Fine Books & Collections

At the recent Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair, AbeBooks staffer Kyra Kordoski and Scott Brown, the editor of Fine Books & Collections magazine, visited the booth of Aleph-Bet Books, one of the leading children’s book specialists, and fell in love with their very rare first edition of The Velveteen Rabbit. If you are one of the 10 people in the English-speaking world who hasn’t read the book, the story is about a toy rabbit who wants to be real, which is possible if a child loves a toy enough. It’s a theme that lies behind classic tales like Pinocchio or even the movie Toy Story.

The Velveteen Rabbit, Or How Toys Became Real by Margery Williams

The Velveteen Rabbit, Or How Toys Became Real
by Margery Williams; illustrated by William Nicholson

A near fine copy with a bit of paper restoration to the dust jacket.

Publication Date: 1922
Binding: Hardcover, with a dust jacket
Edition: First Edition

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The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real was written by Margery Williams and illustrated by William Nicholson. Nicholson was an accomplished artist with a delightfully twisted sensibility who wrote and illustrated a terrifically grim ABC book in 1898 called An Alphabet. It has entries like “E Is for Executioner,” which call to mind Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies and it’s macabre alphabet of children dying bizarre deaths (“E is for Ernest who choked on a peach”). Williams’ book, like so many successful children’s books, is bittersweet, because the joy of growing up is always tempered with the loss of outgrowing something.

The first edition of The Velveteen Rabbit, published in London in 1922, is particularly sought after by collectors. Its universal themes of loss and love have made it an enduring classic. The first edition is notable for its chromolithographic illustrations, which were replaced by cheaper and less luminous color printing in subsequent versions.

Marc Younger, of Aleph-Bet Books, describes the appeal of The Velveteen Rabbit by saying, “A perfect children's book is a rare thing. Some authors might write an engaging story but the illustrations are nothing special. Some illustrators can produce beautiful art, but there's no story to go with it. The Velveteen Rabbit is an example of a perfect children's book and it has become one of the most desired books for children's book collectors. Margery Williams' story is simple but anyone who ever had a stuffed animal can identify with it. William Nicholson's illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the story. His images are detailed but not overburdened, and he captures the essence and tone of the story. The double page spreads are works of art. The color lithographs are so well printed that they almost look like originals. Because it was such a perfect book, children who received it often loved the book to pieces, so first editions are rare and rarer still if they have the dust wrapper.”

The Velveteen Rabbit - Spring Time The Velveteen Rabbit - The Skin Horse Tells His Story The Velveteen Rabbit - The Fairy Flower

Spring time

The Skin Horse tells his story

The Fairy flower

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First Edition The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

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