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Rare Australian children's books.

You all have memories of the books that you read or had read to you when you were young. I remember Blinky Bill, Peter Pan (not Australian) and Bib and Bub. Later it was adventure books I read for myself for boys and also my sister's books written for girls, Ethel Turner and for the lovers of horses the exciting books by Mary Grant Bruce.

Some of these are now rare books or at least the first editions are Blinky Bill. The Quaint Little Australian, published in 1933 sold recently for $1200. and Blinky Bill Grows up Further (1934 sold for $450. Bib and Bub is another Rare Book story. May Gibbs book The Gum-nut Babies of 1916 is a treasure valued at $1250

My mother cut out of the newspaper The Sydney Sun where they were published in comic strip form. She pasted them onto brown paper and bound them in a cardboard cover. This was my first Bib and Bub book. I was about seven at the time. I still remember the adventures of Bib and Bub with Tiggy Touchwood a Welsh female magician.

One book that is worth a small fortune, a cool $48,000, is the first edition of the first Australian Children's book A Mother's Offering to her Children : By a Lady long resident in New South Wales. The Lady was Charlotte Barton the mother of the writer Louisa Atkinson. So if you have a copy or your Grandmother has one you may not get $50,000 for it but possibly a very nice, slightly lesser, sum of money.

Of course if you have some of those fairy stories illustrated by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite you will not be surprised to hear that Mollie's Bunyip has a price of $3850 placed on it and the other books illustrated by the same artist would cost hundreds of dollars and if by any chance you discover any of her water-colours the price goes up to about $14,000.

Even a first edition of the well known story Dot and the Kangaroo by Ethel Pedley is worth over $2500. It is the story of a little girl lost in the bush who is helped by a kindly grey kangaroo. This book has rarely been out of print since it was first published in 1899 in London. The first edition was illustrated by the Australian artist Frank Mahony giving the story an Australian look. The first Australian edition was produced by Angus & Robertson (1906). All of Frank Mahony's illustrations were not included in the the early editions.

I hope you will excuse me for concentrating on the present money value placed on these books. They were indeed written and published for the enjoyment of Australian children and perhaps the secret pleasure of the parents of the children.

I think one of my favourites is Gum Leaves by Ethel Turner (1900). The pictures are by D.H. Souter and I particularly like the art nouveau cover with a boy standing reading a book and a little girl leaning back against a tree also reading a book. Its value is a modest $950. Ethel Turner's first book Seven Little Australians was published first again in London in 1894. Amusingly she states in the book 'Not one of the seven [children] is really good, for the very excellent reason that Australian children never are.' Perhaps present day parents may take heart from that statement. The book has been in print for over one hundred years selling over two million copies in the English language and translated into many other languages. A first edition will bring its owner about $3500 if they would care to part with it.

One of the most beautiful early Children's Books is in the art nouveau style by D.H. Souter. It is Cled Bubbles His Book published in Sydney in colour in 1899. One of the first books to appear in full colour. One of the illustrations shows very art nouveau girls in a formal bush setting with a naked Pan playing his pipe. The Pan has a slightly wicked face a little like those of Norman Lindsay a fellow Bulletin artist. A year after the publication in Australia it was reissued in London. The English seemed to appreciate the book. It sells for the 'small' sum of $1,800 or so.

These prices all come from a catalogue by the Sydney Rare Books establishment Hordem House in Victoria Street Potts Point. Theirs is a real treasure house of wonderful Australian rare books.

I will conclude with another amazing treasure The Book for Kids by C.J. Dennis, the author of the famous books for adults that were favourites of the Australian Troops in World War I, including The Sentimental Bloke (1915) about a Melbourne larfikin and his girl friend. My father owned a later book by Dennis The Moods of Ginger Mick. It is now one of my own treasured books. The one in the Hordern House Catalogue is not a printed book. It is an original manuscript, the author's corrected typescript with original art work, letters and two examples of the dust wrapper. The book was in fact published in 1921. This is a publisher's archive, the sort of collection that The Lu Rees Archives at the University of Canberra collects from present day Children's authors. There are letters between C.J. Dennis and George Robertson, the Melbourne publisher, and the illustrator Hal Gye. One of the interesting aspects of this archive is that the illustrations are not all by Gye but by C.J. Dennis himself. His drawings are not professional: they are childlike drawings which seem to fit the nonsense verse of the book. Some of them were included in the published work. This only gives you a brief look at some of the material in the archive. The price $16,500. It was probably quickly gobbled up by some library or collector.

Did you know that Ernest Favenc an Australian explorer and writer wrote a Children's book which included fairies? This is Tales for Young Australians. It has illustrations in the art nouveau style by D.H. Souter. Another interesting book by the famous Tasmanian writer Mrs Louisa Anne Meredith called Grandma's Verse Book for Young Australia published by the author in Tasmania in 1878. Another surprise is a children's book by Ellis Rowen, the famous Australian painter of flowers, called Bill Baillie, His Life and Adventures. It is the story of a bilby set in Western Australia and there are eight of her colour illustrations for the book. Another unusual book is Clarence and the Goblins by Henry Mackenzie Greenby an eleven year old boy and published in Sydney by Public Library Press in 1892. The publisher is a new one to me.

I have not space to mention the famous book by Norman Lindsay The Magic Pudding first edition 1918 and priced at $5,250. There are a total of 73 books listed in this Catalogue entitled, Tales for Young Australia

I must just add one more author's archive of original material. Ethel Jackson Morris was one of a group of well known women artists who worked alongside Margaret Preston. Hers is a 'Lost Archive' now found! Two books The White Butterfly and All Among the Fairies were published but the archive includes a group of stories not published The Stolen Princess and Prince Helham, Tinted Black and The Seasons and also Princess May Blossom and other stories. They are all illustrated by Ethel Jackson Morris. This vast collection which I hope has been claimed by the State Library of Victoria which contains a large Australian Children's Book Collection. I will not give you the price for the Archive but it was much more than for the first Australian Children's book.

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Article Details
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Author:Crittenden, Victor
Publication:M A R G I N: life & letters in early Australia
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Apr 1, 2009
Previous Article:James Calvert, Louisa Atkinson and the plains of promise: the story behind Louisa Atkinson's last novel.
Next Article:Robert Thorburn Turnbull; his bookplate by D.H. Souter.

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