The Mystery of the 71 Year Old Velveteen Rabbit
You know how you can see something, yet not really notice it? That’s what happened when I came upon this book during an end of the year weeding session in my K-2 school library:
In the course of weeding, I’ve come across older books that have quietly stuck around – mostly because they’re classics and no one had the heart to take them off the shelves or update the copy, despite being seriously dated. I had seen this one before, but had never looked at it closely. I opened the front cover to see if I could find when it was added to the library. I was surprised with what I saw:
While weeding I’ve seen books in our collection from the 80s and 70s – but early 40s? This was a first. That’s 71 years old. FYI, here’s what was happening in the world in 1942:
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President.
- Muhammad Ali was born.
- The United States was involved in World War II.
- The film Casablanca premiered.
- The fifth Caldecott Medal was awarded to Make Way for Ducklings.
The date made me wonder when The Velveteen Rabbit was published, and if we had a truly rare book on our hands. A quick search revealed that the first edition came out in 1922. I knew our copy was added to the library in 1942, but could the book be older? Unfortunately, the cryptic copyright page didn’t offer too many clues:
All I had to go on was the “CL” (which in Roman numerals equals 150) above the title. I went to used and rare bookseller AbeBooks to see what I could find. There I stumbled upon a listing for a first edition:
That perked my ears up a bit. While I knew our copy was likely far from a first edition, jacketless, and full of library markings, I felt profits from its sale could still (conservative scenario) pay for a second story and/or book carwash to be added to the library.
(video via Book Patrol)
I included the “CL” in my search and came back down to earth:
While I know ours was printed, at the latest, in the early 40s (while this listing is for a copy published in the 50s), this is the only mention of the “CL” I could find, so I’m assuming this is somewhere in the ballpark of our copy. Mystery (probably) solved.
I turned to the back of the book and pulled out the date due card:
Scanning the names, it made me wonder if these folks are still around, and where they might be. Maybe one of them remembers visiting their school library and picking a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit off the shelf, over half a century ago.
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About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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