Jacob Abbott had written a number of books prior to the 1835 publication of The Little Scholar Learning to Talk. The books printed before 1835 were mainly religious in nature and with few exceptions not for children.

The origin of the Rollo Series is in some ways similar to the origin of Dicken's Pickwick Papers. A publisher is looking for text to accompany illustrations. In this instance in 1835, T. H. Carter, a Boston book publisher and agent, had 24 diverse illustrations that he wanted to put into a book format. He approached Abbott who eventually incorporated the pictures into The Little Scholar Learning to Talk. Rollo is not mentioned until the last lines of the book but of course he becomes the main character for the series that followed.

Abbott was paid $150 for the book which was published by John Allen and Company.

The fourteen Rollo Books starting with Learning to Talk and ending with the 1842 Rollo Philosophy Part IV-The Sky were the earliest multi volume children's series involving stories of a central character. These moralistic little tales were printed by numerous publishing houses into the twentieth century.

Although this series of Rollo books was not as popular as the Rollo's Tour in Europe Series, it still was a massive success.

The series consists of fourteen books. In most bibliographical material two other Rollo books which are not part of the series are noted. Rollo Code of Morals: or the rules of duty for children was published by Crocker and Brewster, a Boston publisher, in 1841.

Interestingly although the second title, Rollo Reader, is also mentioned in most lists as being published in 1841, I cannot find any evidence that this book was ever printed. This title is listed in the 1882 memorial edition of Abbott's Young Christian but no publisher is given. Weber and other bibliographies have no description of this book. Presently I think the jury is out as to whether it actually exists.

  Title Copyright 1st Ed. Imprint Date 1st Ed. Publisher
1. The Little Scholar Learning to Talk
(Later titled Rollo Learning to Talk)
1835 1835 John Allen and Company
2. Rollo Learning to Read 1835 1835 John Allen and Company
3. Rollo at Work 1837 1838 TH Carter
4. Rollo at Play 1837 1838 TH Carter
5. Rollo at School 1838 1839 TH Carter
6. Rollo's Vacation 1838 (TH Carter) 1839 William Crosby and Company
7. Rollo's Experiments 1839 (TH Carter) 1839 Weeks, Jordan and Company
8. Rollo's Museum 1839 (TH Carter) 1839 Weeks, Jordan and Company
9. Rollo's Travels 1839 (TH Carter) 1840 William Crosby and Company
10. Rollo's Correspondence 1839 (TH Carter) 1840 William Crosby and Company
11. Rollo Philosophy Part I- Water 1841 (TH Carter) 1841 Hogan and Thompson
12. Rollo Philosophy Part II- Air 1841 (TH Carter) 1841 Hogan and Thompson
13. Rollo Philosophy Part III- Fire 1842 (TH Carter) 1842 Hogan and Thompson
14. Rollo Philosophy Part IV- The Sky 1842 (TH Carter) 1842 Hogan and Thompson
    The books of this series were printed by numerous publishing houses.
    In chronological order they are:
  1. John Allen and Company 1835
  2. Otis Broaders and Company with Jas. H. Weeks in 1837. Just Otis, Broaders in 1843
  3. T. H. Carter 1837-1842
  4. Weeks, Jordan and Company 1838-1839
  5. William Crosby and Company 1839-1840
  6. Samuel Colman 1839
  7. Hogan and Thompson 1841-1850 (with Gould, Kendall, and Lincoln)
  8. Thomas H. Webb and Company ca. 1843
  9. Parrish, Dunning and Mears 1852
  10. B. F. Jackson 1853
  11. Phillips, Sampson and Company 1854-late 1850's (with and without James C. Derby)
  12. Sheldon and Company 1860-late 1870's
  13. S. E. Cassino 1882
  14. Thomas Y. Crowell 1883-1910's
  15. American Book Company 1903
  16. E. P. Dutton and Company 1908

John Allen and Company, Boston 1835

This firm published the first editions of the first two Rollo books in 1835. The name of the first title was The Little Scholar Learning to Talk. By 1837 the name had been changed to Rollo Learning to Talk. Both books were 18 mo. The Learning to Read author was listed "as his father". The second book's author was given as "the author of "The Little Scholar Learning to Read".

Initially Abbott and T.H. Carter had come to an agreement for Carter to publish the first two Rollo books. Because of financial setbacks Allen proffered the money for the stories and published them with its own imprint and copyright. Allen never published the books after 1835.


Otis Broaders & Company, Boston 1837/1843

In 1837 Otis Broaders co-published with Jas. H. Weeks, a New York publisher, Rollo Learning to Read, the second book in the Rollo Series. It is uncertain whether it also published book #1 Rollo Learning to Talk at that time. Presumably it did. These two books have not been seen.

Otis, Broaders published the entire fourteen book Rollo series in 1843. The books are 6.5 x 4.5.







T. H. Carter 1837-1842

Carter published three Rollo first editions on its own imprint. These books are 18 mo.

3. Rollo at Work (Copyright 1837- imprint on first edition 1838)
4. Rollo at Play (Copyright 1837- imprint on first edition 1838)
5. Rollo at School (Copyright 1838- imprint on first edition 1839)


First edition of Rollo at Play


First edition of Rollo at School

Carter held the 1838 copyright of #6. Rollo's Vacation which was first published by William Crosby and Company.

By 1840 the first ten Rollo books had been published. Carter already had the copyrights for its Rollo first editions (Books #3-5). It subsequently held the copyrights of books #6-10 published first by William Crosby and Company and Weeks and Jordan and Company in 1839 and 1840.

The copyrights for books #7-10 were dated 1839

Apparently T. Harrington Carter talked Abbott into writing the four Rollo Philosophy books which were published in 1842 and 1843. Hogan and Thompson published the first editions of the four volumes (#11-14 in the series). Carter had the copyrights however.

11. Rollo Philosophy-Water (Copyright in 1841 by T.H. Carter)
12. Rollo Philiosophy-Air (Copyright in 1841 by T.H. Carter)
13. Rollo Philosophy-Fire (Copyright in 1842 by T.H. Carter)
14. Rollo Philosophy- Water (Copyright in 1842 by T.H. Carter)


Weeks, Jordan and Company, Boston 1838, 1839, 1841

Weeks, Jordan published a new and uniform edition of the Rollo books in six volumes in 1838 and early 1839.
These books were:
1. The Little Scholar Learning to Talk
2. Learning to Read
3. At Work
4. At Play
5. At School
6. Vacation

In September 1839 it published the first editions of Experiments and Museum. These books were copyrighted by T. H. Carter in 1839. Thus by the end of 1839 the Weeks, Jordan Rollo Series consisted of eight books.

In 1841 Weeks Jordan published four Rollo books
1. Experiments
2. Museum
3. Travels
4. Correspondence
There is no evidence that the first six Rollo books were published by Weeks, Jordan and Company at that time.

There have been four blind stamped cover patterns noted. One is found on the earliest Weeks, Jordan books published in 1838. Three were published in 1839. No known priority is noted between the first two 1839 covers. The third cover noted below is the same as the 1841 cover and the undated cover and is thought to be the latest of the three 1839 covers. All of this publisher's books are 6.5 x 4.25.


1838 Edition


1839 First Edition


1839 Edition


1839 Edition


1839 Edition


1839 Edition (latest 1839 cover)


1841 Edition


Unknown date but published between 1839 and 1841


William Crosby and Company, Boston

This firm published three Rollo first editions.
6. Rollo Vacation, 1839
9. Rollo's Travels, 1840
10. Rollo's Correspondence, 1840

Book #6 Vacation was copyrighted by T.H. Carter in 1838. Books #9 and #10 were copyrighted by T. H. Carter in 1839.

All three books are 6.5 x 4.25. Several blind stamped cover patterns have been seen. No known priority is recognized at this time.

It appears that Crosby only published these three Rollo titles.


Samuel Colman, Boston

Colman published the first two Rollo books in 1838. In 1839 the first two books were reprinted and the books 3-6 were published by Colman.






Hogan and Thompson - Philadelphia with Gould, Kendall, and Lincoln, Boston 1841, 1842, 1843, 1850

Early in 1841 Hogan and Thompson along with its co-publisher Gould, Kendall and Lincoln published nine out of ten of the Rollo books. Rollo's Experiments was excluded from this list. By later in 1841 all ten Rollo's were being published. This publisher printed the first editions of the four Rollo Philosophy books. The first two in 1842 and the second two in 1843. All were copyrighted by T. H. Carter in the preceding year.

Hogan and Thompson first editions
11. Rollo Philosophy Part I- Water    1842
12. Rollo Philosophy Part II- Air        1842
13. Rollo Philosophy Part III- Fire     1843
14. Rollo Philosophy Part IV- Sky     1843

The 1850 fourteen volume set is a "new, revised by the author" edition.






1842 (First edition)- Copyright 1841 by T. H. Carter


1843 (First edition)- Copyright 1842 by T. H. Carter










Undated. Published by Hogan and Thompson only.


Thomas H. Webb and Company, Boston ca.1843

Thomas Webb published the primary series under the "sanction of the Board of Education of the State of Massachusetts". This series included all fourteen of the Rollo books as well as all six of the Cousin Lucy books. All of the books are reprints.

The exact date of the Primary Series publication is unclear (probably 1843). The books are 6.25 x 4.25.


Parrish, Dunning & Mears, Philadelphia (1850-1853)

This Philadelphia firm published its fourteen volume Rollo Series in two formats. The first was identical to the 1845/1850 cloth Hogan and Thompson publications. Thus this would indicate that this is the earlier of the two Parrish books and that this publisher succeeded Hogan and Thompson in publishing the Rollo books. The book is an 18 mo- 6 x 4.

The later Parrish book is a red blindstamped book (6.25 x 4.25) with gold gilt lettering on the spine.

The exact dates of publication of these Parrish reprints is unclear but is presumed to be between 1850 and 1853.

Earlier edition

This later Parrish edition has the publisher Willis Hazard lettered in gold gilt at the bottom the spine. There is no evidence that Hazard, a Philadelphia publisher, printed any Rollo books. Thus, most likely Hazard bound this edition of the Rollo books for Parrish, Dunning and Mears.

Later edition


B. F. Jackson, Philadelphia 1853

In 1853 Jackson published the fourteen book series. It appears that this edition preceded the earliest Phillips and Sampson publications since the embossed cover design and the gold gilt decorations on the spine of the two editions are identical. The book is 6.25 x 4.25.


Phillips, Sampson and Company 1854-late 1850's

This firm published the fourteen book Rollo Series in several formats.

The earliest PS and Co. edition has the same embossed cover picture as the earlier 1853 B. F. Jackson publication. The spine gold gilt is also the same with the exception of differing flowers at the top and bottom. This edition was co-published with the New York based James C. Derby publishing house. The books were priced at 50 cents per volume. It was published in 1854. The 1854 books either have the earlier T.H. Carter copyrights from 1842 (Philosophy books) or an 1850 Hogan and Thompson copyright.

The next PS and Co. publications have the same embossed cover pattern but the spine is totally different. These books also list PS and Co. 1855 on the copyright page. Thus were published in 1855 or later.

A later Phillips reprint of this series is blindstamped with gold gilt on the spine. Red and brown cloth books have been seen. These books are 7 x 4.5.


This is the 1854 edition with the non Phillips, Sampson copyright.


This PS and Co. book has the 1855 Phillips copyright. Not published with James C. Derby.

Another edition with the 1855 PS and Co. copyright.

This PS and Co. edition has the same gold gilt spine pattern/decoration that the later Sheldon and Company books have. Thus this is the latest of the three Phillips, Sampson and Company editions published in the late 1850's. The title pages of these books are the same as the earlier editions. Some were co-published with James C. Derby while others were not.


Sheldon and Company, New York 1860-late 1870's

Sheldon published the fourteen book Rollo Series in numerous different formats between 1860 and the late 1870's. Between 1860-1864 two different Rollo sets were published and the books were sold mostly just by the set: An 18 mo. cheaper edition and a 16 mo. more expensive book. The larger 1860 book had the identical format as the last Phillips, Sampson and Company.

Here is the smaller, cheaper 1860 book.


1860 (6.25 x 4)


1860 (6.75 x 4.5) Same as the Phillips, Sampson and Co. format

In 1861-1863 the smaller book had a new format.

1864 (6.75 x 4.5) Format unchanged from the 1860 book

In 1864 and early 1865 the the cover decoration was changed very slightly.






1867 edition







Several undated Sheldon Rollo books have seen. These all have the same address on the title page: 677 Broadway. Sheldon was at this address between 1871 and 1875.


ca. 1875

The blue cover above has been seen with Sheldon's 8 Murray Street address. Sheldon was there between 1876 and 1884. Thus, the blue cover design book was published in 1876 and is probably the latest Sheldon Rollo Series book.


S. E. Cassino and Company, Boston 1882-1884

In 1882 Cassino bought the plates of the fourteen volume Rollo Series from Sheldon and Company. Initially the plan was to publish the fourteen books in seven volumes. It is unclear if the two volumes in one edition was ever published. Late in 1882 a fourteen volume set was advertised. This was published between 1882 and 1884. It was sold in boxed sets only for $14.


Thomas Y. Crowell and Company 1883-1910's

Crowell published the Rollo books in a number of different series.

All fourteen volumes were published in 1883 in a 12 mo. cloth and gilt decorated cover. This cover was also used in the Jonas and the Cousin Lucy Series. In 1887 the books were enlarged such that the series now only included seven (two stories in one) books. The covers remained the same. By 1905 this format was phased out.





Crowell was at the Astor street address between 1881-1886.

In 1905 a new edition Rollo Series was published. This series included all fourteen books with a mustard cloth cover which has a picture of Rollo. It was printed into the teens.

This title page is on the later books of this format.

The multi volume Children's Favorite Classics included Rollo at Work and Rollo at Play beginning in 1895. This series has been seen in several formats. In the late 1890's both Rollo books appeared in a half vellum edition (6.75 x 5) as well as an 8 vo. cloth edition. The 1900 version is in green cloth with a picture of Rollo on the cover. There is a gold gilt pattern that encompasses the entire spine. By 1906 the spine had only a small gold gilt decoration in addition to the lettering. This series was published into the teens. (These latter books were 6.75 x 5.)

Late 1890's- Half Vellum Editon

1895 edition 8 vo.




The Children's Handy Library included only Rollo at Work and Rollo at Play. These small plaid decorated books were published from 1906 into the teens. (6.25 x 4.25)




American Book Company, New York 1903

Clifton Johnson edited versions of Rollo at Work and Rollo at Play in this volume. He states in his preface that he attempted to keep the basic moralistic instruction in the stories but deleted some of the more drawn-out moralizing sections. Abbott's son, Lyman Abbott, wrote a several page introduction. The illustrations are new to this edition. The artist is unknown.

The Eclectic School Readings were intended for third-grade supplementary readings and preceded the "Eclectic Readings".

This title has been seen with a cover that says "Eclectic Readings".

(7.5 x 5.25)


E. P. Dutton and Company, New York 1908

Dutton added a Rollo book to its Everyman's Library in 1908. This is a combination book which is entitled Rollo at Work and Rollo at Play. The book came in two formats. Cloth at 35 cents and leather at 70 cents.