Blackie, London, 1937
‘Gingham’ edition, Blackie 1960, 160 pp
Knight, London, pb, 1976, 125 pp
Fidra, Edinburgh, pb, 2007
Silver Snaffles is quite possibly the most sought-after of pony books. Its theme of talking horses was not new: Black Beauty and Moorland Mousie spoke, but only to the reader or to other horses. John Thorburn’s Hildebrand (Country Life, 1930, illustrated by ‘The Wag’) had a great deal to say for himself, and to everyone else within range, but Hildebrand lived in a fantasy world. Where Silver Snaffles differed was in creating parallel worlds: in one horses talked and in the other life was normal.
Anyone who has learned to ride must have wondered quite what the horse thinks of them: every child must long for the ponies they love to talk to them. Jenny, the heroine of Silver Snaffles, talks to Tattles the pony every day, and then, one day, he says: ‘Through the Dark Corner, and the password is Silver Snaffles.’
This is the start of Jenny’s adventures with the ponies. Below is a short extract:
‘Now we’re off!’ she cried gaily, and dug her heels into his sides.
‘Speak for yourself,’ snorted Cock Robin.
He neatly pitched her forward so that she slid over his head and fell on the grass, where she bounced several times like a rubber ball.
‘Why did you do that?’ gasped Jenny when she had finished bouncing.
‘Why did you dig your heels into me?’ asked Cock Robin indignantly.
‘I thought that was the right way to tell you to start.’
‘Well it isn’t. An easing of the reins and a gentle squeeze with the legs is the way to tell me. A very gentle squeeze, please. You would be the first one to howl if I kicked you in the ribs.’
‘I’m awfully sorry,’ said Jenny, beginning to understand.
‘I’ll forgive you,’ said Cock Robin nobly. ‘Now try again.’
The different versions
Silver Snaffles has gone through four different editions, plus an American printing. The original edition with the navy bordered cover was reprinted several times; sometimes in navy and sometimes in black cloth. The 1960 version is bound in orange: it has the same text as the original, but the paperback edition of 1976 was abridged. The book was reprinted in 2007, in paperback, by Fidra Books.
You may well see copies of Silver Snaffles on eBay and other sites labelled as first editions: often they are not. The seller is usually hoping that because their edition is undated it is a first. It is not: the first edition is stated as such, on the page before the dedication page. The earliest reprints are also dated; later ones tend not to be. The ‘gingham’ reprint is not dated. Before parting with large sums of money for what the seller is hoping is a first, please check first. The first edition is dated!
Silver Snaffles had an American edition, printed in the same year as the British original. It was published in 1937 by M.S. Mill, and illustrated by Stanley Lloyd. The dustjacket and illustrations are virtually identical to the British edition, save for the publisher logo at the bottom of the spine. The binding is not the same: this edition is bound in paper rather than cloth. Interestingly, this edition was printed in Great Britain. Many thanks to Susan Bourgeau for the information and illustrations for this edition.