Black Beauty (1877)

1877, the first edition of Anna Sewell's classic novel, in variant green cloth binding.


Anna Sewell, frontispiece by C Hewitt


Jarrold and Sons, London, 1877
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Printing Details

Jarrold and Sons, London, undated [1877]. First edition, hardback, this variant binding in the original green cloth, stamped in black and gilt, and with horse's head in medallion looking leftwards to the upper board. Brown pastedowns and endpapers. Size: Octavo (164 × 105 mm). Collation: viii, [9]-247, [1], [8 ad] pp. Frontispiece illustration after C Hewitt.

Full title: Black Beauty: His Grooms and Companions. The Autobiography of a Horse. Translated from the Original Equine by Anna Sewell.

Anna Sewell composed Black Beauty in the last years of her life, during which she remained in her house as an invalid. The novel became an immediate best-seller, with Sewell dying just five months after its publication, but having lived long enough to see her only novel become a success. It would become one of the bestselling books of all time.

Narrated in the first person as an autobiographical memoir, the book is told by Black Beauty—beginning with his carefree days as a colt on an English farm with his mother, to his difficult life pulling cabs in London, to his happy retirement in the country. Along the way, he meets with many hardships and recounts many tales of cruelty and kindness. Each short chapter recounts an incident in Black Beauty's life containing a lesson or moral typically related to the kindness, sympathy, and understanding treatment of horses. Sewell wrote detailed observations and extensive descriptions of horse behaviour leaning a great deal of authenticity to the writing.


This is a good copy. The green cloth boards are rubbed to the extremeties and joints, bumped a little to the corners and spine ends but remain in good condition. There is a slight forward lean to the spine. The hinges are cracked but remain securely attached. The inner binding is again secure but pulled in places, mostly at pages 16/17 and 32/33. The pages have spotted foxing throughout, never very heavy but fairly comprehensive and some pages escape altogether. Previous owner's gift inscription to ffep dated April 9th, 1878 and a previous bookseller has written "first edition" in pencil verso the ffep. Overall, a god copy with age-related wear but a scarce first edition.

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