Collecting Children’s Books

Collecting children’s books

Collecting children’s picture books can be an enchanting, fascinating and rewarding pastime.

We recommend that every now and then all adults should sit down with a children’s picture book and immerse themselves in a magical world full of beautiful images and wonderful stories – an experience that will transport the reader away from adult cares and back into the experience of childhood.

Many people have a special memory of a book from their childhood and often search to find that book again. Others collect children’s picture books because they enjoy dipping into those colourful magical worlds.

Slightly battered but much loved

Most children’s books are easily discarded and thus the few older books that do survive can become very rare. Those lost books may have been trodden on and crumpled in cluttered bedrooms, had breakfast cereals spattered on them by enchanted young readers, or maybe those books were accidentally torn in a scrabble for possession between siblings.

Some books survive in pristine condition with their dust jackets intact, but most surviving children’s books are slightly scuffed and a little battered. In the world of collectable books this is often the ‘look’ of a much loved book, and as long as the book is not too damaged or spoiled it can still hold its charm.

Discovering that gem

As a subject for collecting, illustrated children’s books can often be found at low cost. If you discover some unknown and forgotten book, you may have found a wonderful and rare gem. Store it safely and you will save it for future generations to admire. These finds can be books by superb illustrators and book designers, with great stories by inventive writers.

Books by some of the early illustrators such as Kate Greenaway or Edmund Dulac have become very valuable, but there are always those illustrators and writers that have been forgotten and neglected that can form an interesting collection.

Those writers, artists, illustrators and designers

Since the 1960s, when colour printing began to really improve, there has been a wonderful period of production where artists, illustrators, designers and writers experimented and developed the illustrated book into a fine art. Illustrators such as Charles Keeping, Errol le Cain, Jan Pienkowski, Jill Barklem and Raymond Briggs are just some of the artists that worked during this period.

Walk into any good bookshop today and look through the quality of children’s books on view and you will see what a rich subject these books have become for a collector.

See the children’s books we have in our bookshop.

Shown below is a spread from Alfie and the Ferryboat illustrated by the highly innovative British illustrator Charles Keeping (1924-1988).

Alfie and the Ferryboat, Charles Keeping
James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
The Matchlock Gun
McElligot's Pool by Dr Seuss
Rupert Annual 1972, front cover

Read our article on collecting illustrated books.

Read our article on collecting Ladybird books.