Picks and Pans Review: The Library of America Collected Classics

updated 02/14/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/14/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

edited by Guy Cardwell, Edwin Cady and Donald Pizer

One of the most pleasant curiosities of the book business is the way old books turn up in new editions. A splendid example is Kidnapped, published with 16 full-color illustrations by N.C. Wyeth (father of Andrew, grandfather of Jamie) on the 100th anniversary year of N.C.'s birth. The book has heavy, creamy paper, and the turn-of-the-century flavor in type and binding also contributes to the charm. But the Wyeth paintings, first published in 1913, have a freshness and vigor that make them definitive images, fixing forever in the mind this wonderful story of a young orphan who has thrilling adventures in Scotland and at sea. (Scribner's, $17.95)

The Simon and Schuster Classics library of familiar books for young people, just published in old-fashioned packaging that includes satin-ribbon bookmarks, offers new illustrations by contemporary artists. John Speirs provided the paintings for Alice in Wonderland and Black Beauty. Ted Lewin did Tom Sawyer, Troy Howell Heidi (she's not a blonde in this version), and Judith Cheng the illustrations for Little Women. Each book has 10 color paintings and 25 to 75 decorative sketches. There are big initials in the text and Art Deco flourishes on all the covers, chapter headings and borders. The books are enticing and sturdy; the quality and loving care that have gone into their creation are obvious. These are the kinds of books a grandmother should give a grandchild who loves to read. (Simon and Schuster, $14.95 each)

Last spring a nonprofit organization called the Library of America published new editions of works by Melville, Stowe, Whitman and Hawthorne. This fall it has added to that impressive shelf the Mississippi novels of Mark Twain, four William Dean Howells novels (including his best-known, The Rise of Silas Lapham) and a two-volume set of Jack London's essays, stories and novels (The Call of the Wild, White Fang). Despite the considerable number of works in each volume, the typeface is not small and the books are of a conventional size, light enough to carry around easily for those who want to have something wonderful to read close at hand. (The Library of America, $25 each, subscription, $19.95)

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