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Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book

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Author: Shel Silverstein


Illustrator: Shel Silverstein

SILVERSTEIN, Shel. Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book. A Primer for Tender Young Minds. Original holograph manuscript for the book published by Simon & Schuster in 1961. This manuscript for Silverstein's first "children's" book comprises 76 pages of original drawings and text including a title page identifying the author/illustrator as well as the imprint of the forthcoming volume: "Simon and Schuster * New York * 1961." Folio (12 x 9 inches); [73] leaves with designs chiefly on one side only (leaves often glued back-to-back, though many now separated, glue residue "bleeding" through the outer margins of most leaves), plus pink paper (pasted down on black paper) “covers” with manuscript lettering on the front cover ("Uncle Shelby's ABZ book by Shel the Sheller") and "by Uncle Shelby" handwritten in the lower left corner of the rear cover (the covers may have been at some point attached to each other as their is some chipping along edges and light spotting). Exceedingly rare to see a complete Silverstein manuscript on the market.

Original manuscript of Shel Silverstein's first "real" book, preceded by two collections of previously published magazine cartoons: Take Ten (1955), and Here's My Plan (1960), as well as John Sack's Report from Practically Nowhere (1959) with comic vignettes by Silverstein. Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book originated as a contribution to Playboy magazine (August 1961, pages 70-73), as a four-page series of panels, all in full color. This manuscript is based on these Playboy designs, but there are many significant differences: they have been redrawn and the color is gone, the format is considerably expanded (from 36 panels on four pages, to 76 full pages) adding several new letter images (and stretching many of the pictures over two pages) and now with 25 special [i.e., non-ABC] features rather than the nine that appeared in the magazine (one of which is gone). In addition, a few letters are now illustrated with different designs and texts. The illustrations in the manuscript are quite close to the published book (with just a small number of alterations). The text in the book is clearly a rewritten version (in Silverstein's hand, it would seem) of what appears in the manuscript, essentially with an eye toward clarity. This manuscript contains every picture and text reproduced in the published book, except for the book’s pictorial wrappers. An amazing look at the genius and sly wit of the inimitable Shel Silverstein.


According to a 1975 interview in Publisher's Weekly, despite his great success of later titles, such as Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Giving Tree, etc., Silverstein indicated that Uncle Shelby's ABZ was one of his favorites among his own books.


A somewhat early (15th) printing ($2.95 cover price) and a fairly recent reprint (32nd printing with $13 cover price) of the book are included with the manuscript (both are paperbacks).