The Wind in the Willows (First Edition) by Kenneth Grahame
The Wind in the Willows is a classic children’s book by Kenneath Grahame (1859-1932). The first edition of this work was published in 1908 by Methuen, London. Background
Grahame retired in 1908 and moved to Berkshire, the land of his childhood. He spent his time here by the River Thames doing much as the characters in The Wind in the Willows do. He began writing down the stories he was telling his son Alistair before he went to sleep, and thus one of the most classic children’s novels in history was born.
Plot, Characters, Themes
The story tells of a set of anthropomorphised animals who live in the countryside by a river, much like the Thames Valley. Good natured Mole and gentlemanly Ratty try to prevent their spoilt and obsessive friend Toad from getting too caught up in the latest trends and fads, like caravans and motor cars. Mole also wants to meet Badger, a very well respected but grumpy character, and so travels into the Wild Wood to find him. He gets lost in the snow, but finds Ratty and then Badger’s house, where the three spend the winter. In spring they emerge to save Toad from himself, and place him under house arrest. He escapes, crashes a car, and gets put in prison. He escapes dressed as a washer woman. Toad Hall has meanwhile been overrun by the cruel and greedy creatures from the Wild Wood, the weasels, stoats and ferrets. The four friends attack and reclaim the hall together, and Toad, having learnt his lesson, hosts a banquet and promises to live sensibly from then on.
In addition to this main plot, the book contains many shorter adventures of Rat and Mole alone.
Kenneth Grahame published stories in London periodicals as a young man, but it was for The Wind in the Willows that he gained acclaim as among the greatest of children’s authors.
Notable auction sales and collecting tips
First editions of The Wind in the Willows (1908, Methuen, London) are worth much more in their original decorative bindings depicting Pan on the front and Toad on the spine. It is not recommended to restore them. The original dust jacket is extremely scarce, and therefore will also hugely increase the value. Grahame’s signature or inscription will render a copy much more valuable.
Bonhams sold a signed first edition for £32,400 in March 2010, and an unsigned first edition for £1,800 in June 2010.
Christie’s sold a first edition copy for £3,120 in November 2006.
Sothebys sold a first edition with original dust jacket for £30,000 in December 2009.
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