First Edition of Peter Pan Flies to Olympia Book Fair

The London International Antiquarian Book Fair is a week away, and fittingly, among the 180 dealers who will be there, David Brass (of David Brass Rare Books) is bringing a first edition of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1906), inscribed to none other than Mary Hodgson. Hodgson (1876-1962) was nurse and nanny to George and Jack Llewelyn Davies, the brothers who inspired the “lost boys” of Barrie’s classic tale. What’s more astounding is that there is even an inscription at all, which reads simply, “To Mary Hodgson / with kindest regards / from J.M. Barrie / Jan 1907.” Barrie rarely signed copies of his books, and for years the relationship between Barrie and Hodgson was strained at best, contentious and pernicious at its worst.

J._M._Barrie_in_1901.jpg
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

First, the backstory: In 1897, Scottish novelist and dramatist James M. Barrie met Hodgson and her charges in London’s Kensington Gardens. Barrie was instantly captivated by the boys’ spirit, and thereafter would frequently accompany them on their promenades, all the while charming the children with stories of fairies and pirates. These visits would ultimately inspire Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

MaryHodgson.jpg 
Mary Hodgson, nurse of the Llewelyn Davies boys. Taken in 1912. author unknown. http://jmbarrie.co.uk/df_index.html {{PD-US}

Both Hodgson and Barrie were possessive of the children. He reveled in their mischievousness, while she felt Barrie undermined her authority. Barrie was completely aware of her hostility.  Nana, the overbearing dog/nanny in Peter Pan, was his everlasting homage to Hodgson.

Eventually, Barrie and Hodgson reluctantly came to terms with each other, and the novelist presented this copy, complete with a tipped-in color frontispiece and forty-nine tipped-in color plates, as a way to bury the hatchet. Barrie may have fancied himself an overgrown child, but he learned that apologies go a long way to healing old wounds.

This stunning presentation copy of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham, will be available at the David Brass Rare Books booth starting Thursday, May 28th.
Price available upon request.
More information about the fair can be found here.





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