London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1906. Harold R. Millar. First edition. Hardcover. This is a magnificent copy of the British first edition, second printing in the exceptionally scarce dust jacket. The second printing was issued the same month as the first printing and is nearly identical. The dust jacket differs from that of the first printing only in adding Puck of Pook's Hill to the list of Kipling titles on the rear panel. The volume differs only in the copyright page notation of the second printing.
Puck of Pook’s Hill is Kipling’s abidingly English collection of ten stories and sixteen poems, informed by English history and animated by English mythology, for a youthful audience, this British first edition published with twenty illustrations by Harold R. Millar. This is the first publication of the sixteen poems. Preceding the British and American first editions, the stories had appeared in Strand Magazine, as well as in Ladies’ Home Journal and McClure’s Magazine in America. “Several minor changes were made in the story texts, as printed in book form, and there are numerous but unimportant textual differences between the English and American Editions.” (Richards, A205)
This copy is rare thus – fine in a very good dust jacket. The red cloth binding is improbably bright and clean, tight with sharp corners, vivid gilt, and no appreciable wear. The contents are pristine – crisp and bright with no previous ownership marks, no spotting, clean fore and bottom edges, and bright gilt top edge. The endpapers show differential toning corresponding to the dust jacket flaps. A single leaf (verso and recto) bound in at the rear advertises other works by Kipling. The sole previous ownership mark is a tiny “Times Book Club” sticker affixed to the lower rear pastedown.
The dust jacket shows only trivial loss at the spine head and corners, with moderate overall soiling and short closed tears to the upper hinges and upper edge of the rear panel. The spine shows mild toning, but the red print remains distinct. The dust jacket is protected beneath a removable, archival quality clear cover.
When first published, Kipling referred to the first four stories as “part of scheme of mine for trying to give children not a notion of history but a notion of time sense which is at the bottom of all history that rightly understood means love of one’s fellow man and the land one lives in”. (Letters 3, p.189) Siblings Dan and Una of rural Sussex are reciting A Midsummer Night’s Dream to one another on Midsummer Eve near the titular “Pook’s Hill” when they summon Puck – “a small, brown, broad-shouldered, pointy-eared person with a snub nose, slanting blue eyes, and… a wicked twinkle in his eye”. Puck introduces himself as “the oldest Old Thing in England” and introduces a procession of figures from English history – among them a Roman centurion, a Saxon monk, a Norman knight, a Viking sea captain, and so on. Rewards and Fairies, published in 1910, added additional stories and poems.
Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, stories and poems of British India, and his tales for children. Despite this reputation, Kipling’s extraordinary body of work “eludes all labels in its range and variety… Kipling's work is not only of the highest artistic excellence, it is deeply humane and fully expresses the sense of one of his favourite texts: ‘Praised be Allah for the diversity of his creatures.’” (ODNB) Kipling was in his twenties when his stories of Anglo-Indian life made him a literary celebrity, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907, the year after this book was published. This book has two instances - on the gilt front cover device and on the half title verso – of the swastika symbol prevalent in Kipling’s published works, an ancient symbol of “good fortune” used at least 5,000 years before being perverted by Hitler’s Reich.
Reference: Richards A205. Item #004331