"BEFORE ALICE… WIDELY REGARDED AS THE PERFECT CHILDREN'S BOOK": A GREAT EARLY AMERICAN CHILDREN'S RARITY, THE HISTORY OF LITTLE GOODY TWOSHOES, 1787, WITH WOOD-ENGRAVED FRONTISPIECE AND NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS, AN EXCEPTIONAL COPY IN ORIGINAL WRAPPERS
(GOLDSMITH, Oliver) (ANONYMOUS). The History of Little Goody Twoshoes; Otherwise Called Mrs. Margery Twoshoes… The First Worcester Edition. Worcester, Massachusetts: Isaiah Thomas, 1787. Small octavo (2-1/2 by 4 inches), original plain brown wrappers; pp. (6) 7-158 (2). Housed in a custom chemise and clamshell box. $7500.
Rare complete 1787 Isaiah Thomas edition, considered by Rosenbach to be "the most celebrated of all the books in John Newbery’s Lilliputian Library,” with wood engraved frontispiece by Thomas Bewick and numerous in-text illustrations, in rarely found original plain brown wrappers.
Rare 18th-century children's books "are often known only by a single, surviving, imperfect copy." This exceptionally rare "First Worcester edition" of Goody Twoshoes was published the same decade Americans won their independence. It is at the core of those works with "unfailing attractions for specialist book-collectors all over the world" (Quayle, 7-8). Initially appearing in England in 1765, this preferred American edition is preceded only by the virtually unobtainable New York (1775), Boston (1786) and Philadelphia (1786) issues: with only a handful of known copies, most incomplete. To Rosenbach, this 1787 edition stands as "the first American edition of this famous nursery classic, the most celebrated of all the books in John Newbery's Lilliputian Library." He further points to the Banbury Chapboooks, which notes: "There was an American edition of Goody Two Shoes, and is very interesting [sic], having a woodcut frontispiece engraved by Thomas Bewick, and was printed at Worcester, Mass'" (Early American Children's Books 118).
Isaiah Thomas is considered "the first American printer to devote his attention to books for children" (Monaghan, 359). During the Revolution he published "the most radical Boston newspaper in support of the patriot cause… The British occupation of Boston in 1775 forced Thomas to move his operation to Worcester," where he added a book bindery to his print shop in 1782 (ANB). With the Revolution crippling the importation of books from England, and paper production at a near standstill, "American book production dropped steeply for a few years, beginning in 1777." At Thomas' publication of this preferred and most influential edition, Americans were quickly drawn to Goody's Cinderella-like heroine, who acquires her name when, orphaned and impoverished with only one shoe, she is given a new pair and calls out in delight—"two shoes." The tale's themes—"application, self-help, rags to riches—made it very popular with American readers" (Norton, 50).
Goody is also "one of the first books designed for children ever to feature a female in its title" (Monaghan, 373). "One of the treasures passed down in the Jane Austen family is a battered and much used copy of Goody. 'For 50 years,' commented a writer in the Athenaeum in 1871, Goody 'was the delight of every child in England that could read'; and indeed Goody's name has passed into the language" (Selwyn, Jane Austen, 143). The family of Jane Austen was not alone in embracing the story of the virtuous little girl. When Samuel Johnson was discovered weeping as he read its last pages, "he threw the book from him and cried out: 'Psha… but they need not have killed the poor old woman at last." By the 19th century, Goody was the basis for numerous sequels. "It is striking just how quickly Goody came to be thought of as one of 'old classics of the nursery' (as Charles Lamb called it), and even as a traditional tale that seemed to have been in circulation from time immemorial… For the Romantics and Victorians Goody was a totem of an older, more innocent era, and, in the age before Alice, was widely regarded as the perfect children's book" (Grenby, Little Goody Two-Shoes, xxxiii—xxxv).
Thomas "edited Part I, the Introduction for the benefit of his American readers and has introduced his own name in the places where that of John Newbery appears in the English edition" (Rosenbach 118). Authorship of Goody
has been attributed by some to Oliver Goldsmith, then working for Newbury; scholarship, however, can find no firm evidence to support this. Rear leaf of publisher's advertisements. Evans 20412. Nichols 108. See Evans 14117 (NY) & 19710 (Philadelphia); Morgan 192 (1766 Newberry) & 193 (NY).
Text and illustrations very fresh, lightest edge-wear, faint rubbing to original wrappers. A most desirable copy of this important classic.