12-millionth Volume Acquired

Cover of The Adventures of Tommy

The Adventures of Tommy
To view the entire manuscript, click here .

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library has acquired its 12-millionth volume, the manuscript of The Adventures of Tommy —the only children’s book written and illustrated by science fiction novelist, H.G. Wells.  A generous gift to the University Library from Illinois alumni Jim and Diane Staes of Rancho Palos Verdes, California, made the acquisition of this unique manuscript possible.

The Adventures of Tommy has been added to the Library’s world-renowned archival holdings of the papers of H.G. Wells and joins his other manuscripts, including those of The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds .  Through the use of cartoons or “picshuas,” as Wells called them, The Adventures of Tommy tells the story of a little boy who rescues a proud and very rich man from the sea—and the unusual thank-you gift he receives.  The manuscript now resides in The Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois.

“The story behind the composition and eventual publication of the text is as charming as the tale itself,” said Valerie Hotchkiss, Head, The Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  “While recovering from an illness and confined to a wheelchair, Wells consulted with Dr. Henry Hick, and soon became godfather to Dr. Hick’s newborn daughter Marjory.  During his recuperation from a subsequent attack of kidney stones, he amused himself by writing and illustrating a little booklet for his new goddaughter.”

Years later, Marjory Hick asked Wells for permission to sell the story to fund her medical training.  He agreed and it was duly published for her benefit in 1929.  Although the published version purports to reproduce Wells’s manuscript, in fact the original manuscript now housed in The Rare Book & Manuscript Library demonstrates that Wells made a new version for publication, most likely to save the original from being destroyed in the reproduction process.

The University Library has celebrated all of its millionth volumes—the first being Sir Walter Raleigh’s The History of the World , printed in 1614.  The 11-millionth volume, Benjamin Franklin’s edition of M. T. Cicero’s Cato Major, or his Discourse of Old-Age , was acquired in 2009.

“It’s very exciting to be celebrating another millionth volume so soon after the last,” said Paula Kaufman, Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian.  “This is due in part to the extra cataloging we’ve been able to accomplish and being able to include hundreds of thousands of e-books in our volume count—which the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) now includes in its statistics.”

On October 9, the Soybean Press will be printing bookmarks with children to celebrate the University Library’s 12-millionth volume at the Youth Literature Festival .  On October 22, the Staes’s and Dean Kaufman will take part in the 100th Homecoming Parade at Illinois.

Do you have a story you’d like added to the Library News & Events? If so, please contact Heather Murphy ( hmurphy@illinois.edu ).

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