Collecting Antique Children's Books

Collecting antique children's books, their age, condition, types, different publishers, author Beatrix Potter and her Peter Rabbit character, lithograph illustrations

Collecting children's books is a way to keep the child alive in each of us! Beautiful illustrations, stories that bring back memories of our own childhood, or even our parents and grandparents childhood, can all be captured between the pages of an antique child's storybook.

Condition of a book will vary greatly depending on age and what life the book has led. Ideally, the spine should be in good condition, with all pages intact. One sad fact of discovering a special book that you have searched for, is that they are often found with the spine broken apart, pages missing, but being that the books were often toted about for many years by kids, this is often the condition of an old children's book. If a book originally came with a paper book cover, this should accompany the edition. Are the inside of the covers scribbled on, or the pages themselves? Has the cover of the book itself survived without someone carelessly setting a glass or other item on it, thus leaving a watermark or other impression detracting from the looks of the book? If the book had special features, such as pop-up pictures, are these in good condition? With any paper collectible, is there evidence of mold or insect infestation? Are there creases, soiling, or tears? If there are any of these, how much do they detract from the overall condition of the book? What is the copyright? Is it a first edition, or a newer, reprinted edition?

Books often have many printings, and if you are collecting for value, first editions are typically worth more. Remember though, that there are always exceptions to the rules. For instance, a second printing may have new artwork by a desirable artist, this making those editions more valued than the first. Know what you are buying, or as with all antiques and collectibles, only buy what you like, and then you will never consider a purchase a bad mistake. Another often-desirable addition to a book, is the signature of the author or illustrator, especially if these can be documented as the real thing.



Children's books fall into several different categories, including storybooks, pop-up books, and coloring books. Among these are many more detailed categories, including specific publishers, authors, illustrators, or title characters. One famous book that falls into both the famous character and author niche is "˜The Tale of Peter Rabbit', by author Beatrix Potter, and hers are clearly some of the most sought after children's books of all time. Written in 1893, originally as a story to a young boy whom the author personally knew, it was eventually published in 1902. Peter Rabbit was also in "˜The Tale of Benjamin Bunny', "˜The Tale of the Flopsie Bunnies' and "˜The Tale of Mr. Tod'. A very lucky collector would be one to find all four tales!

As you collect, some publishers continually surface as producers of fine children's books. They have been behind many collected and sought after titles. A few publishers you are sure to come across include: The American Crayon Company (Uncle Wiggly Goes Camping, Uncle Wiggly And His Snow Plow, How The Picnic Baskets Were Mixed Up, and many other Uncle Wiggly titles) Whitman Publishing (Fuzzy Wuzzy Waddles, Fuzzy Wuzzy Pup)

The Saalfield Publishing Company (The Merry Mother Goose) Books Incorporated New York (Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes) McLoughlin Brothers (Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes) Perks Publishing Pied Piper Books.

These and other publishers produced some of the finest children books of days gone by. One important aspect of these older editions in comparison to books manufactured today is the illustrations. Lithographs of extraordinary color were to found. One First Edition book, Yonie Wondernose, by Marguerite De Angeli, published in 1944 by "˜Doubleday Doran & Company Inc., Garden City New York' has examples of lithographs by the "Polygraphic Co. of America.

Portraying images of Yonie, a little Dutch boy, and his family, you can soon see why these editions are both collected and coveted. Another enchanting book, "˜The Children's Treasury' compiled by Marjorie Barrows, and published by the "˜Consolidated Book Publishers, Chicago' is the favorites of many children and publishers alike, all together in one book. Published in 1947, this two book edition has titles such as "˜A Child's Garden of Verses' by Charles Scribner & Sons, and "˜Little Black Sambo' with illustrations by the much sought after illustrator C. Thorson.

One other favorite title was rescued from a library as a discard. It is titled "˜Read With Me' and was published by the "˜Children's Press, Chicago' in 1946. A collection of short sayings for children, it has some of the most delightfully rendered illustrations by Pauline Adams.

Whatever direction your collecting of children's books leads you, collect what you remember, collect what you love. If you follow these two rules, you will never go wrong.

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