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Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The charm of children's books

Of all my collections, I think the one that means most are my old children's books. I have been fascinated by them for as long as I can remember. When I was young and working in central London, I always sought out book sales and library sales, where I would add to my stash. Then, when my eldest was a baby, and we lived in Hackney, we were just a couple of streets away from a very old fashioned second hand bookshop, one of the dusty, musty sort, where I could get a first edition for a couple of pounds, so our afternoon walks to the park often took a small detour. When the boys were small, I'd buy lots of their books from Oxfam, and if I saw an old Puffin with a cover I recognised from my primary school days, I'd get that, too. Now, my collection is pretty huge. 

I have hardbacks and paperbacks. Annuals and board books.

Just recently, my father-in-law entrusted us with his beautiful selection of tales from his childhood. He is 94, so these are very old, and very special. Quite a few of them are illustrated by Arthur Rackham. It is amazing how different books for children were in the early 1900s. None of the cutesiness of the above stories from the 1960s. No, some of the drawings would be downright terrifying for a small child, and the stories themselves can be very brutal. 

A feisty heroine by Arthur Rackham

More titles from my father-in-law's collection (above)

I have many favourites, too many to call really. I do love the Milly Molly Mandy stories, and the school books by Antonia Forest. I never read the really jolly hollysticks ones by Angela Brazil etc, because I went to a 1970s secondary mod, and I couldn't relate to them at all. Antonia Forest's books were set in a boarding school, but the characters' problems seemed more universal and I read them over and over again. Anyway, more on those another time, this is more of a pictorial post.

My new source of vintage books is our local YMCA shop. The manager just puts out a few really old books in a suitcase every day. It's on my route to our design office, where I only go once a month (probably a good thing really!), and I almost always end up buying one or two. The prices are low, £1 or £2 usually. Today, I bought the one in the top photo, and the one above. Also, a fantastically illustrated Christmas book, which I'll save until nearer the time. I think this post is one to be continued....


  1. Wonderful post - I just love old books and the first picture is just so sweet! Love it!
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

  2. Well I was just sitting with the ipad and a cat on my bedroom floor looking at my collection of old childrens books and there you are posting about them. Youngest son has some lovely old boys adventure books too with wonderful illustrations. How lovely that you now have your father-in-laws. I find I have to pay quite a bit for them now but there is a marvellous place in Lewes where you can still find a bargain. Karen x

    1. Great minds think alike!
      Yes, I am so glad to be looking after the family collection. I think my father in law knows how much I appreciate the books.

  3. I love your collection, I could sit and read old children's books all day, I used to have a copy of the Farm Babies when I was tiny
    Thank you for the memories
    Thea x

    1. So glad you enjoyed it, and a coincidence that you actually had one of the books too!

  4. Great collection! I would love to get some but daren't start....or I will just get carried away! Ada :)

  5. Such a nostalgic post!
    I think I remember Farm Babies, just lovely!
    I have my Mum's Alice in Wonderland dated 1932.
    I loved looking through your wonderful collection.
    Love Maria x

  6. How I love your blog?
    A lot! I always come to see you,
    to lose one of your wonderful post.
    Hello and see you soon
    Love Susy x

    1. Thank you Susy. It is so nice to hear that you like it!