Happy Vintage Thingie Thursday!
What a treat it was to find this in my mom's things! The front page bears an inscription from my mother's Aunt Lu to my mom, dated 1932. The book itself is from 1881 (so much fun!) but I'm not sure if Aunt Lu gifted my mother her very own copy, or if she purchased a used copy for my mother? (I'm guessing that she passed along her own copy to my mom, as her full name and city where she lived, is written in the upper corner as if she were writing who the book belongs to and then the inscription to my mother is in the middle of the page.)
Volumes one and two were published in separate volumes for several years, although beginning in 1870 they were available in a set. In 1880 Roberts Brothers published a revised, 586-page single-volume edition with over two hundred new illustrations by Frank T. Merrill, which Alcott enthusiastically praised. The following year, as part of an eight-volume set of Alcott's works, Roberts Brothers issued what is known as the regular edition of Little Women, a smaller, 532-page edition without the Merrill illustrations. Neither Alcott nor Niles appears to have made the revisions that materialize in the 1881 text, although neither seemed to have objected to their being made; Niles commented in an 1883 letter to Alcott that the changes in style seemed to have resulted in additional sales. Among the textual changes, punctuation was modernized, spelling was modified, and instances of slang were deleted or changed. Characters were made more attractive and more fashionable: Laurie is taller, less ethnic (his "long nose" in the first edition becomes a "handsome nose" in the revised text), and more attractive; Marmee becomes a "noble-looking" woman; Meg's violet silk requires twenty-five yards of fabric, rather than twenty; and Professor Bhaer is described as more of a gentleman. The character of Jo in particular is altered so that she becomes less tomboyish, less colloquial, and more conventional.
Throughout the next century, the regular edition would be the version made available to most readers. It was not until the 1980s that the first edition was reprinted and studied. The changes in the novel and its textual history are the subject of ongoing scholarship.
And so this copy turns out to be the 1881 edition, referred to as the "regular edition" - now I'm curious to see the reprint of the first, original edition! Isn't it fascinating that there were "textual" changes?! I wonder how often that happens?