May 2017 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Rare First Edition of Edward Lear's "Book of Nonsense" Discovered

California bookseller David Brass has uncovered a rare first edition of Edward Lear's famous children's book, A Book of Nonsense. First published in two volumes in 1846, the book includes seventy-two humorous verses, accompanied by Lear's absurd illustrations. The two volumes are bound here in one small quarto in contemporary half red hard-grain morocco over marbled boards. Brass plans to exhibit this beauty at the ABA London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia, June 1-3.

03897_5170.jpgAbout five hundred copies of "Nonsense" were initially published, but, as is often the case with children's books, they were read to tatters. A census taken in 1988 located only eleven complete copies and twelve incomplete, most of which are in libraries. In a press release, the ABA commented, "The appearance on the market of a previously unknown, complete first edition is therefore an extremely unusual and exciting event for book lovers." This one had been in a private collection for the past twenty-five years, according to Brass.

The price tag for this newly unearthed treasure? £59,000 ($75,000).

03897_4278.jpgLear's Book of Nonsense is often cited as one of the high-spots of children's books, coming in at #32 in the Grolier Club's One Hundred Books Famous in Children's Literature.

                                                                                                                                                                         Images courtesy of the ABA