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Laura Ingalls Wilder

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The renowned children's author handwrites and signs a personalized poem

to include in a first edition, first printing of Little Town on the Prairie

for Christmas 1941

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder, 1867–1957.  American author.  First edition copy of Little Town on the Prairie with an exceptionally rare original, personalized handwritten poem, signed Sincerely your friend / Laura Ingalls Wilder, tipped in.

For Christmas in 1941, two boys' grandfather gave each of them a copy of Wilder's latest book, Little Town on the Prairie.  The grandparents lived in Arkansas, and the grandmother, we understand, wrote to Wilder at her home at Mansfield, Missouri, to ask for her autograph for the boys.  Wilder responded by writing and signing individualized poems for the boys, which she then mailed back.  The grandparents tipped the poems onto the front free endpapers of the books. 

This and the matching volume came directly from the family and had never been offered on the autograph market until we acquired them.  We sold the other one, which is here.  In this one, Wilder has written:

Dear David

“Every cloud has a silver lining"

Is a saying old and true;

That you may always quickly find it,

Is the wish I wish for you.

Sincerely your friend

Laura Ingalls Wilder

This is a stated first edition of this book; thus its first printing.  The notation "K-Q" on the back of the title page shows that Harper & Brothers printed the book in October 1941.  The book was, then, new just in time for Christmas.

This book, the seventh in Wilder's Little House series, tells the story of the small prairie town where Wilder lived as a teenager.  The dust jacket synopsis says that this "little settlement that weathered the long hard winter of 1880–81 has become a growing town.  There is a wonderful Fourth of July celebration, and Laura goes to her first evening social. . . . Almanzo Wilder asks permission to walk home from church with Laura, and exchanges with her the fashionable new ‘name cards.'  At the end Laura, now fifteen, receives her certificate to teach school."  

Wilder has penned this personalized poem for "Dear David" and signed it in grayish-black fountain pen.  She has written it on a 4½" x 6⅛" piece of paper.  A horizontal fold in the paper, from where Wilder mailed it to the boys' grandmother, is just beneath and barely touching part of the line “Sincerely your friend" but does not affect the signature. 

The book itself is in fine condition–virtually pristine.  The tan cloth-covered hardback binding, which includes an illustration, is clean and boldly imprinted in dark red on both the cover and the spine.  The endpapers are decorated in red with images of flowers, strawberries, and leaves.  The book is illustrated by Helen Sewell, the earliest illustrator of Wilder's books, and co-illustrator Mildred Boyle, with a color frontispiece and 14 black-and-white illustrations.  The original color dust cover, also illustrated with a drawing by Boyle, shows a bit of soiling, edge chipping, and shelf wear, as might be expected.  There is a note in black fountain pen on the half title page reading "To David from / Grampa / Christmas 1941." 

Even unsigned first edition copies of this book are very scarce, and rare with a dust jacket.  One in lesser condition than this one—without Wilderʼs autograph sold for $765 at Heritage Auctions in early 2016.  We have found booksellers offering first edition copies in dust jackets for $3,500 or more unsigned.  This copy, with this original poem that Wilder wrote especially for insertion into it, is exceptionally rare and belongs in the finest of collections.


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