FINE ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF SMOKY, IN SCARCE ORIGINAL GIFT BOX
JAMES, Will. Smoky the Cow Horse. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1929). Small quarto, original black cloth gilt, mounted cover illustration, pictorial endpapers, original gift box. $1200.
Later illustrated edition of James’ most famous book, with color illustrated title page and 14 full-page plates of horses and riders by James (six in color). Housed in original gift box.
Ersatz cowboy and Hollywood movie stuntman, Will James had his most lasting influence as a children’s book writer. Having fabricated a complex autobiographical mythology centering on an imaginary frontier upbringing, James entered the literary scene as a self-appointed authority on ranching and Western life. Despite his initial deception, James proved a talented artist with a particular aptitude for drawing horses. His books, written in a folksy style with sketch-like illustrations, became immensely popular in the era of Westerns. James used his newfound wealth to establish Montana’s Rocking R Ranch, where he wrote the final books of his career. “A love of horses and the West is evident in every volume written and illustrated by this genuine [sic] American cowboy” (Silvey, 349). “James at his best— fresh, natural, and pungent, and his word pictures are now pure nostalgia” (ANB). First published in 1926, this later illustrated edition of Smoky was targeted for the 1929 Christmas season. It had won the 1927 Newbery Award and was made into a movie three times. See Carpenter & Prichard, 489; Parley to Penrod, 142.
A fine copy in scarce original box, a few gatherings carelessly opened, seams of box lid expertly reinforced.