Boston: Samuel E. Cassino, 1888. Large quarto, measuring 10.75 x 8.25 inches: , 28. Original heavy cream wrappers hand-lettered in gold paint, bound with later cream ribbon. Three engraved plates, including portrait frontispiece; twelve additional illustrations throughout text. Two tiny chips to painted title, repair to inner edge of frontispiece leaf.
First edition of this illustrated fine press “souvenir” of American novelist Louisa May Alcott, published shortly after her death in March 1888. Harlow recounts Alcott’s unconventional Transcendentalist upbringing, her work as a nurse during the Civil War, and her meteoric rise to fame and financial security with the success of Little Women, drawing parallels between Alcott’s real life and the lives of her beloved characters. Alcott’s death at the age of 55 was a loss keenly felt by Americans of all ages: “We can almost feel her vital presence as we read her books, and she speaks most forcibly to us all. Who can fill her place? Her writings mark an era in literature that has many faithful followers; but who can write another ‘Little Women?’” Little is known of Massachusetts writer Lurabel Harlow, who was in her twenties when she wrote and illustrated this tribute, but it appears likely that she had met Alcott in person. Daniel Shealy, in Alcott in Her Own Time, notes that “Harlow presents what many writers of recollections about Alcott often omit – a physical description and the manner of her speech.” Harlow also reports on Alcott’s funeral and burial, noting the tributes sent by “the children of the ‘Society of Little Women.’” Six holdings in OCLC: LoC, Columbia, NYHS, Penn, UNC, and BYU. A compelling artifact, testifying both to the impact of Alcott’s work and to the appeal of her personal story.