First Edition of “The Story of Little Black Sambo”
BANNERMAN, Helen. Story of Little Black Sambo. London: Grant Richards , 1899.
First edition. Sixteenmo (4 7/8 x 3 inches; 124 x 75 mm). viii, 57, [1, blank], [1, printer’s imprint], [1, blank] pp. Twenty-seven full-page illustrations by the author, engraved on wood and color-printed by Edmund Evans. No. 4 of The Dumpy Books for Children.

Original pale green cloth lettered and stamped in dark green with ruled borders and vertical stripes. Spine very lightly sunned. Some very minor rubbing to ink stamping on boards. Previous owner's gift inscription on front free endpaper, dated 1900. free endpapers with some minor toning. A near fine copy of this very rare item, usually found in much worse condition. In a green cloth clamshell case with black ink vertical stripes to match the book's binding.

“Helen Bannerman (1862-1946) wrote this story during a long railway journey to India, after having left two small daughters to be educated in her native Scotland. The author never intended the book for publication, but through the encouragement of her children and friends the manuscript was shown to E.V. Lucas who agreed to publish it as the fourth title in his series of ‘The Dumpy Books for Children’” (Schiller, p. 381).

When first published in October 1899, The Story of Little Black Sambo was a “revolutionary-style picture book. Compared with its contemporary school of illustrators—Crane, Greenaway, and Caldecott—the pictures are simple yet bold. The format of the book encouraged its handling by young owners, and the pages alternated between text and illustrations in a manner very appealing and appropriate to its compact size. It even seems probable that Beatrix Potter’s animal books, which began in 1901 with the privately printed Peter Rabbit, were at least influenced by the overall design of this book and, subsequently, so was the general success of the entire ‘Dumpy’ series” (Schiller, pp. 381-382). Very few copies of the original printing have survived, and of the copies known, most have been badly worn because the small book was unable to withstand the constant handling of children. “Should a census eventually be attempted, there would probably be fewer copies located than of the notoriously rare and suppressed 1865 Alice” (Schiller, p. 386).

See Schiller, “The Story of Little Black Sambo,” in The Book Collector 23, No. 3 (Autumn 1974), pp. 381-386.

HBS # 68031 $8,500