This weekend I sat down to write my dedication for Peter Nimble. This is something I have mulled over quite a bit in the last few years.  Like naming my (imaginary) boat or drawing my (non-existant) tattoo, wording my first dedication was a flight of fancy.  When my editor told to submit something by Monday, I completely clammed up.  The fantasy had become a reality, and I was terrified of blowing it.  Should I write something intimate and cryptic?  Something sweet and funny?  Something in keeping with the tone of the book?

Of course, it doesn’t really matter to a reader what I write.  Readers are interested in the story, not in a few words opposite the copyright page.  But every once in a while, I see a dedication that makes a book come alive — something that makes me long to know the author personally, and slightly jealous of the lucky dedicatee.1  With the spectre of those great dedications in mind, I started browsing my bookshelf, thumbing through examples that really stuck in my memory.  Here are a few of my favorites:

A.A. Milne – Winnie-the-Pooh

As I’ve mentioned before, this whole book is adorable from start to finish.  The dedication is no exception …










Jerome K. Jerome – The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow: a Book for an Idle Holiday

So far as I’m concerned, Jerome does not get his due.  He is a truly funny writer, as exhibited by this delightful dedication to his beloved pipe …














C.S. Lewis – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

I’m not the biggest fan of this installment of the Narnia series (more of a Magician’s Nephew kind of guy), but the dedication at the front is hard not to love.2










G.K. Chesterton – The Man Who Was Thursday

This is a long poem written for Chesterton’s childhood friend, Edmund Clerihew Bentley.  I think Chesterton is someone best taken in small doses, which would explain why this dedication is better than the book itself!




Adam Gidwitz – A Tale Dark and Grimm

And finally comes this newer edition to the canon of great dedications, which made me laugh out loud in the bookstore:







For those interested in reading more about dedications, there’s an essay collection called Once Again to Zelda that tells the story being fifty famous dedications; the book got mixed reviews, but still might be worth checking out.  Also, feel free to put down your own favorite literary dedications in the comments section.

As for what I wrote in Peter Nimble?  You’ll have to wait and see.


UPDATE: readers chimed in with their own favorite dedications here.

  1. Bet you didn’t think that was a word.
  2. Unless you’re Philip Pullman, that is.

6 Comments Leave a Comment

  • […] var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s); })(); Dedications Posted 03.22.2011 by Jonathan Auxier in Books, Personal This weekend I sat down to write my […]

  • kbryna says:

    The dedication page for Diana Wynne Jones’ HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE is great. The actual dedication is “this one is for stephen,” but the text below that is awesome:

    “The idea for this book was suggested by a boy in a school I was visiting, who asked me to write a book called The Moving Castle. I wrote down his name, and put it in such a safe place, that I have been unable to find it ever since. I would like to thank him very much.”

    I LOVE this – it tells me so much about DWJ, and makes me love her even more. And it’s a story in itself – why did this boy want a book called The Moving Castle? What was HE imagining? how must it feel to ask an author (a GREAT one) to write a certain book, and then have her actually write it?

  • AB says:

    “To AB – his fantastic eyes inspired this book. Thanks also for hanging with me during those awkward years when I had the bowl cut.”

  • alex says:

    you’re going to expect this from me, no doubt, but i love that charlotte bronte dedicated the second edition of jane eyre to w.p. thackeray. she clearly did it out of great admiration for his writing(she had not met him at that point), but eventually, when her real identity got out, the dedication caused quite a bit of scandal. you see, thackeray’s real wife WAS insane and suicidal and eventually had to be locked up (charlotte would not have known this). so, of course, rumors started to spread about the REAL relationship between charlotte and thackeray. add to that that there was a kind of a subdued literary rivalship between them, and we get, in general, a great dedication.

  • Leuinda says:

    I never have been able decided on the name of my (imaginary) boat. There seems to be a lot of pressure to be clever in a dumb kind of way, like “Carp A Dream.” Designing my (eventual) tattoo? Check.

    The blog is great.

  • Kbryna and Alex – I’m with you for both of those examples. I really love it when a dedication hints at a story (I think of EAST OF EDEN and TALE OF DESPEREAUX).

    Andrew – how did you know?!

    Leuinda – I originally tried to dig up a video clip from the “West Wing” when Toby says that the fifteen seconds he spent imagining the name of his boat was, perhaps, the greatest moment of his life. For whatever reason, that show reminds me of you guys.

  • Note: XHTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

    Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS