Thursday, July 12, 2012

Two Unusual Variants of Nye and Opper’s History of the United States

by Richard Samuel West
When the firm of J.B. Lippincott, the venerable Philadelphia publisher, agreed to publish Bill Nye’s History of the United States and then secured Fred Opper of Puck to illustrate it, they probably had no idea that the book would prove to be such an amazing success. We know it was successful because of the sheer number of copies that exist today – it is possibly the most common 19th century book with comic illustrations published in the United States.

Little known, however, is the fact that two variants of the first edition also came out in 1894. The first is a full-color edition, published in a slightly more elegant cloth binding. The contents are identical to the regular 1894 edition, except that every illustration in the book has been mechanically colored. I have been unable to locate advertisements for the color variant. I would be happy to hear from a Yesterday’s Papers reader who knows more.

The second variant was produced in only a handful of copies. As a gift, the publisher bound the black and white edition in blue morocco leather and marbled boards and presented special copies to Nye and Opper and perhaps kept one for the publisher’s library. Only the Opper copy has surfaced. Opening the book, it features a leather presentation plate on the front pastedown that says:
      “Frederick Burr Opper   
       With Compliments of    
        J.B. Lippincott Company  
        March 1, 1894”
Opper’s copy also features his bookplate on the front flyleaf and his signature on the second flyleaf. In this copy, Opper has also tipped in a letter from Nye to him discussing another book project that never came to fruition because Bill Nye (1850-96) died two years later at the age of 46.

* Richard Samuel West’s new book Iconoclast in Ink; The Political Cartoons of Jay N. “Ding” Darling can be purchased HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks a heap. I was perfectly happy with a couple of copies of the standard black and white edition. Now I'm going to spend ages (and maybe money I don't have) digging up the color one.

    BTW, love the Bookplate!