The Children's Classics series, published between 1986 and 1995, is one of our favorite series to recommend to those building a home library. Though now long out of print, these beautiful books remain fairly easy to acquire and relatively affordable, often priced in the $6-20 range. But it is nearly impossible to find solid information about the series, so we're seeking to rectify that!
First things first. What are these? These were published as value hardcovers, and competed with such series as Illustrated Junior Library, Scribners Classics and the Books of Wonder series of that time. An equivalent series today would be the Sterling Classics or the Puffin hardcovers, though these are a little nicer. At 55 books (that we know of), this is nearly the largest collection of those mentioned (BoW has 62), and feature illustrations throughout the series by such famous artists as Jessie Willcox Smith, Louis Rhead, Milo Winter, Charles Santore, Troy Howell (of Redwall fame), Howard Pyle and even N.C. Wyeth! Illustrated throughout the books in black and white, each title features lovely, classic, full-color plates placed sporadically (usually 8-12 pictures). The books offer quality binding with large print and huge margins on acid-free paper. These will typically hold up quite well. (I do want to note, however, that the deckled pages and interspersed plates are a frustration for some folks.)
There are two sizes of the books, and on our site, we list the larger of the two, which measure 9.5"h x 8"w (we'll offer more information comparing the two below). On the copyright pages, these are consistently listed as being published by Children's Classics, a division of Dilithium Press, Ltd., but we've seen them listed in online search engines under a lot of different publishers, and find that searching for "children's classics" doesn't help narrow down editions when tracking these down! While we've found these books typically easy to obtain, many are difficult to find. Our listings below offer the ISBNs, which are EXTREMELY helpful in tracking down the right books!
We wanted to show a few pictures of the two versions, side by side, so you can get an idea of what the differences are. First detail: size is (obviously) different.
Second detail, the smaller size does not have the two tone binding with the stripe in the middle—both, however, continue to have "Children's Classics" clearly on the spine.
Third detail, deckled pages vs. smooth.
All of the larger size volumes interior say they are published by Children's Classics, a division of Dilithium Press, Ltd., regardless of what most search engines say...
We have less experience with the smaller ones, but they appear to be generally published by Random House Value Publishing (or RH Value Publishing).
While both have similar chapter headings (the smaller versions have tighter margins), only the large size appear to include full-color illustrations.
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