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New acquisition in Edwardian literature

The newest acquisition to BYU’s Edwardian Literature Collection is a first edition of the famous children’s book The Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.  This purchase was made with the generous support of the Friends of the Harold B. Lee Library.  The first edition (1908) joins a copy of the famous 1940 edition illustrated by Arthur Rackham, which is also held by Special Collections.

The Wind in the Willows is said to have been developed out of bedtime stories that Kenneth Grahame told his four-year-old son Alistair.  In 1907, Grahame included versions of the adventures of Toad in a series of letters he wrote to Alistair.  The manuscript of Grahame’s book was rejected by several publishers, but once in print, it rapidly became popular.  Theodore Roosevelt was a fan of Grahame’s work and was influential in getting The Wind in the Willows published in the United States.

Grahame biographer Peter Hunt notes that while The Wind in the Willows is “one of the most famous books in the English language, and it can be seriously argued that it is not a children’s book at all. Despite the presence of Rat, Toad, Mole, and Badger as central characters, it can be read as an account of threat of social change and the destruction of rural England, and of the response of a generation” (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004).  This complexity is perhaps one reason why the book remains popular with both children and adults a century after it was first published.

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