“This uphill work is slow, indeed,
But down the slant – ah! note the speed!”
I discovered “The Slant Book” in a pile with hundreds of other books spread out on tables at an estate sale auction in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I could tell immediately by its parallelogram shape that this was an unusual book. I only had a moment to pick it up and look through the book, but what I saw convinced me the first-edition hardcover would make a wonderful addition to my collection of vintage and antique children’s books.
The auctioneer was moving at a frenzied pace in no particular order, selling off books in random lots of six to ten at a time. When I saw my book (“my” because I knew it would be mine!) being shuffled into a stack, everything else in the room faded away. I stood in rapt attention, bidding card firmly in hand, and locked my sight on the auctioneer as he began the bidding. In short time, the auctioneer shouted “Sold!” and I was the high bidder. I did not even know what the other books in the lot were until the auctioneer’s assistant handed them over to me, and I was quite happy with the selection—especially “The Slant Book.” I have since learned this first edition is a scarce book, although my copy is missing the dust jacket.
Peter Sheaf Hersey Newell (1862-1924), was an American author and artist. Among his works, he wrote and illustrated a number of novelty picture books for children including “The Hole Book” (1908), “The Slant Book” (1910), and “The Rocket Book” (1912).
“The Slant Book” has a yellow cover featuring three of the story’s characters on the front and a navy blue binding on the spine. When opened, the pages form a “V” shape. The rhyming words of the story are written in an unusual font on the left-side pages while the accompanying illustrations are featured on the right-side pages. Both the text and the illustrations are tilted. The story is about Bobby, a boy in a runaway baby carriage (“Go-cart”) that is racing through town downhill (thus the slant), much to the delight of the child and the alarm of his nanny (“Nurse”). The havoc created makes for a charming story, and the amusing illustrations vividly set the scene.
The story begins:
“Where Bobby lives there is a hill—A hill so steep and high,
‘Twould fill the bill for Jack and Jill
Their famous act to try
“Once Bobby’s Go-cart broke away
And down this hill it kited.
The careless Nurse screamed in dismay
But Bobby was delighted
“He clapped his hands, in manner rude,
And laughed in high elation—
While, close behind, the Nurse pursued
In hopeless consternation”
The book concludes when Bobby’s wild ride ends with the baby carriage crashing into a tree stump, throwing him out but landing safely in the hay. This must have been a fascinating story for a child in 1910!
To view “The Slant Book” online through the Library of Congress’ Rare Book Collection, go to http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.rbc/juv.25818