Endurance Writing for Children:
Climbing trees, building dens and creating fantasy are common childhood pleasures and adventures. Children’s authors love to write about them. Yet only a select number of authors have managed to capture generations of children with their stories.
Classic children’s authors like Edith Nesbit, J. R.R Tolkien, Lewis Carroll and C.S. Lewis are writers who have mastered the skill. They cleverly created a world of magic and inverted logic that was entirely their own. Their literature is about children not for children. A way of keeping their inner child alive for the authors. As C.S. Lewis comments, When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up. Yet adults secretly also like to read these children’s tales with bedtime reading rituals being the excuse!
The trick of engaging the reader into a journey of childhood adventure is an art that J.R. R Tolkien perfected. Sometimes he writes as a guide to the reader and sometimes he seems to be only a step ahead of the reader. The suspense of the adventure is compelling and artfully employed in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Successful children’s literature must also never shy away from the darker side of life. One of Edith Nesbit’s most popular stories portray the practical and fantastical side of childhood adventures. The Enchanted Castle describes the ghastly tales of creatures in the dark in a magical nightmare. She is not afraid of describing things as they are, including frightening experiences.
C.S. Lewis was a master at engaging adults as well as children into his literature. As he comments, In my own first story I had described at length what I thought a rather fine high tea given by a hospitable faun to the little girl who was my heroine. A man, who has children of his own, said, “Ah, I see how you got to that. If you want to please grown-up readers you give them sex, so you thought to yourself, ‘That won’t do for children, what shall I give them instead? I know! The little blighters like plenty of good eating.” In reality, however, I myself like eating and drinking. I put in what I would have liked to read when I was a child and what I still like reading now that I am in my fifties. Lewis’s tales of a group of children getting drawn into a world of fantasy adventure in The Chronicles of Narnia remain as appealing to adults as to children.
Writing children’s literature is often best developed when it grows out of a story that has been told by the author to a particular child. Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland adventures were directly meant for Alice Liddell, his child friend. Beatrix Potter’s books were initially written as letters to the children she was governed. The infamous and enduring Babar books of Jean De Brunhof were started with his recording his bedtime stories to his young sons.
Certainly creating a writing style that encourages generations of readers to keep turning to the books for childhood reading and nostalgia is a talent. C.S. Lewis comments, I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last. There are certainly a few authors who have achieved that long lasting attraction.
To see more first edition books for children go here
The Gift of Music or Books
Recently someone asked me what I wanted for my birthday gift– maybe a CD I replied and then realised I hadn’t listen to music for quite a while. Music had always been really important to me. I’d often got lost in it. It could make me happy, moved – sad even, energetic or help me get to sleep. Quite a powerful mix of spells. But without particularly noticing, I’d almost stopped listening altogether. What had happened? Had my life changed? Or shock horror, had I changed?
Then I came across an article about the latest high definition portable music players and how they play music files that aren’t compressed.
I’ve always appreciated quality in all things whether I can afford them or not. Quality sound, with those high tones and deep bases we used to hear on vinyl, had disappeared from my life. It wasn’t me – it was the awful low quality music on my phone. Those compressed digital files that conveniently fit hundreds of songs onto my tiny little device at the expense of sound quality, were to blame. I’d fallen out of love with music because it no longer gave me the pleasure it once did. I just hadn’t realised it.
I bought myself a new, albeit rather expensive portable devise and now can’t download music (high definition music) onto it quickly enough. It’s wonderful to have my ears opened again, as though they’d been blocked with wax for a decade!
There is an obvious and relevant comparison with books and e-books. Yes, e-books are convenient for say holidays but beyond that, are they really a substitute for the real thing? I’m not talking about rare and antique first editions here but any modern or classic book. For instance, sometimes I have need to flip back to check a specific detail from earlier in a book. I can generally find it because I know roughly where to look, and can even remember whether it was on a right or left hand page. I would not even try this on an e-book.
Add to the mix the tactile experience, the cover design, the feel, the experience of reading a physical book and you’re starting to scratch at the surface of the comparison. You could even say an open book is an open expression of one’s character just as music can reflect the literature of the heart. Heinrich Heine says, “Where words leave off, music begins.” A shelf of books or music says something about a person. Not everyone would agree I’m sure but I wouldn’t mind betting there are a lot of nodding heads out there.
Getting transported by being lost in a book or music is a real gift. This Christmas, don’t forget to think about either an expensive portable music devise (costly!) or a vastly cheaper option of a book as a present. A lovely first edition book might be that special something that’s totally unique and unusual.
Uncommon Christmas Titles – and presents
As Christmas draws near it is interesting to see how publishers market their festive books. Consider the four “Uncommon Christmas Titles” collection illustrated by Arthur Rackham. These are four soft backed smaller books, The Night Before Christmas (1931), The King Of The Golden River (1932), Goblin Market (1933) and The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1934). Clearly not all these titles are Christmas related. It is interesting to wonder why they make such a good match.
In the 1930’2 new techniques of printing were emerging effecting the market for Rackham’s typical limited edition books with tipped in illustrations. The financial downturn of the American and British economy was influencing consumer spending and the luxury of Rackham elaborate plate illustrations was becoming a thing of the past. A new kind of Rackham book was needed and Rackham changed publisher to Harrap & Co, London in 1928.
Harrap responded to the change in the consumer market by proposing that a slimmer book printed on thinner paper was produced. The plates would be printed on coated paper bound in at intervals within the text. Harrap did not lose sight of the need for an “upmarket” edition alongside the ordinary edition and continued to produce a number of limited edition books. As Rackham comments to Alwin Scheuer in 14 March 1931, “There is a fashion for publishing only limited editions that my books are in rather a curious position. The ordinary editions do not sell so large a number as of old, and the limiteds are largely over applied for- whereas, formally, in one or tow cases happily, the limited editions were not immediately sold out.” (Butler Library Columbia University New York).
Rackham and Harrap agreed a successful arrangement whereby two Rackham books were published annually. One was the smaller book and the other a slightly longer and more elaborate book. The smaller ones were released for the Christmas trade.The first trial of this was in 1931 when The Complete Angler and Clement Moore’s, The Night before Christmas was released. Sales of the limited edition of the latter was particularly brisk. The following year Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson and John Ruskin’s King of the Golden River were released. In 1933 The Arthur Rackham Fairy Book with Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market was the chosen works. Rackham’s pace of work altered for the next year and the Pied Piper Of Hamelin was the only book published in 1934.
Rackham was nearing the end of his career in the 1930’s yet the quality of his illustrations remained intact with all these publications. “The style of work for a series of poems published by Harrap and Sons in the early thirties returned unashamedly to the early style.” (Gettings, p. 161).
Over this time Harrap and Rackhams’ publications the four smaller books published were of the same style. Each had soft covers with four dazzling colour plates plus black and white illustrations throughout the text. Clearly the marketing strategy of Harrap was successful and sales of the books were good. The four smaller books make a good fit and it is these publications that form the “Uncommon Christmas Titles” that we recognise today. They would indeed make an ideal Christmas gift for a Rackham collector today.
To see more books of Arthur Rackham go to here
Childers – A Rare Thriller for Collectors
Collectors of spy thrillers might struggle to build up a collection if they start with one of the classics, The Riddle of the Sands, by Erskine Childers. It was the last and only spy novel he wrote! However, not to have his book in your collection would be to miss a trick. It is credited with being the forerunner of adventure novels that are based on facts yet remain true thrillers.
Published in 1903, the book predicted the threat of war with Germany and called for British preparedness. The thriller was set within a plot of a yachting and duck shooting trip for two young men which turns into an adventurous investigation into a German plot to invade Great Britain. It is credited as a a precursor of factual spy novels such as John Buchan, Ian Fleming and Ken Follet.
He certainly knew the military facts of the time. His first book, In the Ranks of the C. I. V. describes his accounts in the Boer War whilst he was serving with the Honorable Artillery Company in Southern Africa. His long descriptive letters were sent home to his sisters. The public’s interest in the war was growing and the letters were published in book format to some success in 1902. Childers then went on to collaborate with his colleague, Basil Williams, on a more formal book, The HAC in South Africa, which described the history of the regiment’s part in the campaign.
However Childers must have known there was a novel in him working on a script for The Riddle of the Sands since 1901. He had been a sailing enthusiast for many years owning several vessels since 1893. He sailed extensively across the channel and even to the Baltic, Nordenhay and the Frisian Islands with his brother. These wide sailing experiences along the German coast plus his wartime forays provided essential factual material for his adventure novel.
The novel was published with wide acclaim and it has never gone out of print. The significance of the book is even more intriguing considering the context of the life and time of the author. The novel depicts patriotic characters who perform courageous struggles for king and country. Yet Childer’s mother was Irish and he had always been interested in the cause of Irish Home Rule. He took this up seriously after WW1. Although Riddle was an instant bestseller, Childers never wrote another novel. Instead he concentrated on military strategy manuals before entering politics and eventually becoming a staunch Irish nationalist smuggling guns to Ireland in his sailing yacht. He was executed by a firing squad in 1922, by order of the Irish Free State.
Childers describes the novel as “… a story with a purpose” written from “a patriot’s natural sense of duty”. It is certainly a book of significance. In 2003 many centenary editions were produced: the Observer included it on its list of “100 Greatest Novels of All Time” and The Telegraph noted it as the third best novel of all time. It remains a hugely influential book in the spy genre – and certainly one to add to any collection of first edition spy books!
To view our first edition of the book go here
Kipling’s Enduring Just So Stories
Rudyard Kipling has long been recognised as one of the most authentic writers during the British Empire of the early 20th century. Some of his works are clearly of their period yet the Just So Stories have endured the passage of time. They are as appealing to children today as they were when they were written in 1902.
The stories of how animals came to be as they are remain fanciful and intriguing. Each tale relates how the animal is modified from it’s original form by the acts of mankind, or some other magical act. For example, The Camel refuses to work and is given a hump as a punishment, allowing him to work for longer with less food breaks. The Whale swallowed a sailor, who then tied a raft inside the whale’s throat to impede further ingestion of men. The end result was a smaller throat for the Whale.
Kipling first attempts at this style of writing is evident in The Second Jungle Book of 1895 where he fantasizes how the tiger got his stripes in the story of “How Fear Came“. He no doubt developed the tales when he was telling bedtime stories to his daughter, Josephine or “Effie”. Kipling commented, ...in the evening there were stories meant to put Effie to sleep, and you were not allowed to alter those by one single little word. They had to be told just so; or Effie would wake up and put back the missing sentence. So at last they came to be like charms, all three of them,—the whale tale, the camel tale, and the rhinoceros tale. Tragically his daughter died of fever in 1899. Three of the stories were published in a children’s magazine. A few years later the stories were published in book form in 1902.
Kipling uses an amusing and grand style of language with playful invention of words. He includes a delightful poem after each story. The reader is addressed as Best Beloved engaging a feeling of intimacy with the audience – a technique which clearly worked as the book has appealed to children since it’s publication in 1902.
The book is illustrated with his own images and includes two woodcuts with each story. The images are remarkably fresh today. His skill may well have derived from inheriting some artistic talent from his father who was an artist and Principal at the then Mayo School of Arts, in Lahore, British India.
Many of the stories have been made into films and musicals. For example, the Just So Stories were adapted as a 1984 musical, called Just So at the Watermill theatre in England. Also a French-British animated co-production of Just So Stories was produced in 2008. It is testimony to Kipling’s talent of writing and illustration that a rare first edition book is still in demand today and remains a collectable item. As Kipling said, Hear and attend and listen; for this befell and behappened and became and was: O my Best Beloved, when the tame animals were wild, and children are still listening.
William Golding books inspiring light.
“At the moment of vision, the eyes see nothing.” writes William Golding in his novel of The Spire. A book which deals with the construction of the 404-foot high spire and is loosely based on Salisbury Cathedral. Indeed visitors to the tallest tower in Britain have carefully trod in semi- darkness. That is until a volunteer guide, Robert Stiby, paid with his own money to have new lights installed inside the ancient scaffolding of the tower. Visitors are now able to marvel at the medieval structures. What has this story to do with book collecting you might wonder? As a bibliophile it is a reminder of the endurance and interest of classic authors.
William Golding (19 September 1911 – 19 June 1993)
Golding remains a recognised novelist, playwright and poet being ranked third on The Times list of “The Greatest Writer since 1945”. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1983 for his most famous work, The Lord of the Flies. Golding wrote many fine novels yet it is this book which he is most remembered for.
Fine copies of the classic, The Lord of The Flies, remains attractive to collectors of modern first editions. Indeed it could be argued that “A collection of modern fiction would never be complete without it” (Connolly, 136). As always the main factors affecting the appeal of a first edition book is the condition and the dust jacket.
The first UK edition of The Lord of The Flies published by Faber & Faber in 1954. It features the iconic jungle artwork on the dust wrapper. The children trapped on the island blend into the wild, jungle environment around them.
The US edition was published a year later in 1955. It was not popular and sold around 2,383 copies before quickly going out of print. This makes it a rare find. The dust jacket of this edition has a more dense foliage and darker colouring than the British publication.
When writing The Lord of the Flies Golding sought to “…illuminate the human condition in the world of today”. Almost as an echo to the past Canon Edward Probert, chancellor of Salisbury Cathedral commented on the new spire lighting. He states that, “…what was once clothed in darkness is now illuminated…”
To see more modern first editions and copies of William Golding books go here.
Rare and Antique Books have recently acquired four signed Kinglesy Amis books from the Dr Philip Murray Collection. It is a great opportunity to remind ourselves of the obsession of book collecting, or biblomania. Murray gamely recognises that it “is the only form of collecting other than kleptomania that has a medical name attached to it”. He is clearly qualified to make the statement because as well as being one of Ireland’s leading book collectors, he is also a doctor.
Murray’s interest in books started at a young age in his home of Tipperary, Ireland. He collected the Dandy and Beano comics. His interests quickly led onto more literary works as he ventured in the many bookshops of his university city of Dublin. His passion for book collecting continued during his time abroad. Murray sought specialist catalogues, literary festivals and many, many second hand bookshops in his travels. Much of his joy was also in the befriending of authors along the way.
Murray amassed an impressively rare collection of twentieth century literary fiction and poetry. Over many years he built up an extensive range of books by some of Ireland’s most significant poets and novelists. Also including the best of British, American (North and South) and European authors. Names such as C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, Beckett, O’Flaherty, J.B. Keane, McGahern, Kingsley Amis, Arthur Miller and many more litter his book collection. Murray’s quiet determination in sending first edition books with self addressed envelopes to authors enabled him to gather an enviable collection. A case in point is the ‘The Whoseday Book’ which contains the signatures of all but twelve of its over 360 contributors. Authors were inclined to add personal dedications which add to the charm and value of his collection. Seamus Heaney even submitted an original poem for his copy.
Murray has recently sold much of his compilation to relieve his family of disposing of such an enormous and significant collection. Around 2,200 books were handled by Dublin Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers in July 2016. These included Literature prize winners, Seamus Heaney, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Patrick White, attracting world wide interest and high prices.
Dr Murray describes the excitement of his “obsession” in his book, “Adventures of a Book Collector” ( Currach Press, 2011). Many a bibliophile may well relate the the joy of finding a gem of a book. The thrill of the chase is one feeling that many a book collector will recognise, even if the finding is now often in online purchases rather than in dusty corners of a book shop. The comradeship of discussing the merits and pleasures of a special book is a special experience. Murray explains it beautifully. “When I started collecting books, I wasn’t to know that it would turn into a lifetime pursuit and would give me such pleasure in both reading some great books and making many valued friendships”. Holding a book that Murray gathered for his collection allows a moment of reflection on the joys of this crazy obsession, Bibiliomania!
To see more books of Dr Philip Murray’s collection go here
Remembering the First World War
The memorial for The Battle of the Somme have been a remarkable and sobering reminder of the fall out from war. The battle took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the River Somme in France. It was one of the largest of World War I. More than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.
The UK has seen many events to mark this tragically important historian event. A local commemoration to mark the date was The Shrouds of the Somme. The artist, Rob Heard created 19,240 shrouds to represent the 19,240 soldiers who died during the first day of the battle. They are arranged in rows on the ground as a way to physicalise the number of dead and to illustrate the enormity of the rare horror.
The 19240 Shrouds of the Somme project describes the process. “Each figure is associated with a name so that each soldier is individually acknowledged and remembered. Rob works his way down the list, crossing off one name each time a soldier is created as he reflects on their individual experience. He creates the figures unaided, cutting and hand-stitching their calico shrouds, covering and binding them in a ritual of creation, remembrance and personal introspection. As each soldier is wrapped they take on their own form, twisting and bending into their own unique shape – not only representing the dead – but death itself. The sight of the figures both individually and collectively presents a poignant and provocative experience for the viewer, providing a moment for reflection within themselves about the physical reality of the war, in approximately 1:6 scale.” It is a poignant and emotional piece of work.
The BBC also repeated the film, The Wipers Times, which was first broadcast in 2013. It tells the story of Captain Fred Roberts discovery of a printing press in the ruins of Ypres, Belgium in 1916. With the help of ex-printer Sergeant Harris and with his friend Jack Pearson as his assistant, he sets up the satirical, Wipers Times. The name “Wipers” being the soldiers’ slang pronunciation of the town Ypres. Full of gallows humor the paper was poignant, subversive and very funny. Enemy fire nor authority and gas attacks halted the production of the magazine. It proved to be a huge success with the troops on the Western Front. It was, above all a tribute to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity. In his spare time Roberts also managed to win the Military Cross for gallantry.
For more information about The Shrouds of the Somme go here
To see a copy of The Wipers Times go here
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) A Remarkable Life
The William Nicholson’s play “Shadowlands” is currently touring the UK portraying the remarkable romance between C.S. Lewis and an American called Joy Davidman. It provides opportunity to be learn more about the personal life of the bachelor academic and author and to be reminded of the works of C.S. Lewis. His books have been translated into over 30 languages and sold over million copies. The interest in him and his books does not seem to wain.
Born in Ireland, as a youngster Lewis had an interest in anthropomorphic animals, mythology and Norse legends. These early interests developed into studies of theology, poetry, and academic to name a few of his talents. He went onto hold academic positions in Oxford and Cambridge University. He is probably best know for his epic series, the Chronicles of Narnia, of which The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) is the most popular.
The Narnia books are some of the most sought after books by collectors. The works are all more valuable in their original state rather than rebound, particularly if the dust-jackets are well preserved. First editions of the Chronicles are often kept as a complete collection although individual volumes can achieve hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds, especially if they are signed. For example, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, first edition (1950) signed by the author, sold for £17,000 in October 2010 at the Bloomsbury Auctions. Or a price of £4,200 was achieved for The Last Battle, The Bodley Head (1956), first edition with dust-jacket, signed by the author at Sotherby’s in July 2007.
Lewis’s other notable works of Mere Christianity and The Ransom Trilogy are also popular and rare to find in good condition with their dust jackets. The Heritage Auctions achieved a sale of $5,676.25 in April 2007 for The Ransom Trilogy, first editions (1938, 1943, 1945), in a dust-jacket.
C. S Lewis completed works remain valuable and collectable items. Yet it is charming to also see that the personal effects of this remarkable man are also valued. A collection of unpublished correspondence between C. S. Lewis and his wife Joy, sold for £4,025 in April 1966. Lewis achieved exceptional success in his literary career and Shadowlands shows that he achieved much in his personal life too.
To see more works of C. S. Lewis go here.