London: The Religious Tract Society, . With three early reprints of the same work. First edition of a work that originated the genre of ‘Arab fiction’ – sentimental stories about poverty stricken young persons on the streets of Victorian cities. Frontispiece, six full-page engravings, and three textual illustrations. Binding extremities lightly worn. Spine and edges of boards have minor toning. Front hinge cracked, but sound. Endpapers slightly foxed, the occasional small smudge or stain. Contemporary ink gift inscription on front flyleaf. Overall, a very good copy of a fragile work. Early reprints bound in red or green cloth and in the same format as the first with light wear and minor soiling to some boards. Very good copies. Publisher’s blue cloth, front board stamped in gilt. Sixteenmo. 92, [4, pub ads] pp. Item #16896
Sarah Smith’s (1832-1911, pseudonym Hesba Stretton) “first story was published in 1859 by Charles Dickens…Her first children’s book was Fern’s Hollow, but it was with her sixth, Jessica’s First Prayer, that [she] made her mark... Readers first encounter Jessica as ‘a pair of very bright dark eyes fastened upon…slices of bread and butter…with a gaze as hungry as that of a mouse which has been driven by famine into a trap.’ Over the course of the story, Jessica is not only rescued from poverty but becomes a Christian, her simple piety reforming other characters. Stretton, one of the founders of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, wrote out a deep commitment to raising awareness of the conditions in which children like Jessica lived.
“Translated into every European language and briefly used in all Russian schools, Jessica’s First Prayer was also transported to Asia and Africa by Christian missionaries…” (Grolier 100 Books Famous in Children’s Literature, p. 162).