Description

    First Edition, First Printing, of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Wonder-Book

    Nathaniel Hawthorne. A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys. With Engravings by Baker from Designs by Billings. Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1852.

    First edition, first printing, with the misprint "lifed" for "lifted" on p. 21, line 3. Small octavo (6.625 x 4.375 inches; 168 x 111 mm.). vi, [7]-256 pp. Wood-engraved frontispiece and six wood-engraved plates.

    Original lavender cloth with covers decoratively panelled in blind and spine decoratively stamped and lettered in gilt. Yellow endpapers. Expertly recased, with rear endpapers possibly renewed. Corners lightly rubbed, spine faded with a few small areas of slight discoloration, a few tiny chips at spine ends. Occasional light foxing and staining (heaviest on p. 22). Leather bookplate on front pastedown (offsetting onto front free endpaper, front flyleaf, and recto of frontispiece). Previous owner's pencilled presentation inscription ("From the 'Christmas Tree'"), dated 1851, on front free endpaper. An excellent copy. Housed in a brown cloth chemise and quarter brown morocco over brown cloth slipcase lettered in gilt on spine (the chemise liner is stamp-signed: Bound by J. Desmonts, J. Mac Donald Co., Norwalk, Conn.).

    "Hawthorne wrote the Wonder-Book in six weeks, using an idea he had long had of making 'one or two mythological story-books'. The narrative is set at Tanglewood Manor, a New England country house. A group of children, under the leadership of an 18-year-old college student, Eustace Bright, are going nutting. Before they set out he entertains them with an extempore version of the story of Perseus and the Gorgon's head. On the expedition they hear the story of Midas and the Golden Touch; later, as the seasons pass at Tanglewood, Eustace relates the myths of Pandora's Box, the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, Philemon and Baucis, and the Chimaera. The book ends with Eustace declaring that he will have the stories published 'through the eminent house of Ticknor & Co.', and that he expects as a result to be 'reckoned among the lights of the age!' The presentation of the myths is deliberately gothic and romantic, Hawthorne preferring this to what he called 'classic coldness'. Scenic descriptions are lush (Tanglewood itself gets plenty of descriptive prose), the style is expansive and even chatty, and the myths are made immensely readable and vivid. The original stories are, however, treated in cavalier fashion: Midas is given a little daughter, Marygold, who is turned to gold along with everything else; and Pandora and Epimetheus are presented as two children, who 'never quarrelled among themselves; neither had they any crying fits'. This handling of the myths greatly irritated Charles Kingsley and spurred him into writing his own version of them" (The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature).

    BAL 7606. Clark A18.1.a. Blanck, Peter Parley to Penrod, p. 6.


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    Auction Dates
    June, 2008
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