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Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first book, Little House in the Big Woods,

beautifully signed with a huge 4” signature

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder, 1867–1957.  American author.  Wilder’s book Little House in the Big Woods, boldly signed, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Little House in the Big Woods is Wilder’s first book.  Wilder has signed this copy in blue ballpoint pen on the second front free endpaper.  The signature is an astounding 4” long. 

After more than a decade as a columnist and editor with Missouri Ruralist magazine, and evidently moved by the deaths of her mother and her older sister to record her childhood reminiscences, Wilder asked her daughter, Rose, about an autobiographical manuscript that Wilder had titled When Grandma Was a Little Girl.  With editing assistance from Rose, herself an accomplished author, and using Rose’s publishing connections, Wilder attracted the attention of Harper & Brothers, which published the book in 1932 as Little House in the Big Woods.  Wilder was 65 years old.

Little House in the Big Woods recounts Wilder’s memories of her early childhood in the Big Woods of Wisconsin near the village of Pepin, just northeast of the Mississippi River in west-central Wisconsin.  In the opening chapter, Wilder describes the “little gray house made of logs” in which she lived with her parents and her sisters Mary and Carrie. “The great, dark trees of the Big Woods stood all around the house,” Wilder wrote, “and beyond them were other trees and beyond them were more trees. As far as a man could go to the north in a day, or a week, or a whole month, there was nothing but woods.”

This cloth-bound book, published by Harper & Brothers, is the 1952 reproduction of the 1932 original illustrated by Helen Sewell, the earliest illustrator of Wilder’s books.  There is one color illustration plate near the front of the book.  Beginning in 1953, the drawings were replaced with those by Garth Williams.  

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, which she wrote about 50 miles from us at the Rocky Ridge Farm at Mansfield, Missouri:  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). 

This is a nice copy of Little House in the Big Woods.  As with most of Wilder’s books, which children—and adults—read, and re-read, and read over again, the cloth cover on this copy is worn, with some fading and stains.  The binding is square and tight, however.  The pages are generally clean, although a student’s name and address are written in pencil on the front free endpaper , and we noticed a couple of stains on pages as we turned through the book.  The book is in good condition, and we would grade it very good if the dust cover were present.  Wilder’s signature is fine.


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