zondag 4 december 2016

The fairy godmother

Once upon a time, there was a little girl, whose fairy godmother presented her with several gifts, which would greatly determine her life's path.

The first one, the gift of reading, came to fruition when the little girl was six years old. She can still vividly remember the very moment she realized that she could read, sitting at her parents' dining table one evening after school, and the feeling of utter happiness this gave her.

The second gift was more complicated. The fairy godmother thought long and hard and decided to give the girl the collecting gene.



At first, the little girl didn't know what to do with this gift, turning up her nose at her dad's offer of a stamp collection.



In the early 1970s, a better offer, in the form of a keyring collection, turned up. This was at the time when every brand worth its salt offered freebie keyrings with their products.

The little girl, encouraged by her dad who made her a rack to display them on, dutifully accepted offerings of keyrings in all shapes and sizes.


But after a while, the novelty of keyring collecting waned, especially when the craze eventually came to an end.

Fast forward many, many years. It was the late 1980s by now and the little girl was not so little anymore, although she still couldn't exactly be called tall.









Dressed in suitable 1980s attire, hair in a Louise Brooks bob, she walked the city streets and, still in thrall of the gift of reading, entered a well-known bargain bookshop.





















Almost instantly, her eyes were drawn to this book on the history of paperbacks, focusing on their heyday from the mid 1930s to the late 1950s.












Leafing through its pages, she recognized some of the colourful covers which were on her father's bookshelf and which had always fascinated her.

Some colourful Signet publications from the late 1940s, early 1950s
Can you spot mine on the book's page?

Before she knew it, she was hooked. Soon, she and the boyfriend spent their weekends trawling the city's second hand book shops in search of treasure.

Bantam Books, 1949 (l), Avon Books, 1952 (r)








She learned about the different paperback publishers of the era and was soon able to recognize the style of the individual cover artists.


The more demure Penguins were not dismissed either, especially when in 1985 Penguin celebrated its 50th birthday and published a book on its history.

Clockwise from top left: 1935, 1938, 1964 and 1959

Neither was Penguin's little cousin, Puffin Books, which had been publishing children's books since 1941.

This beautifully illustrated edition dates from 1948

Eventually, life's habit of throwing things at you when you least expect them, put an end to this collection too, and when the girl and the boyfriend split up the collection was split up between them.

Classics from Signet Books, 1954 (l) and Pocket Books, 1951 (r)

By now, you will have surmised that the little girl was me, and that vintage paperbacks were just the beginning, and not the end of collecting for me.

Clockwise from top left: Signet Books, 1955, Pocket Books, 1955, Signet Giant, 1952, Signet Books, 1952

Lately, though, I have been eyeing my little collection quite wistfully, thinking I would love to pick it up again.

I might have left it too late, however, as most of the second hand book shops of yesteryear have long gone and those that remain are no longer treasure troves of cheap and cheerful old paperbacks.

One of my favourite books in a 1953 Bantam Bookds edition

Do you have any past collections, which you have abandoned?

32 opmerkingen:

  1. The illustrations on these covers are just fantastic, I completely understand your desire to collect them! (Loving the 80s photo of you too, by the way.) I have a few orange cover Penguins which I'm very fond of too.
    I've got a bit of a 1960-70s pomander collection going on, don't quite know how that happened... And I suppose you could argue that my wardrobe is evidence of a vintage collecting habit.
    Good to catch up with you - and I think we have the same boots, the burgundy Finnish-made pair, what a coincidence! xx

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    1. Indeed, what a coincidence that we have the same boots! And of course, your vintage wardrobe is a collection too. Takes a bit more space than pomanders, though ... xxx

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  2. Your Dad sounds lovely! The keyring collection takes me back and reminds me of an Esso blue keyring my nan had. (don't tell Vix I said that!) What fabulous illustrations paperback covers had in those days, so vibrant. I collected Royal commemorative china back in the day. I'm not keen on it now and should sell it I suppose. Great to see you in the 80's. X

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    1. Thanks Fiona. My dad always encouraged me in such things, probably because he wasn't encouraged himself when he was growing up. xxx

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  3. I love the sound of your dad!!! Your keyring collection is impressive! I had a greatcollection of Dr Who books which I got rid of (reluctantly) and I collected coins though I still have my album of those!

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    1. I had many more keyrings back in the day, but they have long gone. It's quite a pity you got rid of the Dr Who books, as they'd be quite collectible now. xxx

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  4. That's such a wonderful story about your dad making you a display rack for your keychains. I remember those well-I was always fascinated by anything miniature (doll's house furniture, etc.).

    My book collecting is completely out of control. When we moved house last, we needed two extra rooms for a library-that's madness. Hasn't stopped me buying books, but I'm a bit more selective with what I bring home as there's simply not enough room.

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    1. I've always been fascinated by anything miniature too. I actually played with some of those keyrings, which is why I have so few of them left. And I can't stop buying books either. I fear the day that we are going to divide my dad's book collection, as I've no idea where to put them. xxx

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  5. What a lovely dad and a lovely post to match! Also, how lovely the photo of you is, so pretty!

    Those paperbacks are great, I can see the attraction. I have a teeny selection of paperbacks with good covers, Nuts in May, Modesty Blaise, Georgy Girl and Privilege about sums up my collection I think, but there may be more as half my books are in boxes and have been for a good long while now and it's hard to remember what is and isn't there. The ones I recall have only just been boxed up as the wall behind the bookshelf felt wet but once the books were packed away and the bookcase moved, the wall was miraculously dry which was peculiar.

    How sad that the collection you shared was split. We have a large and sprawling secondhand bookshop in town, shelves to the ceiling with a mindboggling array of books and dust, but I wouldn't know what I was looking for.

    I collected novelty rubbers as a child, they were quite the craze and many shops had a huge array to choose from, it was always fun perusing what a newly stumbled upon shop had to offer xxx

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    1. After all these years, I still find those paperbacks irresistible. I'm glad I hung onto them, but if I'd be tempted to add to the collection, we would have to move house! xxx

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  6. I can even remember finding the Streetcar Named Desire pocket. It was in Bath, the pocket was unobtrusively sticking in a heap under the counter. That's what they call serendipity, I guess.

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    1. I completely forgot about that, but you're right! I can still see the shop in my mind's eye ...

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  7. beautiful 80´s portrait of you!!!
    this cover illustrations are hilarious! but if it helps to spread literature wider.... :-)
    i´m not a collector at all. although collecting was big when i was a child and we got encouraged to do so with stamps, match boxes, stones and shells and pressed plants und of cause books. but it was always "for education" and keeping the kids away from the streets - ha!
    i was way to adventurous for that!
    now - every time i see myself starting something like a collection i have to give the things away........
    xxxxx

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    1. I'm afraid that I really have the "collecting gene", Beate. Blame my fairy godmother! Oh, and that portrait was made by my sister, who was studying photography at the time. xxx

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  8. it's a lovely keyrings collection, with all those tiny cans and packets!. And those illustrations are really fabulous!
    Love your 80's picture, so cute!!
    besos

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    1. Thank you Monica. I sometimes see those keyrings at flea markets, and I'm always itching to buy the ones I had as as child ... xxx

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  9. I love the key rings and the books, nothing like a good pulp cover

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  10. Lovely post. I do like how collecting something makes you really look at the finer detail, as you say, being able to recognise the different artists by their particular style. I collected most things as a child, stamps, badges, keyrings, I was a bit of a magpie! Have sold most things off now to try and be more clutter free.

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    1. Thanks Claire. I don't think I will ever manage to be clutter free ... xxx

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  11. This is a delightful post about your passion! And it's so nice to see you like a girl...

    I once collected old buttons : they can be really beautiful sometimes!

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    1. I have a modest collection of old buttons too, Dan! xxx

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  12. There's always a lot of fun in vintage book covers!! Great collection. I used to collect weird things like china thimbles. Why?! X

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    1. Thanks! Some of those book covers are real works of art. xxx

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  13. I love that 1980s photo of you. What a stylish girl you were - unlike me with my spiral perm!
    Those teeny key rings are so sweet and like you, I collect Penguins (inherited a collection from Dad). I've never come across a collection of paperbacks as colourful as yours, I'd definitely collect those, too. x

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    1. Thanks Vix. That photo was one of my sister's school assignments. It's my favourite photo of me at the time. I'm not sure I always looked that stylish ... I've now got my dad's paperbacks, including several Penguins, as well. xxx

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  14. Aaaaah those amazing books! I'm a sucker for old books too, though I have none as splendid as that Hound of the Baskervilles cover. (I do have couple of American Dell 'mapback' Agatha Christies, which never leave the house.)

    Next time you're in the UK, see if you can cram in a visit to Hay on Wye on the Wales/England border; its a town of secondhand bookshops. You're sure to find some treasures there.

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    1. Those Dell mapbacks are great, aren't they? I haven't got any of those myself ... I have been to Hay on Wye a couple of times, last time I was there I came across a wonderful shop called Murder and Mayhem. Oh, and as pointed out by my ex boyfriend, we bought A Streetcar Named Desire in ... Bath! xxx

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  15. I suppose I'd have to say my vintage wardrobe is my collecting fetish. Saying that I have masses of books of all categories so that's another fetish as well as pictures. 0ur bedroom has 60+ on one wall.
    Your 1980's photo is delightful Ann. Xxx

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    1. 60+ pictures on one wall, that's quite something. And of course, your vintage wardrobe, like mine, is a a bit of a collection too! xxx

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  16. Your keeping collection reminded me of a collection a friends Mum used to have. It was displayed at the bottom of the stairs and I'd sit and gaze at it for ages.
    I used to collect stickers, now I have a box full of charity pin badges, I always pick them up when I see them.

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    1. I'm afraid I really have the collection gene. Or should that be: addiction? xxx

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