Rosemary Jones is the co-author of the Encyclopedia of Collectible Children's Books: Identification and Values and also writes novels for Wizards of the Coast. In the following interview, we discuss her book and her thoughts on ephemera.
ephemera: How did you become interested in collectible children's books?
Jones: I grew up in a house with a mix of old and new books (my co-author is my mother Diane Jones). These days, my interests tend towards the highly illustrated books of early 20th-century and the fantasy and science fiction of the mid-20th century. Diane's collection has more series books, such as Nancy Drew and similar series authored by Mildred Wirt, one of the original Nancy authors. We're both huge fans of Oz books and have multiple editions of our favorite titles in that series. We are fairly eclectic collectors, less interested in first editions than finding books that entertain us. Which is how we end up with fun items like the Bubble Book, an early phonograph/book combination.
ephemera: How did your interest turn into a book project?
Jones: We started writing about our collections about ten years ago. Last year, our publisher, Collector Books, asked us to create one large encyclopedia based on our earlier books. This became the Encyclopedia of Collectible Children's Books.
ephemera: Tell me about the book. What challenges or obstacles do you encounter in writing it? How do you overcome these challenges?
Jones: For the Encyclopedia, our biggest challenge was our back-up disks. Like any good author, we'd carefully kept copies of all our previous manuscripts, only to find many of disks were no longer compatible with our current computers. With the help of a few tech-savvy friends, we were able to retrieve most of the information, but we were glad that we'd kept hard copies of notes too! Now, we plan to upgrade our back-ups whenever we upgrade our computers.
ephemera: What are your favorite items in the book? What do they tell us about the world of children's books?
Jones: It's so tough to pick a favorite. What's the most enchanting part of writing a book like this is seeing other people's reactions. Friends will pick up a copy from the coffee table and start leafing through it. Immediately, they will spot a memory from their childhood. I just spent an evening discussing the Lone Ranger and Tom Corbett with a friend's husband. A number of wonderful people lent us items from their collections to photograph. I think that is why most people collect, to evoke a certain memory or feeling.
In December, I pull out all the Christmas books in my collection and they are always fun to read again. These books are not the most valuable things in my collection, but the monetary value of books and other ephemera is secondary to the pleasure that I get from reading the stories or looking at the pictures. The history of books like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer also interests me. Although most people know this story best from the TV show, the book actually came first and was an advertising piece created for Marshall Fields in Chicago.
ephemera: I'm also a fan of books about books. It's a fascinating topic. What resources do you recommend for people interested in ephemera or collecting in general?
Jones: I subscribe to the magazine Fine Books and also pick up copies of Firsts when that magazine focuses on authors that I collect. But nothing really substitutes for just seeing items, whether it is visiting museum collections or going to antique shows or visiting friend's collections. The more you see, the better feel you get for items, their rarity, the value, and so on. I can usually tell the approximate decade when a book was printed just by looking at the cover, the paper, and the typeface. To me, it seems very obvious, simply because I've handled so many books over the years.
ephemera: Thank you, Rosemary.
Search Abebooks for the books listed in this interview.