As a child (too long ago now) I remember being so happy to receive book tokens at Christmas time. I would save them until the New Year and then use them to buy as many annuals as I possibly could in the sales. Usually one or two of the girls annuals (such as Bunty for Girls or June for Girls) and of course a copy of the most popular annual of all – The Beano Annual.
One of the first English annuals to actually have the word ‘annual’ within its title is “Child Companion Annual” first published in 1824. As with most children’s books from the Victorian era, the stories within were told to provide morals for the children that read them. The over-pious Chatterbox Annual arrived in 1867 and, by the turn of the century, was published in two editions: the first handsomely bound in cloth with gilt edges and the other with illustrated boards. By the end of the late 1800’s annuals were very popular and usually consisted of articles reprinted from the paper magazine versions featured in that year.
Favourites from that time were The Boy’s Own Annual and The Girl’s Own Annual, both lavishly produced with colour plates and black and white photographs and pictures. Nister Holiday Annuals (1888-1916) differed to most annuals issued at the time because they did not comprise of bound copies of a weekly or monthly paper, instead they included both original material and items reprinted from previous Nister publications. These are collected today for the beautiful chromolithographic plates they contained.
From the same era, The Captain, a monthly magazine for “Boys and Old Boys”, is famed for the regular appearance of contributions by P.G.Wodehouse, although maybe it shouldn’t really be referred to as an annual, as it is usually found as half-yearly volumes.
In the early 1900s it may be noted that a lot of the annuals contained wonderful illustrations by famous artists of the Golden Age such as Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway, Cecil Aldin, Florence Harrison, Louis Wain and Mabel Lucie Attwell among many others. Both Louis Wain and Lucie Attwell also had their own annuals dedicated to their work. I know of collectors who visit our shop and painstakingly search through the annuals (bearing in mind we have over 1,000 in stock) looking for pictures by their favourite illustrators.
Rupert Bear, who celebrates his 100th birthday this year, is another well-loved character. Rupert himself was created by Mary Tourtel in 1920 but the first Rupert annual did not appear until 1936. Rupert Bear is still popular today, along with the world-famous Dandy (first published in 1939) and Beano (first published in 1940). These three annuals continue to command the highest prices for collectors. It is difficult to find these popular children’s books in pristine condition so, as condition is everything to the collector, the better the condition the higher the price. Amazingly these three are still being produced today.
Obviously, I have just touched on a few of the most popular annuals published over the years. Which ones were your favourite? You never know, you might just find them amongst our stock
Information gleaned from “The Children’s Annual A History and Collector’s Guide” by Alan Clark and various articles found on the world wide web.
Contributed by Maria
(Published 28th Apr 2020)