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Fascimile of the first William book printed in 1922 - a children's classic
on 10 November 2006
This hardcover book is a facsimile of the first ever 'William' book. The books 5.5" x 6.5" x 1", and well bound, but not with the little pretty cotton coloured binding, just glue & paper. All the original illustrations are present. Text size is large - I don't need glasses to read the stories to my son (9). I won't bore you with reviews of these first William stories, any child of the sixties like me will be familiar with these. I suppose the stories aren't dissimilar to beginning of Mark Twain's 'Tom Sawyer'. They share the witty humour of cheeky boys pushing at adults set boundaries, although, fortunately for him, William never has to face the likes of 'Indian Joe' in the English shires. William stories aren't 'coming of age' either (girls are for dipping pigtails into inkwells). His charm is that he steadfastly refuses to grow up, and he is always a typical roguish but lovable preteen boy knocking about with his outlaw mates.
This first book collected together the short stories a very young Richmal wrote for `Home Magazine' and were aimed more at adults than later books (e.g. the first story in Just William, `William at the pictures' was actually the fourth one published - `Rice Mould' being the first). `Rice Mould' doesn't appear until the second book `More William' though, also published in 1922. William moved with the times though, and his stories were written up to the 1970's, and many will remember the Armada paperback books from the 1960's that mixed stories together. At the time of her death in 1969 Richmal had written 39 William books and sold over 8 million copies.
I suppose the language of these early William books isn't a very easy read for younger preteens with words like 'epicurean', 'apoplectic' and 'discoursing', but I guess I just ignored these tough words when I read the books as a boy (most of the words aren't that difficult). For younger children its probably best to read to them, particularly as you also have accents as well (e.g. "Ad your tea ?" and "Well, why shan't I jus' speak to her"). Being produced way back in 1922, the book is also a little dated compared to later William books, and these first stories are populated with servants and Victorian aunts. Mind you an original first edition of this book costs serious money. The cover picture (not a loose cover) of William in his school cap is from the 1940s, although I looked pretty much the same as a 1st year secondary schoolboy in 1967 - my black crested school cap was a little more formal and restrained though. As a young boy I never had any problem identifying with William and his middle class family background, probably as it was similar to mine. So overall a good value `first edition facsimile' of the classic 'Just William' book - this edition also used to be available as part of a set of the first four classic William books: Just William, More William, William Again, and William the Fourth, but that four book set is sadly hard to find at the moment (try ebay).