Published: December 8, 2020
DALLAS, TEXAS — In 1956, upon the occasion of L. Frank Baum’s 100th birthday, Justin Schiller loaned to Columbia University impossible-to-find copies from the author’s Land of Oz series. At the time, Schiller, the sole son of antique-hunters, was all of 12 years old. He had begun collecting at 8, and by 1960 was one of the world’s preeminent experts in and collector of children’s literature.
Sixty years later, after decades as a seller of books for kids and the grown-ups who raised them, Schiller brings his assemblage of rarities to Heritage Auctions for a one-day event spanning centuries. The December 16 auction is titled “Once Upon a Time: Rare Children’s Literature from Justin G. Schiller, Ltd.,” may be an historic occasion.
Here, one can time travel from 1697 with a pirated copy of Charles Perrault’s Histoires ou Contes du Temps Passé, that containing all eight of his fairy tales. What makes this copy unique is its origin: it was an unauthorized printing, published the same year as the first edition, likely from a shop in Amsterdam, proof of how quickly word spread of Perrault’s work. Fast forward 150 years, to 1835 with an inscribed first printing of the first edition of Eventyr, Fortalte For Børn by Hans Christain Anderson.
Two years later, in 1837, the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm would publish their Kinder- und Hausmärchen. The sale includes an inscribed two-volume edition that is the first enlarged, which is to say unabridged, edition. Making the work even more noteworthy is the inscription inside the first volume, in which Wilhelm Grimm writes, “Dem lieben Malchen Hassenpflug / von seinem Treuen Freunde / Wilhelm Grimm. / Göttingen 23 October 1837” – that is, “To dear Malchen Hassenpflug from her true friend Wilhelm Grimm.” The inscription refers to Amalie Hassenpflug, a friend of the family’s and one of three sisters who contributed, significantly, to the Brothers Grimm’s collection of Children’s and Household Tales. Indeed, Amalie is thought to have contributed about ten tales, as did her sister Jeanette, and the eldest Marie likely contributed more than 20.
“This is Wilhelm Grimm’s gift to one of the sources of the fairy tales,” says Samantha Sisler, production specialist in Heritage’s rare books department. “He wrote them down, but she’s the source. This is certainly among the most important association copies of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. To acquire a book of this significance – collectors likely won’t get another chance.”
Enter the Twentieth Century in 1900 with a first edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; and in 1901, with one of 250 copies of first printing of the first edition of the privately published The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The collection offers later works, including from the 1960s, Shel Silverstein’s first manuscript to his classic Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book.
It’s just amazing, the breadth of this sale,” says James Gannon, Heritage Auctions’ director of rare books. “So many of the offerings are museum-quality. Auctions always have their highlights, and these usually limited to a handful out of many. But thanks to Justin’s diligence and determination, nearly every offering here is a highlight.”
Schiller has spent decades collecting not only for his customers and clients, but for himself. And as he likes to say, he often wouldn’t part with a book if “I hadn’t found the right person who I felt deserved our offering of it.”
Heritage Auctions is at 2801 West Airport Freeway. For information, 214-528-3500 or www.ha.com.
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