FABS Newsletter Last Quarter 2015 First Quarter 2016

Long Island Book Collectors

The highlight of our annual luncheon, held at the fabled Milleridge Inn in Jericho, Long Island, was collector Joe Rainone‘s condensed history of the American Comic and Comic Book. Together we traveled back in time to the origins of beloved super characters and cartoon personalities. Mr. Rainone traced their origin all the way back to the paintings of the Lascaux caves in France fifteen thousand years ago , the earliest Egyptian narrative paintings from 3,000 B.C., and the 1066 Bayeux Tapestry ‘s sequential imagery of the story of the Norman Conquest.

A woodcut on paper of The Burning of Mr. John Rogers accompanying a poem written by the minister of the gospel in London for his nine children in 1554 was cited by Mr. Rainone as exemplary of an early cartoon-like drawing. It was written a few days before he was burnt to death, becoming the first martyr of Queen Mary’s reign. Segueing from William Hogarth’s engraved designs in the 1700s to Ben Franklin’s prominent American paper, The Pennsylvania Gazette (1728-1800) to the Peter Porcupine Gazette, to the appearance of Washington Irving’s Salmagundi Papers (1807-1808) followed by his Comic History of New York (1809) starring the fictitious Diedrich Knickerbocker, and bestowing on the city the name “Gotham”.

Eager to show us the trajectory of America’s love affair with the comic form, Mr. Rainone cited The Idiot (1818), hand set in an early periodical, Elton & Elms Comic Almanacs (1831), and the first original comic book published in New York City in 1842 and The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck as progenitors of such cherished favorites as The Harvard Lampoon (1879), The Yellow Kid (1860-1900 published in Truth magazine), The Katzenjammer Kids (1897 debut in the American Humorist, the Sunday supplement of William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal), and Gasoline Alley comic monthly (1869).
As Mr. Rainone says, “the periodical has always been the cheapest form of popular American fiction available to American buyers.” It follows then that our national appreciation for such comic heroes as Tarzan, Popeye, Dick Tracey, Little Abner, Terry and the Pirates, Spiderman, and DC comics’ The Flash and Green Lantern , have led us from pulp magazines and 10 cent comics to the graphic novels of today.

Cookbooks provided the impetus for our January get-together. The mere presence of the recipe laden books and drink mixing manuals seemed to send each of us back into a specific personal past. One by one we revealed the stories behind the books. A small shirt-pocket size Professional Mixing Guide (1947-1950) published by the Angostura Wuppermann Corporation gave way to memories of home entertaining. Uncle John’s Original Bread Book by John Rahn Braue (1961) was heavily stained with a college student’s enthusiasm and Margaret Wood’s A Painter’s Kitchen: Recipes from the kitchen of Georgia O’Keefe continues to allow its owner to share in the day-to-day life of Ghost Ranch.

A 1954 edition of The Settlement House Cookbook that had its origins in Milwaukee’s Settlement House, conceived of in 1901 to help vast migrations of Eastern Europeans familiarize themselves with the customs of America. The book served to introduce new foods that could perhaps take the place of ingredients used in Europe that were unavailable in U.S. markets. It provided instruction to women on sewing, cooking, nutrition, and economizing in their new home. For its owner, this particular book is a keepsake of her mother’s. Among the favorites passed around our table were The Flavor of Jerusalem (1975) by Joan Nathan and Judy Stacy Goldman with a forward by Teddy Kollek , The Automat Cookbook Published by The Museum of the City of New York that brought forth reminiscences of eating at Horn & Hardart from all; Cooking with Flowers Wherein an Age-Old Art is Renewed, whose owner is a proponent of Yucca flower omelettes, soups, and batters, The Wolf in Chef’s Clothing—a pictorial guide to the kitchen for bachelors ; Candy Bits by Zazou Pitts, The Cartoonist’s Cookbook: Cartoonists & Their Favorite Recipes, Rolls Royce Owner’s Cookbook (a picture of the owners car illustrates each recipe); NASCAR Cooks featuring Tabasco sauce in every dish and finally a copy of the 1901 New Edition of Mrs. Beaton’s Book of Household Management (1st edition 1861).
A beautifully printed and bound copy of La Familia Ceraulo: A Portrait of 10 Families (1880s-1890s) compiled by Laura Rainone Christian lent dignity to our informal gathering. This elegant genealogy containing family lore, family history, and family recipes was designed, written and published by the young graphic designer and beloved sister of Joe Rainone. It has become her legacy.

In March Mike Marell presented his collection of books by Robert Louis Stevenson; sharing sixty different illustrated copies of A Child’s Garden of Verses, the first book read to him by his mother. It has remained in print since 1885. Familiar to many readers for Kidnapped, Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson, born in 1850 in Edinburgh, was also a poet, essayist, and travel writer. A sickly child, who made up stories that he dictated to his nurse and mother, even before he had learned to read, Stevenson’s verse and prose was well-loved by both children and adults. Toward the end of the 20th century his work fell out of favor and only recently has it reappeared in literary anthologies. Joe Rainone showed a copy of Jekyll l and Hyde in wraps, probably the first American pirated edition of which no other copies are known to exist.

Herewith the poem Stevenson wrote for his epitaph:

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me
Here he lies where he longed to be
Home is the sailor, home from sea
And the hunter home from the hill.

April’s meeting was devoted to the Bible. Our guest, Daniel Buttafuoco, founder to the Historical Bible Society, book collector, biblical scholar, and trial lawyer spoke on the historical significance of the Bible and the documents that it comprises. Several copies of early illustrated manuscript bibles on vellum, predating the invention of the printing press were displayed along with a printed and illustrated leaf from the Gutenberg Bible (c. 1455). Among the bibles later produced and made available for purchase were William Tyndale’s illustrated Bible (1553) printer: Robert Jugge, an illegal and banned copy of the New Testament printed in English, a King James 1611 Bible—First edition (1611) printer: Robert Barker, the first printed Bible with chapter and verse—Geneva Bible (1560)—First edition, and Textus Receptus Greek New Testament (1550), printer: Robert Estienne, aka “Stephanus. Mr. Buttafuoco is an ardent champion of the Bible as a document that continues to speak to people around the world today, as it did in times past—forever worthy of continuous study and adherence.

In May, collector Bill Tetreault presented a lecture on William Wilberforce, Hannah More, and their Clapham Circle, a group of friends who in their dedication to Christ worked as abolitionists to end slavery in Britain in 1771. In 1798, an American edition of Wilberforce’s A Practical View of Real Christianity served as a blueprint for those in the colonies seeking an enlightened interpretation of Christianity. In 1787, Wilberforce wrote in his diary “G-d Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.”His writings along with those of Hannah More inspired abolitionists in America. The first private black college in the United States (founded 1856), Wilberforce University, and the town in which it still thrives in Ohio bear his name. Mr. Tetreault’s books include many early American editions of inspirational works including Wilberforce’s 1836 Memoir, a volume of letters to his children, and an 1856 edition of Private Devotion: A Series of Prayer Chiefly from the Writings of Hannah More. Mr. Tetreault has curated exhibits on William Wilberforce in Danbury, CT, Durham, NC, New York City, and Falls Church, VA.





The Illustrated London News was the world’s first illustrated weekly newspaper. It was founded by Herbert Ingram (1811-1860), who is considered the father of pictorial journalism. The idea of publishing a weekly newspaper that would contain pictures in every issue came about when he noticed how existing papers always sold more copies when they featured an illustration. The first issue appeared on Saturday, May 14 1842. It sold 26,000 copies. By 1855, mainly due to the Crimean War, its circulation had climbed to 200,000 copies. That same year, the paper started featuring color illustrations. Its success inspired numerous similar papers in America and Europe. Most copied its format, size, and number of pages. The Illustrated London News was published weekly until 1971 when it appeared less frequently until publication ceased in 2003.
The Illustrated Times Weekly Newspaper was one of the most serious rivals of the Illustrated London News. It started publication in June 1855. Later, it was bought by the Illustrated London News and removed from publication in December 1869.

The Civil War and the Newspapers

By 1863, the Illustrated London News was selling more than 300,000 copies every week. By comparison, newspa- pers such as the Daily News sold 6,000 copies per week at this time, and even the largest selling newspaper, The Times sold only sold 70,000 copies. It reported on the progress of the war in almost every issue. Both the Illustrated London News and the Illustrated Times Weekly provided extensive coverage the American Civil War.

Rural New Yorker was a weekly periodical founded in 1841 that was published by the Rural Publishing Co., New York. The magazine survived through the middle of the twentieth century. It episodically showed war illustrations, mostly portraits.

Illustrated TimesIllustrated News

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper was a news magazine founded in 1852 that continued to be published well into the twentieth century. Born in England, Frank Leslie became head-engraver for the Illustrated London News at age twenty-two. He came to New York in 1848. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (1855-1922) was the first successful American venture to bring pictures and news together in a weekly. Leslie’s breakthrough was in dividing the engraving into many sections for individual engravers and then fitting the woodblocks together. He could accom- plish in a day what a single engraver had taken weeks to produce enabling him to publish pictures of events only a week or two old. By the start of the Civil War, the paper’s circulation had reached 164,000. A German edition of the paper was also printed. During the Civil War, an oversized bimonthly paper (23 inches by 16 inches) devoted entirely to the conflict was published.

Harper’s Weekly: A Journal of Civilization began publication in 1857. By 1861 circulation had exceeded 200,000. Such a large circulation gave the paper enormous influence. Its position had a Northern point-of-view, but its pictorial coverage of the war was balanced in its depiction of battles, personages and events. It has been said that it was t the integrity of its illustrations that allowed President Lincoln to come to understand the ineffectiveness of his early generals.

The original New York Illustrated News was published by P.T. Barnum, originator of the famous quip: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” He tried to emulate the success of the Illustrated London News. Even though the New York publication attained a circulation of 70,000, it closed within the year, resurfacing later under the proprietor- ship of John King. During the Civil War, it was bought in January 1864 by W. Jennings Demorest, an American publisher and continued to be issued under the title Demorest’s Illustrated News.

Harpers WeeklyFrank LeslieDemorestFrank Leslie German
Southern Illustrated News was the Confederacy’s rough version of the northern illustrated newspapers. It was published by Ayres & Wade in Richmond beginning in September 1862 to fill the void left by the unavailability of newspapers from the North. At its peak, it had no more than 20,000 subscribers. Printed on poor quality paper, with only eight pages, it is extremely hard to find.
In a different category, but worth the mention is Vanity Fair. It is considered one of the American best weekly humor magazines. Louis H. Stephens was the publisher, and Frank Wood, the first editor. It featured the political cartoons of H. L. Stephens, brother of Louis H., better known today as an illustrator of children’s books. Stephens caricatured famous people, including Lincoln, William Cullen Bryant, Edwin P. Stanton, Benjamin Butler, William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Ward Beecher, and Gideon Welles. Introduced in late December 1859, the weekly maga- zine ceased publication in early July 1863.
The French Le Monde Illustré and its brother L’Illustration, were clones of the Illustrated London News.

Le MondeL'IllustrationVanity FairS. I. News

The Civil War and the Artists

At the beginning of the war, all the illustrated newspapers of the United States were published in New York City. Although they had always circulated in the South, deliveries stopped at the start of the war, when mail to the South was cancelled. The South created the Southern Illustrated News in 1862. Without means to support an artist in the field, it contained only occasional portraits and cartoons. Fortunately for posterity there was one newspaper artist active in the South. In 1861, Frank Vizetelly having just returned from illustrating Garibaldi’s campaign in Sicily and Italy was sent by the Illustrated London News to cover the Civil War in America. Vizetelly was at the battle of Bull Run and sent his paper a sketch of the Union Army running away. The U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was not amused and did not grant Vizetelly permission to accompany McClellan’s army. The artist went south, andspent the remainder of the war sketching the fortunes and misfortunes of the Confederate army. His drawings, in excess of 130, were published in the Illustrated London News, comprising the main record in pictures of the Confederate war years.

A paucity of means did not affect the three illustrated weekly papers of the North. They were filled with pictures. At any given moment, there were about twelve artists working exclusively for the papers. Some of the most important staff artists were Winslow Homer, Thomas Nast, Alfred R. Waud and William Waud, Arthur Lumley, Theodore R. Davis, William T. Crane, Francis H, Schell, Edwin Forbes, and Henri Lovie.

Arthur Lumley was the first artist to be sent to the Army of the Potomac by Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. English born William Waud joined his brother Alfred Waud in America and began to cover numerous events in the South, including the inauguration of Jefferson Davis. He also recorded the bombardment of Fort Sumter, making it a scoop for Leslie’s. Theodore Davis was wounded twice and had his horse shot out from under him. He worked for Harper’s but traveled with a neutral British journalist, and told people he was an artist for the Illustrated London News. Also working for Leslie’s, Edwin Forbes was one of the few artists who covered the entire war. Noted for his accuracy, Alfred R. Waud was acclaimed by Harper’s in 1865 as “the most important artist-correspondent of the Civil War.”

Other artists who worked for Harper’s were Jasper Green, Winslow Homer, Henry Mosler, Thomas Nast, Allen C. Redwood, William H. Shelton, David H. Strother and William Waud when he left Frank Leslie.

Thomas Nast’s talent places him on a different level. He is rightfully considered to be the originator of the Ameri- can cartoon. He worked for the New York Illustrated News before going to Harper’s Weekly. Among his notable creations are the modern version of Santa Claus (traditionally depicted as a tall, thin man, Nast drew him in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly as the bearded, plump man known today), the well-known image of Uncle Sam, and the political symbols of both major United States political parties; the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey.

Frank Leslie Bi-Weekly

Author’s biography: Paul Belard was fourteen years old when he bought his first set of leather bound books “Les œuvres de Rabelais,” illustrated by Gustave Doré. They are still in his collection, now surrounded by Art Deco and Art Nouveau bindings, leather inlaid bindings, history books, travel books, illustrated newspapers about the American Civil War and many more that caught his fancy. Little did he know when he purchased those first two volumes and stroked their red spines that one day he would bind his own. This hobby has allowed him to meet wonderful people and to restore many books that he would otherwise never have had the chance to look at. He treasures them all. Without books, he firmly believes that we would still be living in caverns or huts. He is a retired Mechanical Engineer, and the author of four books published in France and one in the United States. Paul teaches book conservation at LIU Post and continues to restore books.

American Underground: The Scandal papers of the 19th century!


Before Gillette’s invention of the “safety razor” with a disposable blade, at the turn of the century, the barber with his straight edge was the way to go.  Of course, many continued to nick themselves at home for free.  While Gillette was not the first to create the safety razor he became the most successful.  Similarly The National Police Gazette was not the first “scandal” paper but it would become the most famous and influential.
Not until the “Flash” papers (The Sunday Flash, The Whip etc.) began the onslaught of exposing the underbelly of society with its revelations of brothels, houses of prostitution along with coverage of sports, theater and other oddities, would the clamor and debate begin. The editors immediately exonerated their use of risqué illustrations and titillating articles by claiming that such exposure was necessary to point out such vice and iniquities.  While, in fact such notoriety only enhanced business rather than deterred. Publishers and editors rather, gained favor with select brothels mentioned within while, at times, they engaged in blackmailing the named parties who were exposed within their journal.
The plight and fight for what was right for the “press” is an interesting story of individual persistence; pitting the editors against the outrage from the community while declaring their perceived right of freedom of the press albeit benefiting their own financial gain as the demands of a growing audience expanded.  It was not until 1845 when one of the Flash press proprietors, George Wilkes teamed up with a new partner, Enoch E. Camp and came up with a way to stay out of jail while continuing to produce a journal which would be “useful” to the community yet still expose the vices and crimes of the streets and street walkers; The National Police Gazette.
Throughout the 19th century hair and beard styles would change.  Beards of course were even more vogue after Old Abe adorned his face in the early 60s! The mustache and the long sideburns and mutt and chops were also in style for much of the latter half of the century.   More importantly, our “expose” of such scandal papers is more about the social aspects of such “masculine” papers which over time created a unifying bound between males of all strata, defining what it was to be a real man, changing the definition of the meaning of “ribald” to something more sociably accepted, progressive and newsworthy.
After the Civil War the barber shop focused primarily on hair cutting, less of teeth pulling and stopped bloodletting after laws had prohibited their century’s old right to do so, reducing the barber to a technician rather than a “professional.” Meanwhile, the shop had become a man’s haven where a woman might be adorned in the pages of the National Police Gazette in New York, or perhaps in the Illustrated Police News of Boston, but would never be seen in the barber’s chair!
At this time urbanization was well on the rise but still the vast majority in this country lived rurally. However, the distribution of newspapers and periodicals, including through the mail, had been perfected.  With technical advances came more and better illustrations and an added emphasis on sensationalism and exploitation.
By the 1870s the story papers were reaching their peak circulation giving their readers more daring stories of adventures.  At the same time such scandal papers were catering to a more mature audience who required their daring and darlings to be of flesh and blood rather than the fictional kind.  Enter Richard K. Fox.  Fox was to revolutionize The National Police Gazette to worldwide recognition and bring such papers to a prominence as never before imagined.
There can be little doubt that Fox intentionally targeted the barber shop for his Police Gazette as did Stetson in his neck of the woods, Boston.  After all, here to large degree, were the money makers who could afford the luxury of a cut and a shave on an ongoing basis.  Although there were newsboys, saloons, oyster shops and other means of distribution nothing provided the social setting as the local barber shop which would eventually be synonymous with the “Police Gazette” for decades to come.
It would be a long time before the safety razor would have an impact on the barber shop patron and readership, along with the other many tabloids that would eventually abound.  Unfortunately, little is known of Mr. John Stetson’s, The Illustrated Police News.  However, we are happy to be able to say that the collection of Mr. Rainone contains a good many samples (and even more of The National Police Gazette) along with many other true rarities of this nature; many which will be seen within these pages.
Lest we forget, the publishers of like papers were given a constant barrage by the likes of Mr. Anthony Comstock, head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, who was looking to close down any publication he thought obscene.   Fox and other publishers often found themselves paying fines, fighting legal battles and even at times were put in the clink.  A number of scandal papers, such as Frank Tousey’s, Under the Gas Light fell by the wayside but Fox and Stetson endured.  Some story papers, even before Fox’s tenure, such as Norman Munro’s The New Sensation, tried to combine the lure of the scandal paper with the story paper even adding color but just could not find the right combination to endure more than 3 years. Frank Leslie’s The Days Doings was more successful and innovative but also came under the sights of Mr. Comstock forcing him to tone down the sex and violent depictions.
As far as the regular folk at home go, one can quite imagine a typical scene of a family man surrounded by other young adults peering over his shoulder to see the latest sensational images of sport heroes, outlaws and of damsels in distress, along with dames not to be reckoned with!  It is extremely likely that most women disapproved and children were denied access; although, no doubt they would devise their own plan to sneak a peek when no one was watching.  Such images of gruesome crimes and salacious depictions, meant to titillate, were no doubt a constant temptation for the curious mind!  Dime novels and story papers might be entertaining…but this was the real deal!
Certainly Mr. King Camp Gillette would have approved of the Police Gazette, and all its imitators, for he was said to have enjoyed the nightlife! In fact, when Nellie Coffman, proprietor of the infamous Desert Inn, in Palm Springs California, was asked why she allowed the old gent who was often seen hanging around her establishment she responded, “Why that is King C. Gillette.  He has practically kept this place in the black the last few years.”

But let’s be fair, the Police Gazette and the Police Illustrated News, along with some of the other periodicals was exciting entertainment, be it sport, sex, criminality or oddity!   And, all for a dime!

Joe Rainone

Banned From American Bookshelves: The Story Of Little Black Sambo

Little Black Sambo, I’m going to eat you up!
And Little Black Sambo said, ‘Oh! Please Mr. Tiger, don’t eat me up,
And I’ll give you my beautiful little Red Coat.

from The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman


For more than one hundred years, The Story of Little Black Sambo has been a classic of the nursery. It is a beloved tale and was reprinted in untold numbers of editions around the world. There were 30 editions in English alone (not counting reprints and copyright renewals) from 1900 to 1970.  What happened in the 1970’s to cause it to all but disappear from library and bookstore shelves?  Herein lies a story of political correctness and a century of racial discrimination.
It cannot be denied that when examined today there are negative stereotypes of blacks, especially in the illustrations.  But the basic story refuses to disappear, for at least three new versions have appeared just recently.  Little Black Sambo was not alone in being banned in the 1970s.  In 1976, the only censorship case to ever reach the Supreme Court of the United States, Pico vs. IslandTreesSchool District (Long Island) was prompted by the removal of 9 books from the high school library, but those books were subsequently returned to the shelves, albeit with restrictions.
The values taught by The Story of Little Black Sambo are vitally important for the development of children in any society at any time, and LBS (as it will be referred to in the content of this article) is rarely matched in content or style by most other children’s stories, especially those of the late nineteenth century when Helen Bannerman wrote it for her children.  It stresses that bullying and greed (the tigers) accomplish nothing in the long run and that handling anxiety and stress calmly and positively with negotiation (Sambo) wins out in the end.  Those who work with children find that these concepts are invaluable for teaching today’s kids how to deal with their world, with many educational programs being devised recently to do just that.  This is probably why Little Black Sambo, by that or any other name, (Sam or Babaji, names used in modern versions) will continue to survive.
Another of its advantages for the child was its size. The original volume was 24mo and so fit perfectly into the hands of the smallest child.  Subsequent editions were usually not much larger.  The story was exciting, easy to understand, with a repetitive rhythm, action, and a satisfying conclusion, all elements in the best of children’s literature.
From its initial publication, parents liked LBS because the story could be purchased in cheap and colorful editions, first in the “Dumpy” Books by Grant Richards in England, then by publishers such as Stokes, Platt and Munk, Whitman and others in the United States. Librarians extolled it, not only for its virtues of content, but because there wasn’t much available with black child protagonists.  According to Barbara Bader, “ …demeaning pictures of blacks were routine, and a little black hero, in a cracking good story, wasn’t.  Until the 1930s, small black children appeared in picture books almost invariably as buffoons—Topsys without her high spirits or quick mind. Sambo was popular across black America not only in his own right but also by default.”

Sambo appeared in most of the major bibliographies including the ALA Basic Book Collection for Elementary Gradesin the 1950s and the Children’s Catalogin the 1960s.  In the early seventies, Selma Lanes in her book on children’s literature, Down the Rabbit Hole, praised LBS as helping whites “to see black people in a new way.”

Why then would the book suddenly be seen as damaging to children and removed from libraries and bookstores (which in the process made it a valuable commodity for collectors)? Before examining the controversy which erupted in the mid 1970s, let us go back to the late 19th century for a moment and examine its author, who was neither American nor black, but a highly educated, well traveled Scottish mother of four, and a product of her time and environment.


Helen Bannerman was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on February 25, 1863 to a minister of the Free Church of Scotland and his wife, and spent her early years on the island of Madeira off the coast of Spain where her father was stationed.  There, she came into contact with a large African community.  Later her family returned to Scotland where she received a university education, which was rare for a woman of that time.  After she married William Bannerman, a doctor in the Indian Medical Service, she lived in India from the 1890’s to 1917 when they returned to Scotland where she died in 1946.

Her four children spent a good deal of time away from their mother.  In addition to being sent back to Scotland to be educated, they spent summers in the Hindu Kush where it was cooler than in Indian cities.  She wrote and illustrated Story of Little Black Sambo as a gift for her daughters on a train returning from a visit to them.

A friend who was returning to England saw LBS and offered to take it with her and have it published.  Bannerman warned her not to sell the copyright, but when Grant Richards, the publisher, refused to take it unless he could hold the copyright, the friend agreed and sold it to him for a few pounds.  It was published in London in October, 1899 as part of the “Dumpy” series. Then, because it was so popular, it was reprinted in November, 1899, September, 1900 and October, 1900. Frederick A. Stokes in the United States purchased the rights from Grant Richards and published it there in 1900.  Bannerman never received a penny beyond the initial few pounds.  She wrote many more books but never again gave up the copyright!

One of the questions often asked about the story is why it takes place in what appears to be India (tigers, palm trees, ghi, the Indian word for clarified butter) when the characters are stereotypical black Africans. Obviously, Bannerman knew the difference between Africans and Indians having lived in both communities.  Elizabeth Hay, Bannerman’s biographer, feels that “the explanation is that she was writing, not for publication, but for her own daughters.  She wanted to set her story somewhere far away and exotic; she chose an imaginary jungle-land and peopled it with what were to her daughters a far-away kind of people. To have made the setting India would have been too humdrum and familiar for them.  Then, because she had a liking for terrifying tigers, she brought them in as villains.  She was far too good a naturalist not to be aware that tigers are found in India but not in Africa; no matter.  Her jungle-land was an imaginary one, and tigers, which for her were symbolic dragons, were essential to the story.”


As popular as LBS seemed to be with librarians, as early as the late 1930s and early 1940s, black librarians were beginning to grumble about its suitability for black children’s image of themselves and how they were viewed by whites, in spite of the fact, as we have seen, that there was a dearth of literature for and about black children.  Two prominent black children’s librarians, Charlemae Rollins at the Chicago Public Library and Augusta Baker, soon to become head of children’s services at New York Public Library raised several issues.  Their concerns covered what they considered objectionable themes and the stereotyped illustrations and names of the characters.

The objectionable themes were the unsanitary use of butter taken from the ground by Black Jumbo after the tigers melt; over bright clothing showing that blacks have an indiscriminate and primitive love for bright colored clothes (red jacket, purple shoes with crimson soles and crimson linings, etc.); and the number of pancakes that Sambo consumed intimating that blacks have huge appetites.

As far as the illustrations are concerned, besides the comments of Bannerman’s biographer quoted previously to justify her use of Africans in her illustrations, there are other theories to explain why the pictures she drew, and later illustrators embroidered upon, tend toward the grotesque.   Minstrel shows were popular at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, featuring whites in black face with exaggerated lips and eyes.  Another thought is that young Helen Bannerman as a child read Heinrich Hoffmann’s popular moralistic picture book, Der Struwwelpeter that was translated into English from the German by the middle of the 19th century.  One of the stories in the book is about a black-a-moor who goes for a walk with his green umbrella and is teased by three ruffians. The illustration of the black-a-moor is remarkably similar to Sambo, not to mention the coincidence of the green umbrella.

The names Sambo, Mumbo and Jumbo were major concerns to the black librarians, though the name Sambo had been used in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  It is actually a word in some African languages, and in Portuguese “Zambo” means mulatto.  Mumbo/Jumbo is the term for a tribal medicine man in Central Africa. However, all three names were greatly in evidence in minstrel shows and had a derogatory connotation to African-Americans.

Through the 1940’s, ‘50s and ‘60s, there were complaints, articles and even congressional hearings (Adam Clayton Powell convened the House Committee on Education and Labor) to examine the depiction of blacks in literature.  Rollins, Baker and other black librarians literally banned the story from the shelves of their libraries and library systems.  Since libraries and the black community stopped buying, publishers stopped printing.  Even though some editions were published with the characters in Indian garb, with all the trappings of a middle class modern household, gradually, Little Black Sambo disappeared from recommended lists and was relegated to historical children’s literature collections.


But LBS did not stay parked in book collections.  The children of those years before the mid-1970’s grew up, remembered the story and wanted their children to remember it also.   So within the last 9 years, three very different versions, the last in 2003, have been published by major publishers.

In 1996, two versions appeared.  Julius Lester, a well known African-American author of children’s books and college professor who joined the black librarians in condemning LBS in the 1970’s, and Jerry Pinckney an award winning illustrator published Sam and the Tigers (Dial), an attempt to fix Helen Bannerman’s version of LBS so that the stereotypes and other objections are eliminated but the story line is the same.  Bannerman’s prose is not used, and the venue is a place called Sam-sam-samara. However, the protagonists are modern looking African-Americans and the size is small 4to.

The same year, Fred Marcellino published The Story of Little Babaji (HarperCollins).  He uses Bannerman’s words, but the setting is indisputably India and the characters are Babaji (Sambo), Mamaji (Mambo) and Papaji (Jumbo).  There is more of an attempt here to keep the book small as it was.originally printed.  It is 12mo.

In 2003, Christopher Bing, an illustrator specifically used Bannerman’s name as the author of the book and calls it The Story of Little Black Sambo (Handprint Books). He gives a publishing history at the end, sets his version in what looks like India, with Indian parents and a Sambo who looks more African-American.  The names are left as in the original, but it is folio size, gigantic compared to the original!  Interestingly enough, it was nominated for inclusion on the 2004 American Library Association Notable Books list, though it ultimately was not included!  The circle closes!!


Any version in almost any condition of LBS before it was banned is valuable today. The Dumpy series edition (first British), and the first American (Stokes), can go for thousands of dollars.  Others are worth hundreds.  Collecting the various versions may be expensive, but the story (if not always the illustrations) is still a precious part of children’s literature in English.


Bader, Barbara. American Picturebooks from Noah’s Ark to the Beast Within. NY: Macmillan, 1976.
Bader, Barbara. Sambo, Babaji and Sam. The Horn Book Magazine, September-October, 1996, 536-547.
Barton, Phyllis Settecase. The Pictus Orbis Sambo: Being a Publishing History, Checklist, and Price Guide for The Story of Little Black Sambo. Sun City, CA: Pictus Orbis Press, 1998.
Hay, Elizabeth. Sambo Sahib: The Story of Little Black Sambo and Helen Bannerman.  Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1981.
Pico, Steven, An Introduction to Censorship, School Library Media Quarterly (ALA), Winter, 1990, 84-87.
Yuill, Phyllis J. Little Black Sambo: A Closer Look. NY: Council on Interracial Books for Children, 1976.

Marjorie Rosenthal

The Odyssey of a Book


The Odyssey of a Book

In memory of Igor Broytman, book dealer and friend (1960 – 2013).

It is seldom easy to trace the paths that a book has followed along its journey from the original owner to the present one. Sometimes, clues inside the book itself tell the story. Herein lies the stunning revelation of one book’s odyssey through the annals of human history.

In 1827 the first edition of Alexander Pushkin’s The Robber Brothers was published in Russia The copy pictured below was undoubtedly bought by a rich individual, maybe a member of the nobility, since to acquire a book at this time, two requirements were necessary: the ability to read and the means to buy it. The first owner, who remains unknown, placed his own bookplate bearing the imprint ex libris, a Latin phrase meaning, “From the library of ” on the title page.

One hundred and fourteen years later, in 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The book fell into the hands of a member of the German forces. Deemed extremely valuable, maybe due to the former owner’s renown, the book was presented to Wilhem Keitel, a German Field Marshal of the Wehrmacht, and Reich War Minister. He promptly removed the original ex librisand put his own in its place. This seemingly innocuous act represents both an infamous display of arrogance and a lack of sophistication: the stamp of a soldier’s boot imprint, nails included, showing his name on the sole and a swastika on the heel. It is symbolic of man’s capacity for evil and the meaning is clear: to crush and enslave!

Four years later, the victorious Russian army occupied Berlin. The book was discovered and given to Marshal Georgy Zhukov, Commander of the Soviet forces. In all probability, its provenance from the higher echelons of the Reich hierarchy must have prompted this gesture. Zhukov did not remove Keitel’s ex libris. Instead he put his own on top of it, once again proving true the maxim: O quam cito transit gloria mundi: How quickly the glory of the world passes away!pushkin

The travels of this book and its association with such historic and ultimately doomed figures is a fascinating and unique story. Wouldn’t it be equally enticing to trace the history of the books that we come to hold in our own hands? Finally, we too, might find that we have in our possession evidence of the portents of our collective past.

Paul Belard, July 2013.