BY THE FIRST FEMALE NOBEL LAUREATE FOR LITERATURE
LAGERLÖF, Selma (author). Nils Holgerssons Underbara Resa Genom Sverige. Forsta Bandet [and] Andra Bandet. [The Wonderful Adventures of Nils. First and Second Series]. Stockholm; Albert Bonniers Forlag. 1906 and 1907.
8vo.; 2 volumes; publisher's pictorial green wrappers, top edges rough, others untrimmed; pp. [iv], -237; [iv], -486 + [ii]; with photographic plates printed in half-tones throughout both books; very good copies, both volumes priced to the spine (Haft 3:50; Inb. 5 and Haft 3:50 and 7); the first volume with external rubbing and small edge wear, toning to spine with some vertical creasing, small marking and abrasions and irregularly-shaped paper-loss to heel to a maximum depth of 3cm, internally very clean and crisp throughout, and uninscribed; volume two with some overall rubbing and small edge and corner wear, toning and vertical creasing to spine and chipping to spine ends to a maximum depth of 1cm at head, internally very good, sound, and clean throughout, and uninscribed; genuinely rare in original wrappers, remarkably so in this condition, and known in only a handful of copies.
First editions, in Swedish, as published. The English translation, published in two volumes as The Wonderful Adventures of Nils and Further Adventures of Nils appeared in 1907 and 1911. This Swedish work was issued in first edition simultaneously in wrappers and in cloth, as referenced by the pair of printed prices to the spines here. The wrappered version, as here, is significantly rarer. All subsequent printings appeared solely in cloth. The rear cover of Series One notes the forthcoming Second Series projected for the following year, ie 1907.
The novel came about as a result of request, in 1902, by the National Teacher's Association, for Lagerlöf to write a Geography primer for schools, but the work evolved into so much more than that and is now established as one of the best-loved Scandinavian children's novels which has been translated into over 30 languages. The eponymous Nils, shrunk to the size of a thumb by a vengeful elf, relates tales of his adventures while crisscrossing Sweden on the back of a goose. Historical and geographical facts about the various provinces of the country are embedded throughout.
Selma Lagerlöf, alongside several intellectual peers, was an advocate of Swedish spelling reform. Hence this work, which was one of the first to adopt the new spelling mandated by government, was formatted as a school text book, which was its intended purpose. Consequently the wrappered version has virtually disappeared from the commercial market.
This classic of children's literature was instrumental in the decision to award Lagerlof the Nobel Prize for Literature on 10th December 1909, making her the first female recipient of the award. In 1991 she became the first woman to be depicted on a Swedish banknote.