A&C Black Colour Books
Adam & Charles Black publishing house was founded in Edinburgh, Scotland shortly after Adam (the ‘A’ in A&C Black) Black’s 23rd birthday in 1807, when he opened his own bookshop. Many booksellers in Edinburgh at the time were also publishers. Adam’s nephew, Charles (the ‘C’ in A&C Black), joined the business in 1834 until his death in 1854. In 1889, the business was moved from Edinburgh to Soho, London. In 2000, A&C Black was purchased and, at the time of writing, is still owned by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
For us, as booksellers, when someone offers us A&C Black Colour Books, we spend a lot of time checking that all the colour plates are present as it is these that give the books their value and makes them collectable. Sadly, it is common for the plates to become detached and lost from the book as the glue dries out over the years.
They are lovely books, very informative, on mainly topographical, country or county subjects with a Lot (did I say, a Lot?) of colour plates! For example, the 20/- series had to have a minimum of over 200 pages of text with wide margins to accommodate the many plates often placed at two-page intervals… note: over 200 pages of text to accommodate the plates! (I think we get the general idea about the number of plates as I seem to be repeating myself.)
We have recently acquired a very large collection of A&C Black Colour Books and had the pleasure (or displeasure!) of counting the plates to ensure they are all present. 270-odd titles took two of us 2.5 days to check! Amazingly most books were still complete with all plates present.
The majority of the collection we have purchased is made up of:
20 shilling series – these have elaborate covers, wide margins, heavy typefaces and thick paper. Most titles have between 60 and 75 colour plates. Below is a link to a previous article written by partner Cliff Tomaszewski in 2014 (unfortunately, Cliff passed away in 2017):
7s 6d series – the covers are generally a lot less elaborate with printed borders and gilt titles. This series contains 20, 24, or 32 full page illustrations in colour, and in most cases, the plates were protected by tissue-guards.
Popular series – many of these are reprints of 20s and 7s 6d series, produced in 1920s and 1930s. This series is bound in blue cloth and thus a lot easier to tell at a glance which series the Colour Book belongs to.
In order to identify the correct series for each title, our reference book, The A&C Black Colour Books A Collector’s Guide and Bibliography 1900-1930 by Colin Inman, has proved invaluable.
Interestingly, something I had not realised, the reference book identifies the fact that the numbering of the books is not continuous to enable each series to start with a number ending in 1… thus, the 20s series is numbered 1-92, the 12s6d series 101-104, the 10s series 111-114, etc (the individual titles are not actually numbered within the books).
I could quote quite a lot of information from The A&C Black Colour Books: A Collector’s Guide and Bibliography 1900-1930 by Colin Inman but if you are interested in collecting A&C Black Colour books then this is the reference book for you!
Contributed by Sonia
(Published 22nd Mar 2022)