A TALE OF THREE BOOKS
Knowing that I was interested in juvenile literature a friend gave me the three
volumes of "Nature Books For Children", by Arthur Ransome. This was twenty or
more years ago and the occasion was the sale of his family home in Boston.
He had had enough of New England winters and was moving south to a milder climate
to support his passion for horticulture. The books were unfamiliar to me and
as they seemed geared to very young children I set them aside unread. About a
year ago I decided to catalogue my own book collection. Only then did I discover
that they were over one hundred years old. I had assumed they were from my
friend's childhood but in fact they had belonged to his father. Discovering
their age prompted me to read them at last and I was utterly charmed by Ransome's
My investigation of the author of course led me to 'Swallows And Amazons" and
then to The Arthur Ransome Society. A fascinating learning experience I must
say. As for the three books they were showing their age. On the verge of falling
apart in fact. If they hadn't been hidden and forgotten for fifty years or more
in my friend's home I think they might not have survived at all. The quality of
the paper and the bindings were rather poor, the text pages faded and discolored,
and the illustrations brittle and crumbling.
The fear that these rare books might be lost is what prompted me to embark on creating
replicas. It took me over five months to complete the project in my home studio. First,
there were some three hundred pages of text and illustrations to scan and clean up on
my computer. The type used to print the books was of poor quality and required me to
go letter by letter to clean it up. Most of the illustrations also needed computer
restoration as well. I had taken a course in classical bookbinding some thirty years
ago and I revisited my teacher for advice on my project. Luckily he had recently
had a DVD made of bookbinding techniques which he gave me and it was a great help.
I ended up creating two sets of replicated books with custom slipcases of my own design.
Toward the end of my project I was in contact with Dave Thewlis who gave me advice,
and suggested that since I had digitized the books they could be made available as
PDF documents on CDs which I have done. Now these delightful books are available to
the world once again.
Clint Heitman, February 25, 2009
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