Thursday, March 8, 2012

Little Women

(Please join Suzanne at Colorado Lady blog for more Vintage Thingie Thursday fun!)

Happy Vintage Thingie Thursday!

This vintage thingie Thursday I'm sharing a copy of the much beloved "Little Women".

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.)

I started to thumb through the book and was immediately intrigued by the lack of credit given to the illustrator/illustrators. I googled and found the following interesting entry regarding the illustrations here. (I didn't know that Little Women had originally been published as two books.)

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?


  1. So is this like finding a copy of the Bible before King James? Amazing that changes would be made. Thanks for sharing - you've got my curiosity charged up.

  2. Wow! What a treasure indeed! I'd definitely want both versions to compare. Very cool!

  3. You definitely have a real vintage treasure with that little book.

  4. I just love old books with inscriptions. I have alot of family ones but then I have some I wonder about the original owners.

  5. That is a wonderful find! I love your little lesson about this book, because I have a copy from my childhood-not as far back as 1881. What a treasure!

  6. The binding is such a pretty green with red trim, perfect find. It's so great that your Aunt gave it to your Mom. Happy VTT

  7. O MY!!
    What a treasure to have!!
    Thanks so much for your visits to my blog and your kind comments!!


  8. First, I haven't been to your site in too long, I noticed you said it's been a year, I too remember those unpleasant milestones our mind checks off till the year mark is reached.

    I love books, they're in my blood. It seems Little Women is in the air, but for all the Little Women books I've come across, which I thought were little treasures within themselves the one you have is like the Holy to speak. I'd have it appraised if I were you.