C.S. Lewis – the children’s books author

by Liz on May 31, 2012 · Children's rare books, Rare Religious Books

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Magical passageways through forgotten wardrobes. Tea times with a bewildered fawn. Epic battles of good fighting against evil. Nefarious plots and evil tactics against one sole source of good, forgiveness, and love. These such events are what are found in CS Lewis’s collectible rare book story The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as well as many other wonderful adventures in his other books which pertain to his very much beloved series of books, The Chronicles of Narnia.

Clive Staples Lewis, better known as CS Lewis, was born on November 29, 1898 in Belfast, Ireland. From an early age and onwards, CS Lewis’s life was fraught with much sadness and loss. Due to the tragic circumstances of his life, CS Lewis also became known under varying names. When Clive was only four years old, his beloved dog, Jacksie was killed by a car. After his dog’s death, Clive insisted that his name was now also Jacksie, and he refused to answer to any other name. Eventually his family shortened their son’s “new name” to Jack, and from then on until the day of his death, Clive was known by his family and close friends as Jack. As he began to write during his adult life, however, “Jack” published his work under the initials of his first and middle names followed by his full last name, because he did not like the name Clive, but most likely felt that Jack was too intimate a name to be shared with the outside world. When Clive was only ten years old, he lost his mother to cancer. Later in life, at the age of fifty-nine, he married a woman named Joy Davidman Greshman, who was also cruelly taken from him due to cancer a scarce three years later.

CS Lewis began his writing career when he was in his thirties. At age thirty-five in 1933, he published his first novel, Pilgrim’s Regress. He later contributed his better known works such as Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters. CS Lewis is better known to rare book collectors, however, for his work in children’s literature. This fact in itself must have seemed rather unusual to Clive, as he had never particularly enjoyed the company of small children, nor did he have any of his own; he was not even an uncle, though he was a godfather. It is interesting, then, that CS Lewis’s most popular and acclaimed written works would prove to be those that he had written for children. By the time he did adopt stepchildren, he had already written the Narnia stories.

The original first impression copies of the Chronicles of Narnia are extremely rare and valuable today. The seven volumes in the series (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Silver Chair; The Horse and His Boy; The Magician’s Nephew; The Last Battle)  with dust jackets are usually traded around $5,000 each or around $40,000 for the complete set.

While the works of CS Lewis are vastly popular today, and while Lewis did receive recognition for his work during his lifetime, it seems as though he has become more popular since his death. In fact, when Lewis suffered heart complications and died on November 22, 1963–incidentally the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated, there were very little reports or attention paid to his demise. Today, however, we have better come to appreciate and respect CS Lewis for all that he brought to the literary world during his fairly short lifetime.

Though C.S Lewis’s raging success as a writer stemmed from the work that he perhaps never dreamed would be so popular, we can certainly be grateful to him for producing such a wonderful series of books as The Chronicles of Narnia. While the series was written for children, the lessons being taught throughout each book are every bit as relevant to adults as well, as they depict serious and life changing conflicts.

About the author

Partner, rare book dealer. Sekkes Consultants.

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