First American Edition, First State
Translated From the Original Equine
Straight From the Horse's Mouth
"The Sixth Bestseller in the English Language"
SEWELL, Anna. Black Beauty : His Grooms and Companions. The "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of the Horse. Boston: George T. Angell, 1890.
First American edition, first state with the Preface dated February 12, 1890 and front ads dated March 1, 1890, first state binding. Octavo (6 7/8 x 4 1/2 in; 175 x 114 mm). [Ads as endpapers], iv, , 6-245, [1, as illustration], [12, as American Band of Mercy supplement] pp, [educational material as endpapers]. One black and white illustration. Head- tailpieces, initials.
Printed boards with price "12 cents" at top. Two light spots to upper edge, the mildest of wear to extremities, otherwise a fine, bright copy excessively scarce in this condition. Housed in a black silk clamshell box.
Only five copies of this edition in the original boards have come to auction within the last thirty-five years. Each had significant conditions issues.
The first edition by Jarrold & Sons is almost impossible to find in collectable condition. The edition under notice, in first state text and binding and in fine condition, is highly desirable. It was subsequently issued in wrappers and, later, in cloth.
A superlative copy of the classic - and quite novel - story of a horse, told in his own words, wherein he recounts his life as a well bred steed from early childhood in a pleasant meadow, through numerous owners - some kind and some cruel - until fate returns him to the meadow in which he was born. Though animal autobiographies had been published before for children, Black Beauty stands apart from those in that it offered social criticism of his various owners. Because of that, the book was read, appreciated and loved by adults as well as juveniles. It has never been out of print since its original publication, has been adapted to the screen on fourteen different occasions, and has forever fostered and cemented the special bond between young girls and horses.
Ultimately, Black Beauty's continual and lasting value is as one of the first - and certainly most influential - arguments for the humane treatment of animals. Indeed, the edition under notice was published - unauthorized - by the president of the American Human Education Society, George T. Angell, who, at the rear, provides diagrammed instruction for the humane killing of horses and dogs that would seem horribly and insensitively out of place were it not for the cruel and usual alternatives then utilized. Black Beauty became a mobilizing force for change.
"Beauty's color is no accident (Sewell's book is clearly modeled on Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852), and the most poignant moments in the narrative occur when Beauty, while recognizing the inevitability of servitude, nevertheless longs wistfully for freedom" (Robert Dingley, in Nineteenth-Century British Women Writers, p. 354).
"Anna Sewell (1820–1878), author, was born on 30 March 1820... her ‘life of constant frustration' (Mrs Bayly, 71) began when, aged about fourteen, she slipped and fell... injuring both her ankles [that led to] a lameness which, although varying in its severity, was permanent and meant that at times she could not walk outside or stand for very long. She also suffered from a debilitating invalidism which varied in its intensity but remained with her for life characterized at times by pains in her chest, loss of strength in her back, and a ‘weakness' in her head leading to periods of ‘enforced idleness' (Mrs Bayly, 245)...
"...Sewell never married or had children and, apart from periods at spas or visiting relatives on a family farm in Norfolk, she always lived with her parents. It was in Norfolk that she learned to ride and drive the horses upon which her lameness made her reliant.
"...Sewell's only publication was Black Beauty, written intermittently from 1871 to 1877 at a time when her health further declined, and she was confined to the house and her sofa. In the early period of writing the novel she dictated to her mother from the sofa on which she lay; in 1876 she was able to write in pencil on slips of paper which her mother transcribed. The novel was sold to...Jarrold & Sons, for an outright payment of £40 and published as Black Beauty: his grooms and companions; the autobiography of a horse, ‘Translated from the Original Equine, by Anna Sewell', on 24 November 1877 when Anna was fifty-seven. Now a children's classic, the novel was originally written for those who worked with horses, ‘its special aim', Sewell wrote, ‘being to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses' (Mrs Bayly, 272). It has been seen as instrumental in leading to the abolition of the bearing-rein.
"Anna Sewell has been neglected by history. In ironic contrast, her only book has achieved phenomenal success. Pirated in America in 1890, its sales broke publishing records. It is said to be ‘the sixth best seller in the English language' (Chitty, in Wells and Grimshaw, The Annotated Black Beauty, p. x). Sewell lived just long enough to know of her novel's early success. She died at the White House of hepatitis or phthisis on 25 April 1878 just five months after its publication (Oxford DNB Online)."
Cf. Wolff 6250.
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