For Sale: Letters and Illustrations From Dr. Seuss - Atlas Obscura
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For Sale: Letters and Illustrations From Dr. Seuss

The collection comes from a time when the author was just becoming a household name.

The Seuss collection up for auction.
The Seuss collection up for auction. Nate D. Sanders Auctions

Many of us grew up on stories crafted by Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. While his books left an impression on every imagination they’ve crossed, what did Seuss himself think about his celebrated stories? An upcoming auction has a collection for sale that allows us to better understand the man behind our childhood memories.

Three letters from the famed author and cartoonist will go on auction on January 31, 2019, at Nate D. Sanders Auctions in Los Angeles, California. The lot also includes two pages of Seuss’s illustrations, and an additional four pages of illustrations by the animator and cartoonist Walt Kelly, who created the comic strip Pogo. The materials came from the estate of Seuss’s friend and fellow author Mike McClintock. The letters from Seuss are dated 1957, the same year Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas hit shelves.

In the first letter of the batch, Seuss wrote that he was excited by the reception both books received. He had already begun to think about the vast opportunities for the characters, such as toys and games, but he didn’t want to lose support from teachers and librarians in the process. Even in 1957, Seuss saw the potential for his characters to have lasting appeal. “In another year, I believe that the GRINCH and the WHOS will outdo even the cat and Horton,” he wrote.

Another letter provides insights into Seuss the editor. He offers McClintock advice, along with notes and annotations, on what would make McClintock’s manuscript, A Fly Went By, a good children’s book. Again Seuss seems to predict the future when he writes, “You’ve hit something there that has more terrific chances of becoming a classic than anything I’ve seen in a hell of a long time. The title is perfect.” The book, which was published in 1958, continues to sell, more than six decades after its release.

One of the most revealing aspects of this collection is when Seuss credits McClintock for his success when he was struggling. He writes to McClintock, “you picked me off Madison Ave. with a manuscript that I was about to burn in my incinerator, because nobody would buy it.” That manuscript was And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which was famously rejected 27 times before going on to become Seuss’s first children’s book. He credits McClintock with showing him how to properly put together a draft for this new “mysterious market” of children’s trade books, a format which Seuss himself would ultimately master.

The collection is a fascinating exploration into the mind of one of America’s most celebrated authors during a time where he was just beginning to understand the potential of his unique stories, style, and characters. Bidding on the lot starts at $3,500.