History In Ink®  Historical Autographs


1108401

Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder, 1867–1957.  American author.  Exceedingly rare set of seven of Wilder’s Little House books, six of them boldly signed Laura Ingalls Wilder, and one additionally annotated in her hand “Pa and Ma” beneath an illustration of her parents.

This is a set with impeccable provenance.  It comes from a family who were neighbors of Laura and Almanzo Wilder at Mansfield, Missouri, which is only 50 miles from Springfield, where we are located, and who subsequently bought the Wilders’ Rocky Ridge Farm.  Their son, who now owns the books, mowed Laura’s lawn as a teenager.  Laura wrote the Little House books in the 10-room farmhouse at Rocky Ridge Farm, and she signed these books at this family’s request. 

As discussed below, the books will be sold individually or as a set.

The available autograph material of Wilder, one of America’s most popular children’s authors, is scarce in any form—we found only three other examples of her autograph that have sold at auction in some 34 years.  We recently sold a signed copy of Little House on the Prairie that belonged to a local person.  Our search of auction records and dealer inventories, however, found no other signed copy of any of Wilder’s books sold at auction, and our colleagues who specialize in signed books whom we consulted had never seen one.  These books, therefore, are exceedingly rare.

Wilder’s Little House books are timeless and enduring.  Wilder wrote of late 19th Century pioneer life in Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, and South Dakota. Altogether there were nine Little House books:  Little House in the Big Woods (1932); Farmer Boy (1933); Little House on the Prairie (1935); On the Banks of Plum Creek (1937); By the Shores of Silver Lake (1939); The Long Winter (1940); Little Town on the Prairie (1941); These Happy Golden Years (1943); and, published posthumously, The First Four Years (1971).

The series is as popular today as it was three generations ago.  The books have remained in continuous publication since the appearance of Little House in the Big Woods and have been translated into more than 40 languages.  Most of the sites that Wilder described in the books are now museums that annually draw thousands of visitors.

This set consists of seven of the nine books listed above.  Six of the seven are signed:  Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, and These Happy Golden Years.  The set includes an unsigned copy of Little Town on the Prairie.

Except for Little Town on the Prairie, which is a stated first edition, each of these cloth-bound books, published by Harper & Brothers, is the 1951 or 1952 reproduction of the original illustrated by Helen Sewell, the earliest illustrator of Wilder’s books, or by Sewell and co-illustrator Mildred Boyle.  Beginning in 1953, their drawings were replaced by those by Garth Williams.  Except for Little Town on the Prairie, each of these books is accompanied by the dust cover, although the dust covers are split, frayed, and fragile. 

The specific information about the books is as follows:

●  Little House in the Big Woods.  Wilder has signed this book on the second front free endpaper with a black fountain pen signature.  There is some foxing near the signature, and it slightly touches the “ll” in “Ingalls.”  In addition, Wilder has written “Pa and Ma” under the illustration of her parents on the half title page.  The binding is tight, but the cover is worn.  The pages are generally clean.  Only the front half of the dust cover is present.

●  Farmer Boy.  Wilder has signed on the front free endpaper with a black fountain pen signature.  Foxing slightly affects the “ur” in “Laura,” and there is a pencil price notation in the upper right corner of the page, well away from the signature.  The binding is a bit loose, but the pages are generally clean, with some showing evidence of damp staining, not affecting the signature.  The cover is worn.   

●  On the Banks of Plum Creek.  Wilder has signed on the second front free endpaper with a black fountain pen signature.  The cover is well worn and shows some evidence of water staining, and the binding is beginning to split.  The pages are generally clean, although some are damp stained.  The signature is not affected. 

●  By the Shores of Silver Lake.  Wilder has signed in black fountain pen on the half title page.  The cover is somewhat worn, but the binding is tight.  The pages are generally clean, with some foxing and staining.  The signature is not affected. 

●  The Long Winter.  Wilder has signed on the half title page in black fountain pen.  The cover is somewhat worn, particularly at the upper right, and the cloth spine binding cover is detached but present.  The binding is a little loose.  The pages are generally clean but show some intermittent soiling, not affecting the signature. 

●  Little Town on the Prairie.  This volume is unsigned, but it is the stated first edition from 1941.  The binding is a bit loose, and the book is stamped in places with the embossed stamp of the library that formerly housed it.

●  These Happy Golden Years.  Wilder has signed this book on the half title page in black fountain pen.  The binding is loose.  The cover is worn and damp stained, and it is coming loose but is not detached.  The pages are generally clean, with some  foxing, not affecting the signature. 

This is a remarkable set, particularly given its provenance and given the absolute rarity of Wilder’s signed books on the autograph market.  These books belong in the finest of American literature collections.  The books are priced both as a set and individually, as shown below, and collectors may buy the entire set or one or more individual volumes.

 

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Set:  $24,950.00 (includes unsigned 1941 stated first edition Little Town on the Prairie)

Individually:

Little House in the Big Woods:  $4,750.00

Farmer Boy:  $4,250.00 - ON HOLD

On the Banks of Plum Creek:  $4,150.00

By the Shores of Silver Lake:  $4,350.00

The Long Winter:  $3,950.00

These Happy Golden Years:  $4,250.00

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