Bayswater's Find of the Week on the Used Book Floor Blog

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Peaceful (and Valuable) Bull

     We are so excited about our newest find of the week on the used book floor!  Nestled into the pages of a book (more to come on which one) was a New Yorker magazine “Talk of the Town” article from January 1, 1938, telling all about the (then) newly published phenomenon of a children’s book entitled, The Story of Ferdinand.  The American author, Munro Leaf, wrote the book about a bull named Ferdinand who likes to lie under a cork tree and smell flowers.  A peaceful bull, Ferdinand refuses to engage in any sort of a bullfight.  The New Yorker magazine article marvels at how the little sleeper of a story about the peaceful bull, Ferdinand, became the bestselling book in 1938 – even surpassing sales of the soon-to-be classic, Gone With the Wind, published around the same time 80 years ago.  This was particularly notable when considering the fact that this young children’s book was published during the financial struggles of the Depression.  

     Ok, so, more about Ferdinand in a moment, but now, the best part….where we found the New Yorker magazine article from 1938.  It was tucked into the pages of what appeared to be an older hardcover copy of – you guessed it - The Story of Ferdinand.  This was no ordinary copy of the now beloved children’s classic, however.  The book we found was printed in 1938 and is autographed – yes, autographed- by the heralded author, Munro Leaf, himself!  Yes, you read that correctly, and we think it bears repeating – we have a 1938 printing of The Story of Ferdinand that is autographed by the author!  Can you tell that we are just a little excited? To fully grasp our glee, you may need to read a bit more about the worldwide significance of this book and its main character.

     The Story of Ferdinand may have been written for children, but it quickly became a symbol across the world of peace and representation for the bullied.  Because the book was published during WWII, Hitler ordered all copies burned, as he declared The Story of Ferdinand to be “degenerate democratic propaganda”.  Stalin banned the book, as well, while Gandhi and the Roosevelts embraced the story.  As a matter of fact, the book was so loved by the American president that upon winning WWII, the United States airdropped 30,000 copies of The Story of Ferdinand onto Germany to promote peace! 
     Despite the global fervor and disdain, The Story of Ferdinand was actually written by Leaf with no agenda in mind at all.  He penned it in under 40 minutes to help create work for his friend and illustrator, Robert Lawson. In fact, Leaf chose a bull as his main character simply because he thought that other animals such as dogs, cats, horses and mice were overdone in children’s books at that time. Leaf would later marvel (and chuckle) at how his story would be printed in 60 different languages and become political and social ammunition for decades to come.  Over 80 years later, The Story of Ferdinand is still considered to be a popular children’s book today and was recently turned into a feature film.

     Leaf’s 1938 autographed collectable copy of “The Story of Ferdinand” is for sale here at Bayswater for $250 and includes the New Yorker article.  We will be back with our weekly edition of our finds by the end of June and in the meantime, you can catch up with our previous finds of the week from the used book floor at and on facebook.  Better yet, stop by the store in Center Harbor and check out the used book floor for yourself!