Corresponding with her publisher, Louisa May Alcott adds a subtitle to Little Women: "About the title, we think that if a second one is needed, 'Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy' simply, is enough"
Important ALS signed “L. M. A.,” four pages on two adjoining sheets, 4 x 5, no date but circa 1868. Handwritten letter to her publisher, Thomas Niles of Roberts Brothers, making editorial notes pursuant to the publication of Little Women. In full: "I send the design with May's alteration. She cannot do much but has put a snood onto Meg, & shaded here & there. About the title, we think that if a second one is needed, 'Meg, Jo, Beth & Amy' simply, is enough, for it isn't the story of their lives, & any thing like ['the story of,' crossed out] 'a year of their times' is suggestive of Leslie Goldthwaite. My sister does not want to be identified as one of the little women & prefers to have it stand—'illustrated by May Alcott.' Pray excuse this untidy note but my small nephew is in my lap recovering from a tumble & his gambols are not conducive to elegance of handwriting." In fine condition.
In 1867, Thomas Niles, the publisher of Louisa May Alcott's works, recommended that she write a book about girls that would have widespread appeal. Though both felt the first draft was dull, the little girls who read it deemed it 'splendid'—Alcott wrote, 'they are the best critics, so I should definitely be satisfied.' The first edition of Little Women was published in 1868 by Roberts Brothers and included illustrations by May Alcott, the sister who inspired the fictional Amy March. She 'struggled' with her illustrative additions to her sister's book, but later improved her skills and achieved modest acclaim as an artist. The book's immediate success—the initial printing of 2,000 copies sold out very quickly—surprised both her and her publisher, and the novel was declared 'the great literary hit of the season.'
In keeping with titular convention of the era, the first edition of the book was entitled 'Little Women; or, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy'—just as Alcott here suggests. A remarkable letter on one of the great American literary works of the 19th century.
Past sales history: Skinner, Fine Books and Manuscripts, June 1, 2013.