Every now and then a treasure-trove of seemingly “lost” literature is discovered. The latest such find is a collection of stories by Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Seuss scholars and collectors have known about these stories for a while, but fans will have the chance to read them in a new book to be released by Random House next fall.
To start with, however — were these stories ever really lost? Random House children’s book publisher Kate Klimo says no. “Nothing is really ever lost in this day and age.”
Maybe “scattered” would be a better way to describe it. These are not half-written stories found in a dusty attic after the death of the author. These are stories that have already been published. Dr. Charles Cohen, a Massachusetts dentist with a passion for all things Dr. Seuss, simply managed to collect them all in one place.“They came out in the ’50s in magazines,” Cohen explains. “And then when the next month’s magazine would come in, people would throw away the old one. And those stories were forgotten. And literally it’s been 60 years for some of these stories and very few people have seen them.”
While doing research on the children’s book author, Cohen began tracking down original copies of the stories. But he needed a way to support his habit.“I would find some of these magazines that these appeared in and I would purchase them on eBay for $2 or $5 from people who didn’t know they had these Dr. Seuss stories in them,” he says. “And then I would list them on eBay and explain what they were. So a $5 magazine would bring in $200 or $400, and that was a great markup for me.”
A Random House art director who worked on the Dr. Seuss books saw some of these items for sale on eBay, and began wondering about them. Klimo says they decided to look up this Dr. Seuss-obsessed dentist in Massachusetts.
“This is Dr. Seuss before his name is synonymous with children’s literature. This is Dr. Seuss before we knew him well,” says Phillip Nel, a children’s literature professor at Kansas State University.
In these stories, says Nel, you see themes and character traits that will become more fully realized in later works. And, he says, you can hear the unmistakable rhymes that are so characteristic of the best-known Dr. Seuss books.