When I was a child and knew few greater pleasures than reading a new Peanuts collection, I would look wistfully at the note on the cover -- such as "Selected cartoons from Ha Ha Herman, Charlie Brown Vol. 1" -- and wonder just where this mysterious book and all the rest of them were to be found. Not in any bookshop I ever visited, that's for sure. Then one day I borrowed a vast hardcover Peanuts collection from my local library and imagined that this was one of those rare "originals". It conjured up an image of a whole shelf of equally fine first editions going back to 1951.
Years later I would occasionally re-read one of those old collections and think, "When I have lots of money I'll collect all of those original Peanuts books, and then at last I'll have every strip, in order, in an attractive sturdy hardcover."
Then I found the Peanuts FAQ, which revealed that there were there thousands of strips that had never been printed in any book, and also that that library book was an anomaly: those mysterious "original" Peanuts books were only paperbacks, just as incomplete and (by now) yellow and tatty as the ones I used to buy. "Sigh", I said.
But here it is, the fine first editions devoted Peanuts readers have always dreamed of but never expected to see: the first of a complete set containing every strip, beautifully presented, with original newspaper publication dates and even a fannish index pointing to such epochal moments as Lucy's first appearance and Snoopy's first thought.
What's most surprising is how soon Peanuts began to become the Peanuts we remember. The early strips reprinted previously tended to foreground the "observational" humour, kids behaving like real kids. But now we can also see the early development of Schroeder as a child with adultlike interests and abilities, the seed from which the whole cast would eventually grow into thoughtful, eloquent child-adults.
Another thing that is quickly apparent here is the quality of Schulz's writing right from the start. The art here isn't yet at its peak, and the strip doesn't have the sense of depth that it would later acquire, but Schulz always had perfect comic timing, the ability to say everything that needed to be said in a handful of words, or a single sigh.