"HIS ACKNOWLEDGED MASTERPIECE": THE HIGHLY PRIZED PETER PAN IN KENSINGTON GARDENS, ILLUSTRATED AND SIGNED BY ARTHUR RACKHAM
(RACKHAM, Arthur) BARRIE, J.M. Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1906. Quarto, original full pictorial vellum gilt, cartographic front endpaper, top edge gilt, uncut. Housed in a custom slipcase. $15,000.
Signed limited first separate edition, number 476 of only 500 copies signed by Rackham, with 50 mounted color illustrations.
Peter Pan wasn't always the boy from Never Land who lost his shadow and fought Captain Hook. The character's first name "came from Peter Llewelyn Davies, who when still a baby became the subject of stories told by Barrie to [Peter's older brothers]. According to these stories Peter, like all babies, had once been a bird and could still fly out of his nursery window and back to Kensington Gardens, because his mother had forgotten to weigh him at birth. From these stories came the 'Peter Pan' chapters in The Little White Bird [published 1902], afterwards re-issued with Arthur Rackham illustrations as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens" (Carpenter, 177). "The 50 color plates were unanimously praised by all who saw them. One critic wrote: 'Mr. Rackham seems to have dropped out of some cloud in Mr. Barrie's fairyland, sent by special providence to make pictures in tune with his whimsical genius'" (Dalby, 76-77). The book—with which the "gift book" genre originated (Eyre, 41)—established Rackham's worldwide reputation and remains "his acknowledged masterpiece… [Barrie praised] Rackham's rendering of the fairy world… but the book has much more to offer. The glimpses he provides of stylized London reality effectively set off the fairy life that exists in unsuspected conjunction with it, and he captures the loveliness of the Gardens themselves with masterly skill" (Ray, 204, 206 [catalogue number 329]). "A much-sought-after volume" (Quayle, Early Children's Books, 87). Frontispiece plate bound before title page, as called for; other mounted plates bound together at the end of the text rather than throughout as suggested by plate list, as often. Latimore & Haskell, 27. Riall, 74.
Plates fine; scattered light foxing to text. Expected usual soiling to vellum, gilt bright. Without ties. A most attractive, near-fine copy of a scarce, most desirable classic.