Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - La storia di un burattino at The Private Library
By L.D. Mitchell
Susan A. Burgess, writing in Children's Books and Their Creators, penned a rather harsh assessment of this celebrated story's author. He was, she suggested, a hack journalist, an undecorated soldier, and a low-level government official whose best-known work is full of inconsistencies and contradictions, evidence of careless writing. An assessment, incidentally, with which the author's admirers profoundly disagree.
Burgess went on to observe, per James T. Teahan, that the author's original story has been so bowdlerized, expurgated, abridged, adapted, dramatized, trivialized, diluted and generally gutted that it bears little resemblance to the story that this "hack" author first penned.
This argument is more persuasive, especially in light of what Disney and others have done to the author''s original story. But we get ahead of ourselves ...
The original story appeared in 35 installments, under two different titles, in an Italian newspaper for children, Giornale per i bambini (July 1881-February 1883).
Under its first title, La storia di un burattino (The story of a puppet), the story's protagonist was much more mischievous and defiant than innocent and gullible. As soon as his feet were carved he managed to kick his bad-tempered maker, and soon thereafter he killed a cricket who tried to befriend him. His flowered paper clothes, wooden shoes and hat made of bread did little to disguise his anatomical inability to lie with a straight face.
And his exploits did not end well at all - in fact, the Cat and the Fox ended up hanging this cherrywood prevaricator from a large oak tree.
It was only after the newspaper's editor pleaded with him to continue the story's first 15 installments, which had become popular with readers, that Carlo Collodi spent an additional two years penning the story's remaining installments under the title Le avventure di Pinocchio.
These remaining installments, which begin with the Blue Fairy's rescue of Pinocchio, and which prominently feature the formerly-dead cricket along with some 50 other characters, comprise the bulk of the story with which most modern readers are familiar.
The Carlo Collodi Foundation claims, based on extensive research, that Pinocchio's 240+ translations (to date) make it the most translated work in all of Italian literature. If so, folks who enjoy the challenge of collecting all known editions of a single title have their work cut out for them. Not only are many of these translations rare in absolute terms (i.e., very few copies were printed to begin with), but the demand for many of them comes from more than one type of book collector.
There are, of course, those collectors whose primary interest is the story itself in all its various manifestations. Some demand comes from folks who are collecting all the works of this particular author, as opposed to this particular story.
But by far the greatest demand, as with many other works of children's literature, comes from folks who are collecting particular illustrators.
Book collectors whose only experience of this story is Disney's 1940 film and its numerous progeny will find collecting other manifestations of Collodi's masterpiece to be quite an enlightening experience.
For many years L.D. Mitchell's blog The Private Library showed collectors that it is possible to build a collection without the benefit of much money. He published numerous articles on every imaginable subject of book collecting, he wrote about the most beautiful, the most important, the most common, the most attractive, the most unusual, the most interesting, the most extraordinary, the most amazing ... books one could read, buy, collect and simply enjoy. The Private Library has become an irreplaceable resource for all booklovers. Since April 2012, it is a static archive. L. D. Mitchell will no longer post new original content. ILAB is very grateful that he has given permission to publish some of his best articles and collecting tips from The Private Library on the ILAB website. Thank you very much, L.D.