Vintage Children’s Books

Illustration from 1888 Cinderella

We recently unearthed a large collection of children’s books, mostly from the late 1800s and early 1900s, that reminded us again of the glorious history of books for kids.

A century back, when novels for adults might have a few black-and-white illustrations or maybe a color frontispiece, children’s books were often packed with color; thanks to printing methods then, the colors are still incredibly bright (in bookseller parlance, they “pop” or are “crisp”). The stories are delightful and simple, often consisting of whimsical rhymes or fairy tales, but it’s really the art that makes these books.

Just take a quick look at this gallery of images:

Adorable, right?

Well, not all the nineteenth-century children’s books were quite so genteel – some, in fact, are gruesome or violent at a level you’d be unlikely to find in modern kids’ books! Check out these images, for example:

Listed below are a few of these incredible books for sale. Here’s to vintage childhoods!

The Aladdin Wonder Book; Containing: Aladdin, or the Wonderful Lamp, Sinbad the Sailor, Blue Beard, Jack the Giant Killer. Published by Peter G. Thomson in 1881. Hardback. Condition is good: some wear and scratches to decorative binding, corners and spine ends bumped and frayed, book has a slight spine slant, store label on front pastedown, some foxing throughout, a few pages have tears and small chips, book has a smoky smell. The gory “Jack the Giant-Killer” plate shown above is from this book. $125

Mister Sharptooth by Joe Kerr and Robert H. Porteous. Published by G. W. Dillingham Co. in 1903. Hardback. Condition is good: Some wear and staining to pictorial binding, corners and spine ends slightly bumped and frayed, previous owners’ names on frontispiece and title page, light soiling and edge wear to pages, one page has tape repairs, book has a smoky smell. The scary wolf surrounded by lamb angels shown above is from this book. $100

Jolly Jumbo by Harry B. Neilson. Published by Blackie & Sons Ltd. (no date, but circa 1895). Hardback. Condition is good: Light rubbing and soiling to binding, book has a very slight spine slant, corners and spine ends bumped, previous owners’ plates on front pastedown and inscription on front free endpaper, book has a smoky smell. $75.

The Three White Kittens by John Karst. Published by McLoughlin Bros. circa 1895. Printed on linen. Condition is good minus: wraps are worn and lightly stained, tear along spine, corners slightly bent, linen pages are overall clean and bright, book has a slight smoky smell. $100

The Monkeys Show. Published by McLoughlin Brothers circa 1900. Hardback. In fair condition. Book is bound accordion-style and pages are boards, although one side is blank; masking tape applied to blank side of hinges and clear tape applied to interior hinges, backstrip is coming loose from spine, tape repairs to spine, some wear to boards, corners bumped and rounded, staining to some of the boards, book has a slight smoky smell; sold as is. Book folds out to about ten feet in length! $150

An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog / The Babes in the Woods / The Three Jovial Huntsmen / Sing a Song for Sixpence / The Queen of Hearts / The Farmer’s Boy by. R. Caldecott. Published by George Routledge & Sons Ltd. circa 1890. In good condition: This book includes the six titles indicated (all illustrated by R. Caldecott) all bound together between half-red morocco boards; some wear to binding, corners bumped and rounded, four of the individual books have previous owners’ names on the title page, the original cover for The Three Jovial Huntsmen has two 3-inch chips, light foxing and wear to other covers and pages, bookseller’s label on front pastedown, book has a smoky smell. $100

Moving-Picture Dolls by R. H. Garman. Published by Ideal Book Builders in 1908. Trade paperback. Condition is good: This charming die-cut book is tearing along spine, light wear and yellowing. $75

New Adventures of “Alice” by John Rae. Published by P. F. Volland and Co. in 1917. Hardback. Condition is good plus: Light sunning and wear to binding, corners slightly bumped, light edge wear to binding, binding is just starting to crack, book has a smoky smell. $75