“Peter Parley” was the most popular character created by Samuel Goodrich, who introduced the character in 1827. Soon, a number of titles collected themselves around Parley’s name—whether they were by Goodrich or not.
Peter Parley’s Winter Evening Tales is classic Parley: didactic, well-illustrated, filled with anecdotes and bits of interesting information, and imbued with a certain charm, as Parley rides herd on a group of lively young listeners. James, especially, is “fond of making smart speeches,” waxing poetic about rambling in the woods and jousting verbally with Parley. Thomas manages to slip in a little advertising, as he refers to Parley’s earlier books and asks for stories about Asia and Africa; Tales of Peter Parley about Africa and Tales of Peter Parley about Asia were published the year Winter Evening Tales was first published.
When the first edition of Winter Evening Tales was published in 1830, so were several chapbooks with the text and the illustrations. Published as a group under the title “Peter Parley’s Smaller Tales,” the titles included One of Peter Parley’s Winter Evening Tales, Peter Parley’s Story of the Spider and the Fly, Peter Parley’s Story of Little Marion, Peter Parley’s Story of the Soldier and His Dog, Peter Parley’s Tales of the Elephant, and Peter Parley’s Story of the Truants. Which came first is difficult to decide: at least two of the chapbooks bear the copyright information for Winter Evening Tales on their copyright pages, which would imply that the book came first. However, Peter Parley’s Story of the Trapper also bears the copyright but doesn't appear in the collection. Perhaps Goodrich intended to include the Trapper but felt there wasn't space. Certainly other chapbooks published as part of the series later appeared in book form, as Peter Parley’s Juvenile Tales.
Each tale has a separate full-page illustration that was published as the frontispiece for the chapbook. Like the stories, the illustrations have had a varied life: the illustration for the story of the Parley’s wig, for example, was printed in The Juvenile Miscellany.
Winter Evening Tales is described in A Mid-Century Child and Her Books, Carolyn M. Hewins’ memoirs of her childhood and her reading.