Bring Me Your Childrens’ Books

If, for you, a story of an amazing find in the Petersfield Oxfam bookshop is getting a bit ho-hum, you should look away now, and maybe put down your reading glasses and head off to do something more productive.

Because, we are on a bit of a roll. But to get to the exciting stuff will take a while.

For previous exciting finds, please see, yes, previous blogs. ( I am not going to repeat all that except to say, we are still with children’s books.)

So, if you willing to carry on….

Our very nice book expert came in for a whole afternoon on Monday and we decided to wade through all the books I couldn’t, or hadn’t, priced.

I don’t often get a whole afternoon of his time and so with some cups of tea, a bit of gossip, chat, and swapping notes, we got on with the job.

Yes, there were two lovely books dating from 1700, in French, by someone who was an early Enlightenment writer. When I say lovely, the binding was in bad nick but then you would be if you had been around since 1700 and you had valiantly protected the insides. (£85.)

But the point here, is that I need him to describe all the stuff which makes really old books saleable on the internet – and I take notes…..

Full, or half calf binding, buckram, AEG (in case you want to know All Edges Gilt), strained hinges, free endpapers, steel engravings, woodcuts, etc etc.

I am learning, but I need him to hold my hand as it were.

So, we did a few of those.

The plan was that he would dictate the description of old books, I would type furiously and they would be on the net in no time at all and we would clear the whole two shelves.

It was always an ambitious plan.

As I say, we did a few of those and then went looking for ‘tasty treats.’

Then we rootled out a book which we have looked at before and wondered about, several times and this time we said we would definitely get that sorted, and on the internet that afternoon – but we got distracted.

First up distraction was a book we had looked at before but never had time to really check out.

It is a small thing, dating from the early 1800s, and inside it has illustrations of ‘Nearly One Hundred Familiar Objects’ ( don’t you just think, ‘Oh go on then, make it the full 100?)’ And of course the ‘nearly one hundred’ objects of the early 1800s are different from ours.

There are bonnets and top hats for example, and each page has words with hyphens so that the child can learn how to say them.

After a bit of research we are going to put it on the internet for £225. This little book has lasted all these years and is a snapshot back in time and, believe me, it is a rare find.

But the real surprise was this book.


Now, I have to say that I am used to looking inside children’s books and I am looking for illustrations/images/drawings/woodcuts…

This book was, again, small and had no illustrations but it did, as you see, have a nice cover.

I would have easily put it in the box for £1.00 books except for the cover – and how wrong, dear reader, I would have been.

In my defence the book expert also thought it was not going to be that special and he has a lot more experience and expertise than I do.

So, we started checking it out on Bookfinder and Abe Books and we were, as they say, gobsmacked.

There was a version signed by the author to Rose La Touche – George apparently was the go-between for her and John Ruskin – at more than £4,000, and another similar to ours but not as good, at £450.

It turns out that George MacDonald was quite an influence – he influenced Lewis Carroll, C S Lewis for the Narnia books and JRR Tolkien among others. Look him up on Wikipedia – he looks like Rasputin but was a Scottish author, poet and christian minister.

I fear we got a bit carried away and we may have to reduce the price, but at the moment, it will go on the internet at £650.

Do I know who donated these books? Should I try and contact them and tell them that at the bottom of those bags or boxes they left with us after clearing out their parents’ house, are worth lots of money. ( Of course, I don’t know that they were clearing out their parents’ house but it is often the case.)

Well, I don’t know who there are and none of them were Gift Aided which would have allowed us to get their address – anyway would I have contacted them? I am not sure.

I like to think they would be delighted that the books had been discovered and not sold at £1.00, and the money will go to a good cause.

And on that note, just before I leave you…..

We had a lovely 12 panel map of The Thames from source to sea dated from about 1914.

We put it as a centrepiece in the window surrounded by books and maps – and on the table, a travel theme.

Alongside it was a sign describing it and the price of £100 and a gift aid label. In the Message Book under the counter was a note saying the map was £100.

One volunteer was asked if there was a deal to be done on it but she didn’t know whether there was, so said no.

Another volunteer was walking through the shop when someone asked to look at it. She reached it down, failing to notice the BIG notice showing the price and, later told me, the customer asked the price.

‘I’m not sure,’ she said, ‘ The rest are about £2.99, so let’s say that.’

Later, she saw the notice.

She rang the shop next day to apologise and she had been awake in the night realising what she had done.

These things happen, but I have to tell you, I felt sick. Does that customer know what she has got, or might it be re-donated one day…..


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