write a parody of Alger instead, opting for the scandalous tell-all format so popular in that era. “All I had to do was come up with a fairy tale…the going was easy, particularly when I decided to write copiously from Alger’s diary. If Alger kept a diary, I knew nothing about it,” Mayes admitted in an introduction to a reissue of his Alger: A Biography Without a Hero.

Mayes did not admit the book was a fake until the 1970′s. By then, plenty of revisions–equally fallacious–had been written. A true biography would not emerge until 1985, with Gary Scharnhorst and Jack Bales’ The Lost Life of Horatio Alger, Jr. For collectors of the author, this plenitude of biographies makes for a fascinating collection in its own right, and the biographies certainly complement a collection of Alger’s literature.

Meanwhile Alger was an incredibly prolific author; by the time of his death, Alger’s name was on 537 novels and short stories (including variant titles); 94 poems; and 27 articles. He also wrote under a number of pseudonyms (the ones we know: Carl Cantab, Harry Hampton, Caroline F Preston, Charles F Preston, Arthur Lee Putnam, and Julian Starr).

It’s likely that Alger used other pseudonyms we don’t know about, so some of his works may be lost forever. It’s also possible that a savvy collector or scholar could eventually identify other works that should be attributed to Alger. Collectors rely on bibliographies by Bob Bennett and Ralph D Gardner, but sometimes these experts even disagree on bibliographic points. Bennett’s bibliography, A Collector’s Guide to the Published Works of Horatio Alger, Jr 1832-1899 is considered the definitive bibliography.

Because of the sheer number of various Alger editions, a bibliography is indispensable to Alger collectors. It’s important to identify the right points of issue, which may be as obvious as a different title or minute as a tiny artistic detail on the book’s dust jacket. Some books may not be true first editions, but really “first editions thus,” that is, they represent the first time a book was published in a particular format. In some cases, for instance, the paperback edition was published before the hardback, so the hardback book is not the true first edition, but it could still be the first edition thus, meaning it was the first hardback edition. The Horatio Alger Society offers a terrific online guide to identifying first editions, which is a wonderful supplement to a full bibliography.

Ultimately, however, collecting Horatio Alger books will indeed require a bibliography because he so frequently published serially in magazines and other periodicals. These items can be tough to track down because they were not meant to last a long time and were generally printed on very cheap paper. This scarcity is yet another reason why so many find collecting Alger a challenging and engaging pursuit.

Have a question about collecting Alger? Interested in building a personal library of juvenile fiction? We’re happy to help! Please feel free to contact us with inquiries.

Related Posts:
The In’s and Out’s of Collecting Serial Fiction for Children
A Panoply of Primers
Irwin and Erastus Beadle: Innovators in Publishing Popular Literature
Three Pioneering Authors Who Used Pseudonyms

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L Frank Baum and the Hub City Nine


L_Frank_BaumL Frank Baum is best remembered as the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), but writing was certainly not his first occupation. Baum was, like many men of his generation, a jack of all trades and a master of none; he’d pursued a number of careers–all with little success. He went to Aberdeen, South Dakota looking for a fresh start…only to find himself running a new baseball club, the Hub City Nine.

A Nascent Metropolis

When Baum arrived in Aberdeen in 1888, the town was rapidly growing, and it wasn’t much like the stereotypical frontier town. Founded in 1881, Aberdeen was populated not with farmers and cowboys, but with college educated citizens who’d come West for cheap land. They arrived by train and immediately set about reestablishing life as they’d known it back East. Aberdeen’s citizens went to local events in full dinner dress. They enjoyed champagne and other delicacies. By 1885, assessment reports show that there were 135 pianos for a town of 2,500 people. Electric lights were available the following year.

Baum and his family moved to Aberdeen because Baum’s wife, Maud desperately missed her family. Her brother, TC Gage, had already settled in Aberdeen, and her sisters lived relatively close by. Baum had read reports of the town’s burgeoning prosperity in the June 2, 1888 edition of the Aberdeen Daily News. Overly impressed, he wrote to his brother-in-law, “In your country, there is an opportunity to be somebody, to take a good position, and opportunities are constantly arising where an intelligent man may profit.” He confided that he planned to open a novelty store, “not a 5¢ store, but a Bazaar on the same style as the ‘Fair’ in Chicago…and keeping a line of goods especially saleable in that locality.”


Baum’s Bazaar

Baum opened up Baum’s Bazaar on October 1, 1888. Over 1,000 people attended the grand opening. He’d stocked up on all kinds of luxury goods, from amateur photography equipment to sporting goods. There was no shortage of interest in his wares: the Christmas crowd numbered over 1,200. On December 3, 1888, the Aberdeen Daily News reported, “Baum’s Bazaar is an [Aladdin's] chamber of wonders and beauty.”

Aberdeen Gets a Baseball Club

As far as Baum was concerned, Aberdeen lacked only one important thing: a baseball team. Though Baum had never been a great athlete, he’d undoubtedly played the sport casually and watched local club teams play in upstate New York. However he encountered the game, Baum was an enthusiastic “crank,” as baseball fans were then called. As soon as he settled into Aberdeen, he went about rallying support to start a club team.


From the June 14, 1889 edition of ‘Aberdeen Daily News’

Baum reasoned that the sport would be great for the community and for his business; he hoped to sell plenty of Spalding sporting equipment during the baseball season. Meanwhile, larger cities like Omaha, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Des Moines, and Sioux City already had baseball teams. Getting a baseball club could put Aberdeen on the map in a new way. The Aberdeen Daily News spoke positively, saying “Nothing creates enthusiasm like base ball, and nothing will draw a crowd so continuously as the national game closely contested and honorably played.”

Baum convinced a group of Aberdeen businessmen that the city needed a baseball club. Baum so impressed the men with his enthusiasm, they named him secretary of the club and appointed him to the constitution and by-laws committee. They named the club the Hub City Nine, a reference to Aberdeen’s nickname as the Hub City because seven rail lines converged there. The first 210 shares sold at at $10 each in three days, and the remaining 90 sold shortly thereafter. Baum also spearheaded an effort to sell advertising space on the baseball field’s back fence.

The group was so industrious and successful in their fundraising, it drew the attention of nearby communities. In the Fargo Daily Argus, baseball club manager Con. Walker complained, “The citizens of Aberdeen contributed $3,000 to their base ball team this season. The Fargo people have done nothing for the club in the last two years.” Walker entreated the town to support the home team if they wanted the club to continue and flourish.

A Promising Start


Even an “official” baseball size was new in 1889!

Baum and the other board members believed that organizing a league was critical to their success, so Baum headed up efforts to organize the South Dakota League. When the league was formalized on June 7, 1889, all the participating teams contributed $100. The Hub City Nine also strove to legitimize itself further by adopting the National League Rules. At the time, the rules of baseball had yet to be normalized, and the National League, Western Association, and American Association all had different rules. The National League, founded in 1876, was the oldest and most powerful of these organizations.

When it came time to recruit players, the Hub City Nine offered $50 per month, plus room and board. To sweeten the pot, club president Jewett offered a box of cigars to the first man to hit a ball over the center field fence. Baum threw in another box for the player who hit the first home run. And local grocers Thompson and Kearney promised $25 to anyone who hit a ball into the “Hit Me for $25″ box on the fence where they advertised.

The National League forbade gambling or selling liquor on the premises, along with holding games on Sundays. The Hub City Nine took these rules a step further because they wanted the games to be family- and (more importantly) female-friendly. Profanity was prohibited. Both players and spectators were to treat the opposing team with the utmost respect, and “no unseemly or ungentlemanly conduct [was] allowed on the ball grounds.”

On May 29, 1889, the Hub City Nine players gathered for their first practice. The event was free to attend, and a healthy number of spectators showed up to observe the proceedings. The first game, a warm-up against Redfield, sold over 1,000 tickets. There was not enough room in the stands to hold them all! Baum later managed to get the St. Paul Indians to come to town for a game. The club raised admission to 50 cents, from 25, and though people grumbled, they still purchased tickets for the game. The Milwaukee railroad ran three extra trains to bring the fans into town. The game brought sorely needed funds back to the club.

A Baseball Feud

Indeed, the Hub City Nine games were so popular, “half as many people perched on the fence and on buildings and elevations surrounding as there were in the enclosure,” according to the Aberdeen Daily News. The paper called this a “detestable practice.” Lester J. Ives, in particular, drew the ire of the paper’s editors. Ives’ house was directly across the street from the baseball field, and he would sell rooftop seats for a dime each. Ives was vilified in the local paper: “The antics of this individual…have thoroughly disgusted the people without exception. He is evidently a baseball crank–but of the hog species–without shame or self-respect.”

These interloping spectators robbed the club of vital revenue. So the club installed latticework on top of the fence. Ives responded by outfitting his roof with higher chairs. Infuriated, team manager Henry Marple threatened to turn the stream of a railroad hose on the unauthorized spectators. Finally, the club had to hang canvas over the latticework.Yet Baum came to Ives’ defense. In an article for the newspaper, he argued that “Mr. Ives is not so black as he has been painted” and said that he didn’t deserve insult. Thanks to Baum’s conciliatory efforts, the conflict was resolved by July 25, 1889: Ives agreed to give the club jurisdiction over his property during baseball games.

Short-Lived Success

That inaugural season, the Hub City Nine were the unofficial champions of the Dakotas; they defeated every team in North Dakota and South Dakota. Unfortunately the players still struggled to work as a team, and fans failed to show up in sufficient numbers. Although some of the Ives fans came and bought full-price tickets, the Hub City Nine games didn’t draw enough fans to keep their coffers full. The first season, the club lost about $1,000. Baum was perhaps most disappointed with the season’s outcome; he’d been convinced that Aberdeen could easily support a baseball club. Dejected, he said, “If we are to have a baseball team next year, I am of the opinion that someone else will have to do the work.”

Baum’s Bazaar suffered the same fate. After scarcely a year in business, Baum suffered the “temporary embarrassment” of handing his business over to his creditors. He purchased a newspaper and renamed it the Saturday Pioneer. While the citizens of Aberdeen enjoyed Baum’s writing, the newspaper also folded after only a year. Baum could not handle the stress of being a business owner, and his health suffered. He took a job in Chicago working for a newspaper. The move would set in motion a series of events that resulted in one of the most iconic and beloved stories of the twentieth century, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.


Related Posts:
L Frank Baum’s Forgotten Foray into Theatre
Rare Books about Baseball Are a Home Run! 
The Rare Books of Baseball
Irwin and Erastus Beadle, Innovators in Publishing Popular Literature


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George Alfred Henty, Controversial Author of Juvenile Fiction

George_Alfred_HentyThe late nineteenth century was truly a golden age in children’s literature. As the concept of childhood evolved, didacticism fell out of style and children’s authors focused more on stimulating their readers’ imaginations with exciting, engaging tales. George Alfred Henty was one of the most popular figures of the era. His historical adventure stories appealed to both children and young adults, but Henty was a controversial figure even in his own time.

From Soldier to Special Correspondent

Henty was born on December 8, 1832 in Trumpington, outside Cambridge. A sickly child, he entertained himself by diving into books and remained an avid reader all his life. Henty attended Westminster School, and then Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he distinguished himself as a sportsman. But Henty left school before earning a degree; he and his brother decided to volunteer for the Army when the Crimean War began. Henty was assigned to the Army Hospital Commissariat. Conditions at the front were horrible, and Henty sent his father detailed letters about the appalling state of affairs. His father submitted the letters to the Morning Advertiser, which published them enthusiastically.

Henty_Rujub_JugglerSeeing little promise of promotion, Henty resigned from the Army in 1859. He married Elizabeth Finucane shortly thereafter, but the union would be a short one; Elizabeth died in 1865 after a long illness. Left with children and unsure of his career path, Henty decided to begin writing for the Standard newspaper. By 1866, he was working as a special correspondent. During his career, Henty would cover the Franco-Prussian War; the Carlist Rebellion in Spain; the Turco-Serbian War; the opening of the Suez Canal; and the Dreyfus Trial.

Meanwhile Henty loved to regale his children with adventure stories at dinnertime. He decided to put the tales on paper and wrote his first children’s novel, Out of the Pampas, in 1868, naming the main characters after his children. Griffith & Farran published the book in 1870 (though the title page lists the year as 1871). Henty went on to write over 100 books, not only children’s fiction, but also adult novels and non-fiction. However, his children’s fiction was most popular, even inspiring other authors to emulate him. Captain Frederick Sadlier, Percy F. Westerman, and Herbert Strang (the pseudonym for George Herbert Ely and Charles James L’Estrange) all tried their hand at juvenile adventure tales in the “Henty style.”

Overt Racism and Imperialism

To research his books, Henty would check out numerous books from his local library. His protagonists were usually intelligent, plucky, and modest young men–and occasionally women who were living through historically difficult times. The books were full of action and drama, appealing to young readers. But they also raised ire among many of Henty’s Victorian contemporaries–after all, Henty was hardly an unbiased author.

Henty_Frederick_Great_Seven_Years_WarDuring his own lifetime Henty was frequently accused of being xenophobic and racist. An enthusiastic imperialist, Henty also drew criticism for glorifying British imperialism. His In the Reign of Terror (1888) and No Surrender! A Tale of the Rising in La Vendee (1900) were decidedly hostile toward the patriots of the French Revolution, and in True to the Old Flag (1885), Henty took a Loyalist stance regarding the American Revolutionary War. With Lee in Virginia (1890) also raised eyebrows for supporting the “aristocratic” Confederacy of the Civil War.

In the 1990′s, Henty’s books were taken up by conservative Christians and home-schoolers because of their wholesome protagonists. But these stories are also frequently criticized for being jingoist and promoting racism. A Roving Commission,or Through the Black Insurrection at Hayti (1900) is overtly racist, making it an inappropriate text from which to teach that period of history.

Collecting George Alfred Henty Books

Henty has remained a popular figure among book collectors because his stories are so captivating and his works were so prodigious; in total, Henty penned 144 books, myriad short stories, and numerous pieces for several periodicals. Collectors usually rely on the second edition of Peter Newbolt’s GA Henty, 1832-1902 for bibliographic guidance. George Manville Fenn published a biography of Henty in 1907, but the work is generally considered too dispassionate. Thus the Henty Society is publishing a new biography, due out this year.

Henty’s books often have intricately designed bindings, often appealing to collectors in their own right. It’s quite rare to find these books in their original dust jackets, so most collectors settle for jacket-less copies in the best condition possible.

Though George Alfred Henty never became a household name in children’s literature, he nevertheless left an indelible mark on the genre. Henty’s books will continue to delight readers and collectors alike for ages to come.



A Panoply of Primers

For centuries, children’s literature consisted almost exclusively of didactic texts designed to teach basic skills like reading and writing or to impart religious lessons. During the Middle Ages, the vast majority of these texts were still written in Latin. Hornbooks with the Lord’s Prayer and the alphabet were the most common forms of children’s literature in the 1400′s, and alphabet books began showing up in Russia, Denmark, and Italy during the following century.

In the 1600′s, the concept of childhood shifted: children were no longer thought of as miniature adults, but as separate beings with their own juvenile needs and preferences. Publishers began printing books exclusively for children, though these, too, were often didactic. The seventeenth century also saw the rise of Puritanism, which again shaped people’s views of children. They were viewed not as young innocents, but as moral savages who needed stringent moral instruction.

It was not until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that children’s literature came into its own as a genre. A Little Pretty Pocket Book (1744) by John Newbery is considered the first book published for children’s pleasure reading. As technologies improved and it got cheaper to produce books, the industry blossomed. Even as pleasure reading became popular, the publication of educational materials maintained its momentum. Literacy rates began to improve, increasing the demand for, and interest in, primers and similar educational pieces.

Today, collectors can build quite extensive collections around educational materials printed for children. The broadest category of these is the primer. The first known use of the word “primer” was in the fourteenth century. The term derives from the Latin primarium, meaning “primary,” and was the name for a layperson’s prayerbook. At the time, literacy was relatively uncommon, but people did need to read their prayers. This book was often the only one in a home, so it was used to teach children to read. Eventually the term broadened and referred to any small book intended to teach reading. Today a “primer” may refer to a short, introductory piece about a specific topic or to a brief, informative piece of writing.

A Selection of Primers

We’re delighted to offer a selection of primers in a variety of subjects and time periods. Should you have a question about an item, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

The London Vocabulary

Greenwood_London_VocabularyGrammarian James Greenwood published the first edition of The London Vocabularly, English and Latin in 1713. After working for years at the Hackney Academy, Greenwood opened up his own boarding school in Essex in 1711 and was later appointed surmaster of St. Paul’s School in London. He’s best known for his An Essay on Practical Grammar (1711), which received much positive praise from a number of scholars and critics, including Isaac Watts.  The London Vocabulary went through a number of editions, both English and American, of which this is the seventeenth English edition. Details>>

The Instructor

Fisher_InstructorA quite popular primer, George Fisher’sThe Instructor  appeared in numerous editions, both throughout the United Kingdom and in America. Like many educational books at the time, it purportedly offered an easier method of learning than other primers. And also like many educational books at the time, it reminds us of just how little people really knew about geography at the time, and that this truly was an age of exploration and discovery. In this Glasgow edition, printed in 1786, California is still an enigma: “Northward, on the Pacific Ocean, is New Mexico, and the island of California; but of these we know but little.” ESTC records five holdings of this edition. Details>>

The Young Child’s ABC

Anderson_Young_Childs_ABCWritten by Alexander Anderson and illustrated by Samuel Wood, The Young Child’s ABC (1806) contains a horn book-style alphabet and a syllabary. Letters are illustrated with objects in alphabetical order. This children’s chapbook was the first item published by Wood, who would go on to have an illustrious and prolific career in the trade. He had thousands of titles under his imprint. Although four copies of later editions have come to auction in the last three decades or so, none of this first edition have come to market. It’s quite rare in the trade. Details>>

A Book Explaining the Ranks and Dignities of British Society

Lamb_Ranks_Dignities_British_SocietyCharles Lamb is best remembered for his collaboration with his sister, Mary Lamb, on Tales from Shakespeare. But he also anonymously published A Book Explaining the Ranks and Dignities of British Society in 1805. The charmingly illustrated children’s book delineates the hierarchy of the nobility, clergy, army, navy, government & professions; with their history & origins, forms of address, order of precedence, honors, with their coronets & coronation robes described, etc.This is the second edition, published in 1809. The book has been occasionally at auction these last 30+ years, though not since 2003. It’s scarce in the trade. Details>>

Le Livre des Enfans

Livre_EnfansLe Livre des Enfans was published in Quebec in 1834. Illustrated with woodcuts, the work begins with two alphabets, which are followed by the usual primer material. The cover features a short verse by Racine. Le Livre des Enfans also includes thirteen pages of animal descriptions, such as Le Zebre, Le Cheval, and Le Hibou. It’s scarce in the trade. Details>>

The New England Primer

Howland_New_England_PrimerPublished around 1840, The New England Primer bears quite a drop title: Containing the Assembly’s Catechism; The Account of the Burning of John Rogers; A Dialogue Between Christ, A Youth, and the Devil; and Various Other Useful and Instructive Matter. With a Historical Introduction, by Rev. H. Humphrey, D.D. Rogers was a biblical translator and commentator, and the first English Protestant martyr under Mary I. He was burned at the stake for heresy in February 1555. This primer bears a frontis of Isaac Watts. Though this copy has some wear to its wrappers, it’s in good condition. Details>>

Girls’ and Boys’ Primer, Part II

Girls_Boys_PrimerGirls’ and Boys’ Primer, Part II was published around 1850 by Rufus Merrill in Concord, New Hampshire. The alphabet is illustrated with woodcuts. The primer features the usual material: alphabet, poems, and lessons in spelling and writing. This copy is in the publisher’s original buff paper wrappers with ornamental border to front and rear wrappers and the signature of “Eastman & Bogart.” Though there’s light wear and soiling to the wrappers, this is a very good copy. Details>>

A Farewell Present to a Female Scholar, on Going to Service

Farewell_Present_Female_ScholarsThanks to the Enabling Act of 1799, dissenters could teach without subscription to the Church of England. The London Sunday-School Union was formed in 1803 with the aim of educating poor children and became a very active publishing organization. One of its publications was A Farewell Present to a Female Scholar, on Going to Service (ca 1828). An apparently unrecorded little work, it offers counseling a young lady regarding her pending move to the world of ‘service,’ “a useful and important station in society ” and  outlines a number of ‘rules to live by’ follow, including “Fifthly- Always observe a respectful and obliging behaviour towards those with whom you live, and endeavor to go about your work with a cheerful air, as a pleasure rather than a burden to you.” It appears to have served as a sort of primer for young women entering domestic service. Details>>

Fleet Fact Book

Fleet_Fact_BookFleet Fact Book (ca 1906-1910) is separated into four sections: The “Dreadnaught” (2 text pages & 1 photographic image); Submarines (1 text page & 5 photographic images); Torpedo Boat Destroyers (1 text page & 2 photographic images); and The Fleet / Dreadnaught Types (1 text page summarizing the fleet strength, including ship types/numbers & 5 color postcard-type images of diverse dreadnaught types). In short, the volume offers a custom ‘primer’ for the Royal English Navy, ca 1910, with all indications the book created for the use of a senior Naval official, or senior political figure associated with the Royal Navy. Details>>

Puff and Dick

Puff_DickPictured are the main characters from this famous primary reader: Dick, Jane, Spot, Puff & Baby. This is a rare unused printed sheet of a tale from the highly-collected Dick & Jane reader series, published in the 1950′s. Details>>



Related Posts:
Chapbooks: Short Books with Long History
The Ins and Outs of Collecting Serial Fiction for Children
Randolph Caldecott: Legend in Children’s Literature


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Andersen’s Visit with Dickens Less than a Fairy Tale

Hans_Christian_AndersenLegendary children’s author Hans Christian Andersen was born on April 2, 1805. Though the Danish author published work in a number of genres, he’s best remembered for his fairy tales. Stories like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “The Nightingale” are beloved by readers of all ages, all over the world. Thanks to Andersen’s authorial reputation, he could rely on wealthy patrons to support him. He lived his life as a permanent house guest. Experienced visitor though he was, Andersen still managed to ruin his relationship with Charles Dickens during an extended stay at Gads Hill.

Andersen published his first book, The Improvisatore, in 1835. An autobiographical novel, the book met with immediate acclaim when it was translated into English and published in the UK. Soon after, audiences had discovered–and delighted in–Andersen’s fairy tales. Between 1845 and 1847, at least five anthologies of Andersen’s stories had been published in English. Andersen’s London publisher, Richard Bentley, decided to capitalize with a publicity tour. In 1847, Andersen made his first visit to England.

By that year, Charles Dickens was already a literary titan. Bentley thought that a meeting between Andersen and Dickens could be advantageous for Andersen’s reputation, so he arranged it. Countess Blessington, a close friend of Lord Byron and a generous patron of the arts, provided the perfect opportunity. The countess was a bit of a scandalous figure; she openly lived with her stepdaughter’s husband, none other than Count d’Orsay, the famed soldier, painter, and fashion icon. There were also rumors about the true nature of Countess Blessington’s all-night parties.

But the party at which Dickens and Andersen met was much more mundane. Andersen had fallen in love with Dickens’ work when he read Oliver Twist and considered Dickens “the greatest writer of our time.” The two immediately hit it off and resolved to see each other again before Andersen left England. But due to his busy tour schedule, that proved nearly impossible. At one point, Dickens visited Andersen’s lodging, and finding the author away, left twelve presentation copies of his books for Andersen. (Some of these books remain unaccounted for.) Andersen finally visited Dickens’ home on his last night in England. By all accounts, the visit was quite enjoyable. Dickens and Andersen began a long, if sporadic, correspondence, and Dickens invited Andersen to visit on more than one occasion.


Gads Hill

Andersen finally took Dickens up on his offer in 1857. By that time, Andersen had grown accustomed to staying in grand homes with dozens of bedrooms. It wasn’t quite the same at Gads Hill, where Dickens had just moved his family. At the time, eight or nine of Dickens’ ten children were still living at home, and his marriage was falling apart. Though Dickens was wealthy by the standards of the era, his lifestyle was still squarely middle class (largely because he had so many progeny to support).

Andersen had promised Dickens, “I shall not inconvenience you much,” but he stayed five weeks instead of the agreed-upon two. He also made a strange request: that one of the older Dickens boys shave him every morning. Dickens refused to indulge that request, which was undoubtedly related to Andersen’s libidinous urges for boys.

There is no thorough account of the visit, but it couldn’t have been an easy one: Andersen spoke little English, and Dickens was often away from home. He had just completed Little Dorrit and was producing Wilkie Collins’ play The Frozen Deep as a benefit to his friend Douglas Jerrold. Ellen Ternan  was in the play, and the affair between her and Dickens was blossoming. It’s possible that Dickens actually invited Andersen to extend his stay so that he could attend the opening of The Frozen Deep. Andersen may have offered his criticism a little too freely, or the two could have discovered other artistic differences.

It’s more likely, however, that the rather awkward Andersen unwittingly committed some faux pas in front of the Inimitable’s impressive literary circle. At any rate, when Andersen finally left Gads Hill, Dickens reportedly wrote on the mirror of the guest room, “Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks–which seemed to the family AGES.” Dickens’ daughter Kate called Andersen a “bony bore,” a characterization that perhaps inspired Dickens when he created the character of Uriah Heep.

The final straw for Dickens may have come after Andersen departed. Andersen published an account of his stay with the Dickens family in Germany, without Dickens’ permission. He gave a glowing report of his stay and had particularly warm words for Mrs. Dickens. But that may have been a fatal mistake; by the time the account appeared in English in 1858, Dickens and his wife were already separated.

Though Andersen continued to write to Dickens after his stay, Dickens was generally unresponsive. Andersen’s popularity grew in the ensuing years, and he would travel throughout Europe. But he would never return to England. Meanwhile, some critics see Andersen’s influence in Dickens’ works, especially his Christmas stories. At any rate, the whole episode perfectly illustrates Benjamin Franklin’s aphorism, “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

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