Every now and then a book lands on my desk that none of the usual sources agree upon, a volume that is a bibliographical nightmare with few copies in institutional holdings, each, apparently, a different edition but all of them issued without a date of publication, and with few details in the records to help sort things out.
Such a book is Faithful Friends, a children's book illustrated by, amongst others, Arthur Rackham.
Latimore & Haskell and Derek Hudson declare 1913 as the year of this book's first publication, yet the plates by Rackham are dated "1901." COPAC notes a copy and assigns "1902" as publication date but without accompanying notes. OCLC notes a copy, "Printed by Blackie and Son Limited at the Villafield Press, Glasgow"-Cover./ Publisher's advertisement on p. [iv] of cover, for Hassall Nursery Series./ Binding: Pictorial boards with red cloth spine. Color illustration on cover of horse and dog," and assigns the date as 1913. Riall notes that edition but dates it 1904. I have have seen another, similar undated edition in green cloth with a color illustration of dog and horse on laid to green cloth. And yet another edition, with pictorial boards similar to the copy under notice, in green cloth. Again, all undated.
Bless or curse Google but a Net search - unavailable to Rackham's bibliographers - has, apparently, provided an answer.
Confusion may be (somewhat) cleared up by noting that the October 11, 1901 issue of The Bookseller, in its announcements of upcoming books, lists "Faithful Friends: My Book of Nursery Stories" within "Children's Books & c. By Messrs. Blackie and Son." In the same issue of The Bookseller, advertisements by Blackie tout "Faithful Friends: My Book of Nursery Stories" available in a Two-Shilling Toy-Books edition bound in "picture boards with edges gilt " and as a One-Shilling Toy-Book ("These form a Cheaper Edition of the Toy-Books of the same title in the 2s series"). We have yet to find evidence of the book, with that subtitle, ever being published.
Indeed, Latimore & Haskell (and Hudson) list the book under the title Faithful Friends, A Collection of Short Stories by Various Authors with the caveat: "Note: As the compilers could not see a copy of this book, the information was taken from the publishers." Their record for this book, then, is unreliable, and is referring to a later edition (1913).
Rackham's plates are dated 1901. It seems highly unlikely that the book 's publication would be postponed for eleven years. Based upon the advertisements in The Bookseller, I feel confident that the book was, indeed, issued in 1901 (Riall dates it to 1902 but, presumably, did not have these advertisements to reference) with the present subtitle a last-minute substitution, and that this copy is amongst the very scarce few copies of Faithful Friends in the Two-Shilling Toy-Books edition with all edges gilt to have survived the last 107 years.
Rackham specialist, David Brass, declares that, in over forty years of handling the works of Arthur Rackham, this is the only copy of what is clearly the true first, "Two Shilling," edition, that he's ever seen or heard of. Moreover, as the Two-Shilling Toy-Book (deluxe) edition with all edges gilt, it is the most desirable to collect.
The illustrations by Arthur Rackham in Faithful Friends are not his finest; they are simple, two-color drawings yet provide an excellent example of the artist in development. The illustrations are (by leaf signature):
1. L11 "Playful Puppies"
2. L22 "Waiting for the Train"
3. N4 "Break-Fast Time"
4. [N22] "In the Farmyard"
5. M9 "Pussycat Town" (black and white)
6. M11 "Pussy's Playtime"
7. M15 [The Bold Kitten] (black & white vignette).
8. M28 "My Pets"
I cordially invite anyone who can provide further information that can be substantiated about this book to contact me here at Book Patrol.
[RACKHAM, Arthur and Cecil Aldin, etc., illustrators] Various Authors. Faithful Friends; Pictures and Stories for Little Folk. London: Blackie and Son, n..d., .
First edition, deluxe "Two-Shilling" binding. Quarto. (10 1/8 x 7 3/4 in; 258 x 200 mm) 86 pp. With six full page two-color, and two black and white, illustrations by Rackham; miscellaneous color illustrations by Cecil Aldin, Felix Leigh, A.M. Hutton, Louis Wain, Gunning King, EAC [Edward Caldwell], Fannie Moody, M.E.E [Mary Ellen Edwards], M. Dixon, and others. Text by various authors.
Blue cloth, pictorially stamped in yellow, orange and pale gray depicting a little girl bearing a makeshift flag, walking with a dog and cat. All edges gilt.
References: Latimore and Haskell p. 41. (citing 1913 edition - not seen). Hudson p. 176. (citing 1913 edition). Gettings p.178. (citing 1913 edition). Hamilton p. 189. (citing 1913 edition). Riall p. 63. (citing 1902 edition as being the first printing).
Images courtesy of David Brass.
Visit The Arthur Rackham Society.
N.B.: As of this writing the book has sold.