Peter Rabbit

10 Rare and Valuable Children’s Books

Some of our best childhood memories involve being tucked into bed and read our favourite stories. First and early editions of children’s books can be immensely valuable, but only if they are in the right condition. In our extensive range you’ll find much-loved, timeless classics from authors such as A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter. Check the attic and raid your parents’ basement – first edition books from your past could be worth a small fortune now.

1. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (1902)

“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits… Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.”

£2,500

Beatrix Potter is regarded as one of the world’s best-loved children’s authors of all time. From her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit she went on to create a series of stories based around animal characters. Her humorous, lively tales and beautiful illustrations have become a natural part of childhood.  First edition Beatrix Potter books also include The Tailor of Gloucester (1903) and The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies (1909). A source of inspiration was the Lake District where she lived for the last thirty years of her life.

2. Winnie-The-Pooh by A. A. Milne (1926)

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” 

£1,750

The much-loved children’s classic tells the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh, “a Bear of Very Little Brain” and his friends Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore, Owl and Christopher Robin, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard.

Above is an original, leather-bound first edition. Also available is an unread complete set of first edition Winnie the Pooh books, each signed by the author and illustrator.

3. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)

“The Wild Wood is pretty well populated by now; with all the usual lot, good, bad, and indifferent–I name no names. It takes all sorts to make a world.” 

£2,500

Begun as a series of letters from Kenneth Grahame to his son, The Wind in the Willows is a timeless tale of animal cunning and human camaraderie. Since its first publication in 1908, generations of adults and children have cherished this world of gurgling rivers and whispering reeds, serving as home to the most lovable creatures in all literature―Rat, Mole, Badger, and the irrepressible Toad of Toad Hall.

Rackham’s illustrations brilliantly capture the characters and capers in this limited edition Wind in the Willows book with 12 mounted colour plates.

4. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming (1964-1965)

 “Never say ‘no’ to adventures.”

£2,700

Famous for creating James Bond, Ian Fleming also loved fast cars and this passion inspired him to write his only children’s book, penned for his young son, Caspar.

With full-colour original illustrations by John Burningham, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang introduced the world to the thrilling adventures of the “crackpot” Pott family and the flying car with a mind of her own.  It was a global hit and in 1968 it was adapted for the big screen (with a screenplay co-written by Roald Dahl).

5. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (1950)

“If ever they remembered their life in this world it was as one remembers a dream.”

£1,700

The first and most popular of the seven novels in The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956), much of the story takes place in a fictional land called Narnia, with mythical creatures and talking animals ruled over by the White Witch in a permanent state of winter. Published in 47 foreign languages, TIME magazine included this title in its ‘All-Time 100 Novels’. Above is a newly bound first edition of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with illustrations by Pauline Baynes, published in 1950.

6. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling (1902)

“What does the Crocodile have for dinner?”

£700

Born in Bombay in 1865, Rudyard Kipling was taken from the exotic sights and sounds of India just five years later and sent to foster parents in England, where he was by his own admission, utterly miserable. When he had children of his own, Kipling made sure that his offspring’s young lives were full of delight, entertaining them by inventing ingenious and amusing explanations to such important childhood questions as how the elephant got its trunk, or the leopard its spots. Just So Stories. For Little Children, published in 1902, contained more than thirty of Kipling’s own brilliant illustrations.

7. Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodson Burnett (1886)

“But only be good, dear, only be brave, only be kind and true always, and then you will never hurt any one…”

£1,900

This celebrated children’s book tells a story of a little American boy, who discovers he is the heir to an English aristocratic title and a fortune.  Little Lord Fauntleroy was the first children’s novel of English author Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924) and was first published in book format in 1886 following the serialisation in St. Nicholas magazine. Its popularity was enormous. Polly Horvath, an American-Canadian author of novels for children, wrote that Little Lord Fauntleroy “”was the Harry Potter of his time.” Above is a first edition with illustrations by Reginald B. Birch, preserved in a velvet-lined box.

8. Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by J. M. Barrie (1906)

‘To die will be an awfully big adventure.’

£1,500

About a free spirited and mischievous young boy who can fly and never grows up, Barrie never recovered from the shock he received from a brother’s accidental death and its grievous effect on his mother, who was said to find comfort in the fact that he would remain a boy forever. It was here that Barrie’s lifelong obsession with the preservation of childhoood innocence became anchored in his writing.

Above is a first trade edition of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, sumptuously illustrated throughout with 50 colour plates by Arthur Rackham.

9. Harry Potter by JK Rowling (1997-2007)

“Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”

£4,200

The wizarding world of Harry Potter has become a global phenomenon. On 26 June 1997 the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published in the UK by Bloomsbury. Only 500 hardbacks were published and 300 went to libraries, leaving only 200 copies in potentially fine collectable condition.  In 2005, a 1997 first edition sold for £25,650 so check your attics!

First editions of the second book The Chamber of Secrets also had a small print run and is considered highly collectible, especially when signed by J.K. Rowling and in good condition.

Find out More – Harry Potter’s Warwick Davies learns the value of first editions

Kay.-Eloise in Paris.

10. Eloise in Paris by Kay Thompson (1958)

“Think pink. A better way of life.”

£2,250

Eloise is a girl who lives in the “room on the tippy-top floor” of the Plaza Hotel in New York City with her Nanny, her pug dog Weenie, and her turtle Skipperdee. Illustrated by Hilary Knight, Thompson’s goddaughter, Liza Minnelli, has been cited as a possible model for Eloise, as has the author herself.

Eloise in Paris was first published in 1957, the second of the Eloise quartet, and an immediate bestseller. Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight traveled to Paris to research the book, and the illustrations are dotted with the celebrities they knew there; for example Richard Avedon takes Eloise’s passport photograph. This copy is sumptuously hand-bound in leather with intricate onlays.

Find out more

Explore more items in our Literature department. We are continually updating our stock with first edition classic works and children’s titles.

Can we help?

A first edition of a rare or beautiful book makes a great gift, whether it is for an adult or child. If you are looking for that special present for a birthday, wedding, anniversary, christening, Christmas or any other special occasion please contact Angus Robb and he will help you to find the ideal book for the recipient.

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