I’m sure we all had favorite books while growing up. I have very fond memories of Arthur Ransome‘s “Swallows and Amazons” series, Rosemary Sutcliff‘s voluminous output (particularly her Roman Britain books), Elizabeth Enright‘s delightful novels, and so on.
A particular favorite, to whom I returned time and time again, was Ronald Welch. His series of children’s historical novels about successive generations of the Carey family, running the gamut from the Crusades to World War I, captivated me, and never grew stale. Even as an adult, when I occasionally came across a copy, I’d re-read it with great pleasure. His books had been out of print for decades, and were hard to find (particularly at affordable prices – some of them are in nosebleed territory), but now and again I’d find one I could afford, and add it to my bookshelves.
You can imagine my delight, therefore, when I learned that a small press in England, Slightly Foxed, has republished the entire Carey series of novels, plus a previously unpublished novella in the series, discovered among Welch’s papers after his death.
To say I was overjoyed would be a monumental understatement! What’s more, these are “art-house” style books; very high quality cloth-wrapped hardcover editions, complete with the original illustrations from the 1950’s and 1960’s, with great care taken to see that they line up across pages. They’re a limited edition of 2,000 copies of each book, with each individual copy numbered in its series, by hand, on the copyright page.
The set isn’t cheap, but that wasn’t about to stop me! Mine arrived last week, and I’ve been like a small boy with a new toy ever since. The books’ very high production quality justifies their price, IMHO, and I have no regrets. There are four volumes I hadn’t read before, due to the vagaries of British publications reaching South African bookstores and libraries, and they’re a particular pleasure. I may be in my
venerable declining dotage early autumnal years, but they’re transporting me straight back to my late childhood and early teenage self. Welch’s writing was so good that they haven’t “aged” at all. They’re as captivating as the day he penned them.
What’s particularly interested me is to see what a splendid job Slightly Foxed has done with them, and the rest of their catalog. It seems this small press has decided to concentrate on producing limited, very high-quality editions of old favorites that have long been out of print. They appear to be doing very well at it. I’m delighted to learn that they’re going to publish the first four Roman Britain books of Rosemary Sutcliff. I already own all of them in cheap paperback copies, but you can bet I’ll be plonking down my dollars for these high-grade editions. Even nicer, they’ve republished Eric Newby‘s two classics, “Love and War in the Apennines” and “Something Wholesale”, which are gems of their kind. I’ll be buying them, too.
I’m very happy to find a small press that’s quite unapologetic about focusing on a niche market, and doing so very professionally indeed. I hope they make a resounding success of it. I recommend you visit their Web site, and browse their catalog, to see the range and quality of their work. If you wish, you can subscribe to their quarterly newsletter, which appears expensive, but entitles you to discounts on books you buy from them, and other benefits. They’ve taken great trouble over their shipping, too. They pack each book individually in bubble-wrap, then box them all as a set with more protective material; and each package, within the UK or to the rest of the world, is tracked from the moment of dispatch, with customers given a link via e-mail that they can use to monitor its progress. Very professional, and an example to many other small presses who haven’t risen nearly as well to the challenge of keeping the customer satisfied.
Now, if I can just persuade Simply Foxed to add the “Swallows and Amazons” series to their catalog . . . without the politically correct “corrections” with which later editions were
mutilated censored saddled . . . I’ll be even happier!