With Engravings by Baker from Designs by Billings. Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1852. Original grey-green blind-stamped cloth with gilt-decorated spine.
First Edition, first printing, of this collection of six children's tales adapted from Greek myths. The tales are "The Gorgon's Head," "The Golden Touch," "The Paradise of Children," "The Three Golden Apples," "The Miraculous Pitcher" and "The Chimaera." To quote from Hawthorne's Preface:
The author has long been of opinion that many of the classical myths were capable of being rendered into very capital reading for children. In the little volume here offered to the public, he has worked up half a dozen of them, with this end in view... In performing this pleasant task, -- for it has been really a task fit for hot weather, and one of the most agreeable, of a literary kind, which he ever undertook, -- the author has not always thought it necessary to write downward, in order to meet the comprehension of children... Children possess an unestimated sensibility to whatever is deep or high, in imagination or feeling, so long as it is simple, likewise. It is only the artificial and the complex that bewilders them.
Hawthorne would follow up this "pleasant task" the following year with the similar TANGLEWOOD TALES.
A WONDER-BOOK was actually published in November 1851: 3067 copies were printed, of which 100 were distributed as review copies and the other 2967 earned Hawthorne a 15% royalty on the 75-cent price. A second printing was ordered immediately, in December 1851, but likewise dated 1852 -- with the error "lifed" corrected to "lifted" on line 3 of p. 21. (Subsequent printings were dated 1853 and later.)
This copy is in grey-green vertically-ribbed cloth, one of the numerous colors used (without priority), and is in near-fine condition: there is little external wear other than a bit at the spine ends, and the original yellow endpapers are firm and uncracked. Quite desirable condition -- this was, after all, a book intended to be read by children. Clark A18.1.a; Blanck 7606; Peter Parley to Penrod p. 6. Item #14083