Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Water Babies

The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley was a nursery staple in England long after it was first published in 1863. This copy, which turned up for me at the flea market this week, is inscribed "1923." Almost an antique at ninety years old! This fairy tale novel with a moral message has been through a great number of printings with various illustrators since then. W. H. Lister illustrated this copy, but I found that all but two of the illustrations have been removed. I bought it for two dollars, very close to its actual current value I imagine. But I see that it was once priced at thirty five.

Seeing that it has no publishing date, I gave a look online to see if it was possibly a first edition. Almost four hundred entries later, and under hypnosis, I had to take a nap after all that scrolling! But I still didn't find my edition. No matter. I got it just for it's old book charm.

Loretta Gardner was gifted this little gem for Christmas by her Mother in 1923. I love the dreamy bird and cloud sketches of the end papers. It seems to have been both very well read and cared for.

Very well worn after nearly a hundred years!

I also found it amusing to find water marks on the pages of a book with the title, The Water Babies.

I never owned this book, but I have seen it in the collections of others. Tons of folks of a certain generation grew up with some edition of it on their shelf, and there are still tons in existence.

Old children's books are so adorable! And the samples of other illustrations of this story that I saw on line are so fanciful. Did you have a copy as a child? The books we owned as a children can leave such a lasting impression. My Mother is long gone, but I can still hear her "reading voice" as she read to me as a child. I wonder if my own children will remember mine. . . .

We had a windy day here in the land of enchantment. A sure sign of spring coming on! Cheers to you!



  1. hello
    je ne connais pas ce livre qui
    à l' air bien passionnant
    comment s' appelle cette jolie
    fleur sur votre billet ?
    bonne journée ou bonne nuit
    edith (iris) France

  2. Jacqueline, I love children's books. I don't have very many but the majority of them were gifts to me as a little girl. They are signed and dated by the giver so maybe someday they will end up in someone's library and they will remark and wonder over them. Shame that the illustrations were torn out. That is what makes the old ones so special, I think. The cover looks like burlap in the closeup. Wonderful find to have just for that reason..Happy Tuesday..Judy

  3. I have never read or owned the Water babies. Not that I can remember anyway. Your copy is a gem. I must look out for it. I loved Black Beauty as a child,I know it was a bit sad,but I think it was because my Grandma bought it for me. Last year I found a copy,then my daughter also gave me a copy. x

  4. What a lucky find for you!!!
    There's nothing like old books - they're like old blankets - except they keep the soul warm

  5. I had a book called the water babies as a child but it belonged to my sister I only just remember it, I wonder if she still has it.

  6. Jacqueline - I have never heard of that book, but it sounds like a sweet story and treasure. I love the beautiful handwriting of the inscription and the birds. Very pretty. I hope I still look that well worn at that age.

  7. I love old well-loved books, especially those with beautiful covers and illustrations.
    Mary Alice

  8. I buy used books from amazon. Some come with inscriptions. Those books I keep.

  9. Lovely post my friend. Of all the vintage in my collection, I hardly have any children's books. Good deal for something that old.

  10. What a great find. I love old books too. 1923 was the year my father was born. He is long gone but this is something he might have read as a child.
    I have a few childrens books, but not this one.
    Beautiful pages.
    XO Celestina Marie

  11. Jacqueline,
    What an amazing trasure!The condition is splendid!
    I didn't have that book as a child, Bobsey Twins, Nancy Drew Mysteries...Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedias later in my youth!!!
    Thank you, dear friend, for sharing the lovely illustration with us!!!The penmanship is exquisite!!!

  12. Hi Jacqueline, What a beautiful book. On the outside it's nice already and I love things of the 1910/1920th!
    The drawings are tender like the photograves of the flowers. Nice to follow you. Bye, Lilian

  13. I love old books..the smell of the pages....the vintage coloration...everything. Your post was absolutely gorgeous, as always I love your photos.

    ciao bella
    Creative Carmelina

  14. Hi J,
    Love the cover page and inspription, like old postcards I am often most smitten with their past owners:-) I have never seen the Water Babies, lovely find!

  15. I read it as a child and quite liked it but I think it was rather old fashioned for me even then.... I haven't seen this edition either! I love the illustrations of that period.Guess it is because they taught them to draw, in art school, in those days. They don't seem to teach proper drawing now from what I have heard.

  16. My daughter had a new edition of Water babies.Larger Blue thin book.
    She is 32 now and loves the book.Can not wait to read it to her baby boy.
    Dont know if My children remember me reading to them But I remember my middle child as He said will you Re Re Read to me.

  17. Awwwwww... isn't it just so cool to find books with dates and someone's words written in them. I'm so enchanted by that. Same as old photographs... it actually is like some part of their soul is captured in that moment of the photograph and the writing, so that when years and years later we pause to see it, we can almost feel like we have shared something personal and intimate with them
    i don't really know how to express the way it makes me feel in words...


  18. What a beautiful old book, Jacqueline. I so love those volumes with thick vellum pages and lovely illustrations. I never owned or read this book, although I've heard of it before. How lucky you are to have found it!


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