Children’s books continue to be one of the most popular categories of collectible books. Twenty years have gone by since I wrote 100 Years / 100 Books: High Spots of Collectible Children’s Books (What's a High Spot?), and much has changed. First, The customer demographic is trending younger. With new collectors nostalgic for books they read or were read to as children, more books published after 1950 have gained popularity. Currently, the demands of the marketplace influence what books are offered whereas formerly it was the reverse; what dealers offered in their catalogues had more influence on what would be collected.
With this in mind, I’ve updated the list, removing some titles that are not as well known today. The current list of High Spots is not meant to be a scholarly list inclusive of every important book that would deserve mention, but rather it includes the rare and collectible books that I’ve observed are consistently sought after from both my interactions with customers and colleagues. I also include rare books from authors or illustrators whose work has been critically acclaimed, such as Harry Potter.
Some of these classic children’s books are listed twice, first in year of appearance and later in the year that the most collectible edition was published. For instance, Charles Kingsley’s fantasy tale of the Water Babies was first published in 1863, but the first edition illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith and published in 1916 is the most sought edition. (Side note: my favorite is Warwick Goble’s 1909 edition).
With further ado, here is the list:
1848 - English Struwwelpeter or Pretty Stories by Heinrich Hoffmann (Slovenly Peter first English language edition. 1st German edition was 1845)
1852 - Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. 2 volumes Boston: John P. Jewett
1855 - Little Red Riding Hood (pop-up). London: Dean & Son. (Number 1 of Dean’s New Scenic Books. An early pop-up with 8 pop-up plates).
1863 - Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. London: Macmillan
1865 - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by LewisCarroll. London: Macmillan
1865 - Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge. New York: James O'Kane (Thomas Nast illustrator)
1868 9 - Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. 2 Volumes. Boston: Roberts
1869 - A Visit From St. Nicholas by Clement Moore. NY: McLoughlin Bros.
1870 - In Fairyland Illustrated by Richard Doyle. London: Longmans, Green & Co.
1871 - At the Back of the North Wind by George Macdonald. London: Strahan & Co. (First Edition in Book Form)
1874 - Beauty & the Beast illustrated by Walter Crane. London: George Routledge (plus his numerous other toy books published from 1865 -1876)
1876 - Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Samuel Clemens. Hartford: American Pub. Co
1877 - Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. London; Jarrold and Sons. 2 volumes (First American edition published in 1890)
1878 - House That Jack Built by Randolph Caldecott [Plus] the 15 Books in the Set. London: George Routledge
1883 - Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons
1883 - Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. London: Cassell & Co.
1884 - Heidiby Johanna Spyri. 1st English Ed. 2 Vols. (Heidi's Early Experiences and Heidi's Further Experiences). (1st German ed. 1880-1881)
1886 - Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett. NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons
1888 - Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. London: David Nutt [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1893 - Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti. 1st Ed. With the Illustrations by Laurence Housman. London: Macmillan [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition] [1st Is 1862]
1896 - Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson Illus. By Charles Robinson. London: John Lane, the Bodley Head (this is the first illustrated edition, also issued in a deluxe edition. See 1885 for first edition)
1897 - Mother Goose in Prose by L. Frank Baum. Chicago: Way & Williams, illustrated by Maxfield Parrish
1900 - Goops and How to Be Them by Gelett Burgess. New York: Frederick Stokes
1900 - Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter Privately Printed Ed. (Trade Edition First Published in 1902. London: Warne)
1902 - Adventures of Uncle Lubin by W. Heath Robinson. London: Grant Richards
1904 - Poems of Childhood by Eugene Field Illus. By Maxfield Parrish. New York: Scribner
1904 - Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith by E. Boyd Smith. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
1906 - Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. London: Hodder & Stoughton [Also Issued in Deluxe Edition]
1908 - Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. London: Methuen
1911 - Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie. London: Hodder & Stoughton
1911 - Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Both 1911 editions - NY: Frederick Stokes illustrated by Maria Kirk and London: Heinemann illustrated by Charles Robinson
1911 - Treasure Island Illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons (see 1884 for original first edition)
1915 - House of Pomegranates by Oscar Wilde Illus. By Jessie King. London: Methuen
1920 - Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. New York: Frederick Stokes
1922 - Wonderful Adventures of Little Prince Toofat illustrated by Robert Lawson. New York: James McCann
1923 - ABC by C.B. Falls. New York: Doubleday Page (Also Issued in Deluxe Edition)
1924 Poppy Seed Cakes Illustrated by Maud & Miska Petersham. New York: Doubleday Page & Co.
1926 - Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne. London: Methuen (Also issued in Deluxe Edition)
1926 - Fairyland by Ida Outhwaite. Melbourne: Ramsay Pub. (Also Issued in Deluxe Edition)
1928 - Bambi by Felix Salten. NY: Simon & Schuster 1st U.S. Ed.
1930 - First Picture Book by Edward Steichen. New York: Harcourt Brace
1930 - Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. NY: Platt & Munk
1932 - Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. New York: Harper Bros.
1933 - Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff. NY: Smith & Haas (First edition of L'Histoire De Babar was first published in Paris by Jardin Des Modes in 1931)
1933 - Story about Ping by Margery Flack illus. Kurt Wiese. New York: Viking
1934 - Mary Poppins by P.l. Travers. London: Gerald Howe
1937 - Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. London: George Allen & Unwin
1937 - Animals of the Bible Illustrated by Dorothy Lathrop. New York: Stokes
1938 - Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. New York: Simon & Schuster
1938 - Pumpkin Moonshine by Tasha Tudor. New York: Oxford Univ. Press
1939 - Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
1939 - Little Toot by Hardie Gramatky. NY: Putnam
1939 - Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Illustrated by N.C. Wyeth. NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons. (Also Issued in Deluxe Edition in 1940)
1941 - Curious George by H.A. Rey. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
1941 - Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. New York: Viking
1942 - Little House by Virgina Lee Burton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
1942 - Little Golden Books. A set of the first 12 books published simultaneously. NY: Simon & Schuster
1947 - Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. New York: Harper Brothers
1950 - Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. NY: Viking (First edition of the Swedish Pippi Langstrump appeared in 1945)
1958 - A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond. London: Collins
1962 - A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. NY: Viking Press
1964 - The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. NY: Harper & Row
1969 - Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. NY: Putnam
1972 - Watership Down by Richard Adams. London: Rex Collins. (Also 1976 Limited Edition which is the first edition with illustrations -illustrated by John Lawrence)
1985 - Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
1997 - Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone by J.K. Rowling. London: Bloomsbury