Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Babar Books for the Sacramento Book Fair

Le Voyage de Babar (The Travels of Babar - Jean de Brunhoff 1932 1st Edition)

I've hinted about the above listed item (and one other that I'll show below) I'm sure, in the last several weeks.  I wanted to save these last two books for last - partly because I was still doing research trying to find some details about publishing history, etc. - and partly because I wanted to unveil them right before the book fair this weekend.

The story of the original Babar Books is one that many people might have heard at least portions over the years -- when one of his sons was home ill, Jean de Brunhoff's wife Cecile told him a bedtime story to help him get to sleep.  The boy ( and his brother who happened to have heard it as well) related the story to their father because they found it so interesting. Jean de Brunhoff was a painter by trade - he took the idea, drew a few illustrations,  and named the elephant Babar - thus history was made.  I'm sure there was much more to it than that, as there always is with creative endeavors.

So - that part of the story of these books is fairly straightforward.  Easy to research (though I hadn't known that Jean de Brunhoff's ties to the publishing world were so close -- his brother-in-law and brother worked for magazine and / or book publishers to some degree, and the family itself had been working in publishing for a number of years.

For me, the basic research about the books themselves has been  easy.  But one of the books came with an  additional item that is extremely unusual / rare.

The Story of Babar (Jean de Brunhoff - 1st American Edition by Smith & Haas, 1933)  (note - the first three books in the series were originally published in the US by Smith & Haas.  The series was taken over by Random House by 1936. Random House released new editions of the original three titles, making them 1st US editions thus)

What I had been calling a mailing envelope for a time - but now I've decided is more a variant style of dust jacket. 

Currently, I've found mention of the envelope once in a listing  -- in the negative. i.e.: "this copy does not include the rare envelope".   I have found ONE auction record in the last 50 years noting the envelope -- and with NO information about the history of this envelope.   There are copies of this book available with a regular dust jacket (one that wraps around the book and has flaps that cover the pastedown pages).  This envelop has a pastedown illustration in monochrome, which mirrors the illustration on the front cover of the  book.
It is obvious that this ephemeral item was intended to be used in the same manor as a dust jacket -- but why would the company make both a regular style dust jacket, and this much more fragile version?   Remember, this is a book specifically published with children in mind -- ok, in the 1930's it's possible that the idea was that adults read the  books to the children and that the books would be handled carefully, but....

I know I've mentioned that dust jackets on children's books from the early 1900's - the 1930's tend to be either in ratty, tatty condition (for the most part) or non-existent, and when found will add a premium to the books.  Two notable examples of this are The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum where the presence of a dust jacket can add an enormous amount to the price, and Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey - ditto. (I would include Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes - but that's my Scifi side coming through. The difference in price for a 1st Edition with a dust jacket and without is approximately 1000%).

Copies of the 1st Editions of any of the first three Babar books (either in the original French or the US editions) with dust jackets (in any condition) have become scarce - very scarce - and can take the prices up dramatically.   However, since mention of this variant dust jacket is lacking in most references and I haven't so far found any verifiable information other than one vague mention of it's existence and one verified auction sale which included an "envelope" but with no detailed description of it, this particular ephemeral item is somewhat of a wild card in how it adds value to the book. 

Because I'm one of those people who can't seem to give up until I find what I'm searching for, I'll continue to hunt down more information regarding this variant dust jacket / envelope.  If and when I do, I'll be sure and let you all know. Until then - wish me luck at the Sacramento Book Fair (three days and counting!)


WIP said...

Hi. We are in the process of helping our mother downsize, I have just discovered copies of the first three Babat boos, dated 1933, 1934 and 1935 published by Random House. I assume they were my mother's when she was a child. I don't recall seeing them before. I realize they are not the first English editions but they appear to be in very good shape. No dust jackets unfortunately. Do they have much value?

chanursteph said...

Dear WIP:

Thanks so much for contacting me regarding these books -- I'm sorry I wasn't able to get back to you sooner, however, I was away from the computer at the Sacramento Book Fair this weekend.

It is possible that they are either early editions or first Random House editions -- however I would not be able to give any further information regarding the edition or possible pricing without more information. If it is possible for your to send me some scans / photos of the front cover, rear cover, title page and copyright page I would be able to give you some more detailed information on what you've got.

Thanks so much for contacting me!


Stephanie Howlett-West

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. Howlett-West. I have what appears to be the Random House First Edition (1934) of The Travels Of Babar. I have taken the pictures you suggested, is there a method by which I might send the photos to you directly?

Thank you, CT