Throughout the years, children’s books, especially those depicting a holiday theme, have remained consistently popular Christmas gifts. Some of the most highly sought after children’s Christmas books were produced during the Victorian era. Top publishers at the time included McLoughlin Brothers, Nister, Graham, Donohue, Hurst and Dutton. Each of these children’s books contained various Christmas or seasonal stories and poems by different authors. Some for these children’s literary classics were even part of a series. Both Santa Claus and children dominated the cover designs. During this period is was not uncommon for these books to be undated.
The actual construction of these holiday children’s book consists of paper-covered front and back boards and a linen spine. The pages were manufactured from heavy stock and stapled directly to the spine. As printing processes became more advanced in the latter half of the 19th century, the use of bold, brightly colored lithography was introduced. The cover boards of these children’s books would be colorfully illustrated and the interior would contain one or more color book plates in addition to many black and white illustrations.
When you are purchasing an antique children’s book, make sure to always examine it closely. The condition is paramount. Is the cover loose? Are the pages separated or separating from the spine? Are there any missing or torn pages? Have the color plates been removed? Check for stains, insect damage, musty odors, pencil marks and finger smudges. Age-darkened pages are acceptable. “Foxing” (brown spots) is not something you want when purchasing a vintage children’s book. Minor wear is to be expected. Extensive wear significantly reduces the value of the book. Most importantly, handle an antique children’s book carefully so it lasts for many more Christmases to come.