In the late 1800s, children's stories were published in periodicals and distributed weekly or monthly to readers. To further capitalise on their market, publishing houses put together annuals filled with the best stories, illustrations and games from the year. The book was released for Christmas, and marketed as the perfect gift (both entertaining and educational) for children. The annuals were generally distributed in Britain and its colonies such as Canada and Australia, although sometimes also in the United States.
These vintage annuals are usually large, hardcover books with at least 200 pages and illustrations both in colour, and black and white. Their bright cover art is filled with eye-catching art.
At the turn of the century publishers began to include new, unpublished stories in order to boost sales. Often notable authors like W.E. Johns, Enid Blyton, Angela Brazil, E. Nesbit and P.G. Wodehouse were among the contributors. Each annual had a specific market - girls, or boys, girls and boys, or a certain genre like a cinema club. Today's equivalent is a teen magazine, or a periodical for a celebrity or band.
Popularity grew through the early 1900s and in turn production increased. Everyone wanted a share of the market, from Mickey Mouse to Japhet & Happy, The Rainbow, Tiger Tim, Sparky and Rupert's Daily Express. During World War II, paper rationing affected the quality and amount of books published and by 1950 many ceased production. Children were drawn to other sorts of media like comics and TV.
Today vintage annuals are collectable. These books were intended to be coloured in, written on, read, discussed and coveted, so copies in fine condition are scarce. You can expect to pay between £30 and £300 for an attractive copy.
Look Inside Two Children's Annuals: › Play Video
Blackie and Son Limited was a publishing house in Glasgow. They began publishing in 1891, and closed their doors in 1991. ›See the books
Earnest Nister's books were known for their whimsical, exquisite and beautiful images and movable parts. Though he only produced books in the 1890s, he was able to create a wide array of children's literature. ›See the books
A popular annual in the 1940s and '50s when many children belonged to cinema clubs. It focused mainly on films for children and club activities, but also showcased blockbusters. ›See the books
Published by the Daily Mail newspaper, this annual contained cartoons, verses, puzzles and stories for children. Enid Blyton and W.E. Johns were among the contributors and editors of this series. ›See the books
The Girls Own was a weekly (later monthly) publication for young girls and teens. The Annual was published from 1880 to 1940 and offers great insight into British middle class life during that time. ›See the books
This annual had mostly new stories about a fictional school called Greyfriars created for a boys paper called The Magnet. It ran from yearly from 1920 until 1941. ›See the books
This publication contained new Biggles adventures by W.E. Johns plus other stories, information, supplements and pictures that would be of interest to boys during the 1930s and '40s. ›See the books
A lavishly illustrated annual filled with short stories for boys and girls from the 1920s and '30s. ›See the books
Published from 1897 to 1931, Father Tuck's Annual was filled with poems, short stories, music and full colour illustrations teaching lessons such as good children get rewarded and bad children will be punished. ›See the books
Filled with illustrations, games, puzzles and stories for girls and boys. ›See the books