The Little Prince (First Edition, First Printing), 1943
The Little Prince: The first edition, first print run
I've read The Little Prince to my sons and daughter on many occasions.
This copy is a first edition, first printing of The Little Prince from April 1943. First published in 1943 by Reynal & Hitchcock, it bears the tell-tale indicators of the first printing of this book, (Salmon-colored boards and a listing of the 4th avenue address of the publisher—they later moved to Madison Avenue.) And it shows it.
The cover is falling apart, but we could care less about that. This is the first printing of one of the most popular books of all time, let alone a children's book. And not only that, but we have always been inspired by the author, Antoine de Saint Exupery. He was 6'2", spoke little English and made no effort to do so.
But Antoine de Saint Exupery—Saint Ex as he called himself—had a lasting impact with The Little Prince, a book he wrote during World War II. Saint Exupery was an early airmail pilot for Aeropostale, flying in Africa and South America. He gained famed for his first books on the subject including "Vol de Nuit" Night Flight (1931) and Wind, Sand and Stars (1939). Vol de Nuit was an international best-seller, and made into a movie in 1933 starring Clark Gable. Saint Ex become famous from this oeuvre. In Wind, Sand and Stars, he details days spent in the Saharan desert, where he crashed. He and his navigator survived on grapes, a thermos of coffee, an orange and some wine, but not before seeing mirages and hallucinating in the desert heat. (The pair were rescued by a Bedouin passing by on a camel.)
Ultimately, the harrowing experience inspired The Little Prince. A bold pilot, he is reported to have done much writing and reading while aloft; he apparently circled the Tunis airport for an hour so that he could finish reading a novel.
Saint Exupery wrote The Little Prince after the outbreak of the Second World War, while living in Asharoken, Long Island. The French wife of his publisher, Reynal and Hitchcock, suggested that writing a children's book might do Saint Exupery some good. He completed the manuscript in October 1942, working from 11pm into the early morning. Published in April 1943, by the fall The Little Prince had sold 30,000 copies in English. (Incidentally, it was only later translated into French for publication.) It has subsequently been translated into 300 languages (with a whopping seven separate English translations alone), having sold more 140,000,000 copies worldwide, and around 2M new copies per year.
It is believed the "Little Prince" himself was inspired by a young boy, Thomas DeKoninck, now a philosopher at Laval University in Quebec, Canada when Saint Exupery and his wife lived in Quebec. In 1944, Saint Exupery returned to France to help the French Free Forces against the Germans. Flying aLockheed P-38, Saint Exupery disappeared after a reconnaissance mission departed Corsica, south of Marseille. In 1998, a bracelet was dredged up by a fisherman, believed to be owned by the French pilot and writer. Subsequently, in 2000, a diver found the wreckage of an aircraft and in 2004, it was confirmed to be Saint Ex's plane.
An ex-German fighter pilot believes he may have downed the plane, and regretfully so—the German pilot was an admirer of Saint Exupery. Lyon-Saint-Exupery Airport was named after the French author.