Just over 100 years ago, Lucy Maud Montgomery introduced the world to a red-headed, spirited, orphan girl named Anne (with an “e”) Shirley. Since that first edition in 1908, this girl adopted into a little town called Avonlea in Prince Edward Island, Canada has been stealing the hearts of readers generation after generation and is still adored by “kindred spirits” around the world today.
“Montgomery began writing about Anne as a serial for a Sunday school periodical in the spring of 1904. The character is, many believe, based on her own life. Montgomery’s “mother died when she was two, and she was sent to live with her maternal grandparents in their farmhouse. In character she seems to have much resembled her heroine Anne. She became a teacher, but gave it up to look after her widowed grandmother” (Carpenter & Pritchard, 356). Anne’s character became so real that she eventually decided to develop the idea into a full novel. Much as would later with readers, Anne took hold of her creator, developing into a feisty, imaginative little being who demanded to be noticed and loved” (Keeline, 41) Although it was rejected four times before finally being published, the novel was an immediate sensation and the series followed. At that time, there were not many great female protagonists in novels, but there was a great audience of women readers who fell in love with this bright and extremely imaginative red-headed orphan.
Anne of Green Gables was published in Boston by L.C. Page first in April of 1908. The second printing was in July 1908. There were no printing in June of that year, although later editions omit the April impression on the copyright page and list June instead. The first two printings were extremely small, as the publishers did not yet know how popular the book would be. The immediate popularity caused it to go into fourteen printings in the first year alone and sold 19,000 copies in the first five months.
Dust jackets of these early printings are virtually unknown. There are three color variants of the boards of the first printing – chocolate brown, light green, and beige. No priority has ever been established, although it is generally believed that the brown variant is the most uncommon.
The Anne series remains one of the most beloved girl books ever written, having sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and translated into at least 20 languages. It has also been adapted into numerous films, television series, and plays. It is “the most popular and enduring of a host of girls’ stories published in the United States and Canada in the first years of the 20th century” (Carpenter & Pritchard, 25-26).