VICTORIAN EDUCATIONAL BOOKS
With the rise of schooling in the 19th century and the advent of colour printing, educational books took off in a big way.
The first hooks that were specifically designed for children appeared as long go as the
mid-17th century. By the mid-19th century, parents, teachers and publishers had realized that children could be encouraged to read if their hooks, even solid instructional texts, were attractively
illustrated. Victorian publishers vied for the attention of their young readers, publishing increasingly attractive and well designed books.
Illustrations were not confined to the dust jacket or the cloth binding. Books often had a coloured frontispiece and there was an increased use of coloured plates on inside pages. There was, nevertheless, a clear distinction between books that were intended to instruct and those that were designed purely for
entertainment. Books for entertainment were more highly illustrated and attracted the finest illustrators, such as Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott and Kate
For very young children, alphabet books abounded, some of them based around appealing themes such as zoos, gardens or railways. Attractive early readers and grammars, too, were commonplace. In addition, there was an increasing number of titles explaining, with the aid of illustration, the wonders of geology and other sciences to the Victorian child.
Purely educational books apart, many lighter Victorian children's books were merely thinly disguised moral tracts. Indeed, until the mid-19th century books of entertainment were often seen as frivolous, even immoral.
Education for all only began to happen in the 19th century. Many of the schools were church schools and the emphasis was often on religion and morality. Apart from these topics and the three
Rs, it was a while before other subjects, such as history and geography, were widely taught.
The more enjoyed a child's book has been during its lifetime, the less likely it is to have survived. If it has, the chances are that it will be rather tattered and defaced and of little value to
the collector. It is partly for this reason that copies of highly regarded titles in good condition are so rare and highly priced. Even so, it is still possible to build up a beautiful and enjoyable collection of books by concentrating on less famous titles or simply deciding to buy later editions.
A first edition includes all copies of a book as it was first printed and published, along with the repeated printings with minor textual alteration . A first edition becomes a second edition only when the text has been reset or the format changed. Not surprisingly, first editions have no printing history on their imprint page but, if you are lucky, there will be a date of publication on this page or the title page. Dating undated books may require careful study of catalogues or specialist books, or the help of an expert.
Editions are also published in different bindings: the more impressive, unusual or original the binding, and the better its condition, the greater the value of the book.
The most sought-after books are those with attractive illustrations. School textbooks that have a lot of words and few if any illustrations have less appeal for the book collector.