8 Rare Children’s Books Published in English

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Although they are primarily meant for kids and young people, children’s books are no less fascinating to adults of all ages. They are full of warmth, compassion, and innocence that are often missing in adult life.

Rare first edition or limited-edition children’s books are considered highly valued collectible items all across the world. It is often quite difficult to find these books in good condition that can be preserved.

Here we list 8 rare children’s books of which only a few numbers of copies can be found today. All the books on this list are published in the English language.

8. Where the Sidewalk Ends

Rarity: Rare
Author: Shel Silverstein
Publisher: Harper and Row
First Published: 1974
Genre: Nonsensical Poetry
Where the Sidewalk Ends
photo source: www.raptisrarebooks.com

Where the Sidewalk Ends is a children’s poetry collection that deals with common childhood concerns. The book also features fanciful stories and beautiful illustrations done by the author himself.

The book was listed as one of the “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children” by the National Education Association. The book has been translated into 12 languages.

The first edition copies state “First Edition” on the copyright page. A few copies are signed by the author on the half-title page. The signed copies of the book are fairly rare and can be sold at $20,000 or more.

Did you know?

Many libraries and schools in the US banned the book as they thought it was inappropriate for children and undermined school and religious authority. The school authorities expressed concern that the book “promotes drug use, the occult, suicide, death, violence, disrespect for truth, disrespect for authority, and rebellion against parents.”

7. The Hobbit

Rarity: Rare
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Publisher: George Allen & Unwin Ltd
First Published: 1937
Genre: Fantasy Novel
The Hobbit
photo source: tolkienlibrary.com
The Hobbit
photo source: www.tolkienbooks.net

The first edition of The Hobbit was published in 1937. The character of Hobbit Bilbo Baggins would soon become children’s beloved character of all time.

The first edition had four impressions, and all of them are collectibles and sold at a high price. However, the first print with a minor manuscript correction to the jacket flap remains the most sought-after.

A total of 1,488 copies of the first edition first impression were bound. Additionally, 21 copies were bound in paper covers. The first print had a green cover, and in later prints, it was replaced by a colored illustration.

Did you know?

2,300 copies of the second impression of this book were printed by the publisher. However, 423 unbound copies were destroyed in a warehouse fire during World War II. The fire was caused by German bombings.

6. Little Women

Rarity: Rare
Author: Louisa May Alcott
Publisher: Robert Brothers
First Published: 1868-69
Genre: Coming of age
Little Women
photo source: www.library.illinois.edu
Little Women
photo source: www.library.illinois.edu

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women may not be as popular as some other titles on this list, but it had a significant impact on the world of Children’s Literature.

Literary Historian Sarah Elbert opines, “Alcott created a new form of literature, one that took elements from romantic children’s fiction and combined it with others from sentimental novels, resulting in a totally new genre.”

The novel follows the lives of four sisters from their childhood to womanhood. It was published in two volumes. The characters are loosely based on the lives of the author and her three sisters.

A limited number of copies of the first volume were published, and initially, it didn’t sell well. So, the second part was also issued in a small edition. Although later the book achieved both commercial and critical success and many copies were sold, the original first editions of both volumes are considerably rare.

Did you know?

Alcott wrote the book at the request of her publisher Thomas Niles. Alcott was reluctant to write a book on girls as she thought she hardly knew anything about girls. She also said she didn’t enjoy writing the novel but did it for money in record time.

5. The Wind in the Willows

Rarity: Very Rare
Author: Kenneth Grahame
Publisher: Methuen and Co. (London) and Scribner and Sons (New York)
First Published: 1908
Genre: Children’s novel
The Wind in the Willows
photo source: abebooks.com
The Wind in the Willows
photo source: abebooks.com

The plot of the novel The Wind in the Willows builds around four animals Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger. Grahame wrote the book based on the impromptu bedtime stories he told his son Alastair.

The first edition of the book was plain text without any illustrations. Copy of this edition is exceedingly rare and highly valued. A copy of the first edition of The Wind in the Willows with the author’s inscription is on sale for $97,218 (as of May 2022). Grahame gifted this copy to Ruth Ward, daughter of his family friends Sidney and Katherine Ward.

Did you know?

The following editions of the book have been illustrated by many renowned artists over the years. One of the most notable and rarest was the edition published in 1932. It was illustrated by E.H Shepard, and it is believed that Grahame approved the works of Sheperd before his death. Only 200 copies of this edition were circulated, and it is extremely rare to find one now.

4. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Rarity: Extremely Rare
Author: L. Frank Baum
Publisher: George M. Hill Company
First Published: 1900
Genre: Fantasy, children’s novel
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
photo source: www.raptisrarebooks.com

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an American Children’s classic written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow.

A total of 10,000 copies of the first edition were printed and quickly sold out.

There was an error in the first few copies of the first edition. According to the law, the copyright information must be printed on the verso of the title page. However, the publisher printed Denslow’s pictorial copyright on the verso of the introduction page. Before the error was spotted, a few copies had already left the press and given away as gifts.

In the remaining copies, the copyright information was rubber-stamped on the verso of the title page.

The first few copies with the error are considered a rare collectible. One copy of this print was sold for an astonishing $115,000.00 on an online site selling rare edition books.

Did you know?

The title page, text, plates, and bindings were manufactured separately and in unequal numbers. Later they were assembled as needed. Baum himself assembled the first copy to gift it to her sister.

3. The Tale of Peter Rabit

Rarity: Extremely Rare
Author: Beatrix Potter
Publisher: Published privately by the author
First Published: 1901
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
The Tale of Peter Rabit
photo source: wikipedia.org

It is one of the rarest books on this list. Beatrix Potter wrote the book in 1893 for her former governess Annie Carter Moore’s five-year-old son Noel Moore who was sick.

Later, Potter revised some parts of the book and intended to commercially publish it. However, she failed to find a publisher who would agree to publish it in its current form. Some publishers wanted a longer book, and some asked for a shorter book. Most of them wanted colored illustrations.

However, Potter was not ready to compromise with the content or the style of the book. Thus, in 1901, Potter went on to publish 250 copies of the book privately to be given as a gift to family and friends.

These privately printed copies are exceedingly rare and considered a great collectible. These copies often carry the author’s inscription, including dedication, date, and signature.

Did you know?

Potter designed and printed the original and privately published version of The Tale of Peter Rabbit in a small format. She wanted to make it a size that even very young children could hold in their hands.

2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Rarity: Extremely Rare
Author: Lutwidge Dodgson (pen name: Lewis Carroll)
Publisher: MacMillan and Co.
First Published: 1865
Genre: Literary Nonsense
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
photo source: guim.co.uk
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
photo source: guim.co.uk

This book needs no introduction. This surreal classic marked the beginning of the Golden Age of Children’s Literature. The whimsical nonsensical adventure of Alice has fascinated the children and adults for generations all around the world. The book is written by Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.

The book was first published in July 1865 by the British publishing house the Macmillan Group. 2000 copies were printed. 50 copies were sent to Carrol so that he could give them to his friends.

However, the illustrator of the book, John Tenniel, was not happy with the quality of the printing. Carroll asked the publisher to halt the printing process.

Later that year, Macmillan published the revised first edition with changes in design and binding. It was released for the Christmas Market and carried the date of 1866.

The text blocks of the original discarded edition were removed from binding to be sold to a New York publisher who used them for publishing the first American edition of the book. However, only a few numbers of copies of the original 1865 edition could be found later. They were the copies Carroll gave away to his friends for their feedback.

This legendary edition is excessively rare, with only 22 known copies in existence. 16 of them are in institutional libraries, and only 6 are in the private collection. These rare copies occasionally appear in auctions and are sold for a few million dollars.

Did you know?

The novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been translated into 174 languages.

1. A Little Pretty Pocket Book

Rarity: Extremely Rare
Author: John Newbery
Publisher: John Newbery
First Published: 1744
Genre: Rhymes
A Little Pretty Pocket Book
photo source: www.bl.uk
A Little Pretty Pocket Book
photo source: www.loc.gov

A Little Pretty Pocket Book is the rarest children’s book ever published in Englih. No early copies of this book can be found in libraries or private collections. The British Library holds the earliest surviving copy of the book, published in 1760. It’s a copy of the tenth edition of the book.

This rare book is considered the first book ever published specifically for children. The book consists of children’s rhymes for each of the English letters. Newbery combined amusement with instruction in a new and modern form in this book.

Did you know?

Free gifts were given away with the book to promote the sale. Boys would get a ball, and girls would get pincushions. The title page states the use of the balls and pincushions was to ‘infallibly make Tommy a good boy, and Polly a good girl.’


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