The Rich Man and the Shoe-Maker

The Rich Man and the Shoe-Maker by Jean de la Fontaine, illustrated by Brian Wildsmith (Oxford University Press, 1965)

Introduced by Judith Gardner of The Children’s Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye

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The fables of Jean de La Fontaine were issued in several volumes from 1668 to 1694 and they are classics of French literature. This is a lovely edition of La Fontaine’s fable ‘The Rich Man and the Shoe-Maker’, with wonderful illustrations by Brian Wildsmith.

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An illustration of Jean de la Fontaine

Brian Wildsmith passed away earlier this year. We have several of his books in stock. He illustrated 80 books in his lifetime, and the The Rich Man and the Shoe-Maker was the second book to feature his work. He was raised in a small mining village in Yorkshire, England, where, and he said, “Everything was grey. There wasn’t any colour. It was all up to my imagination. I had to draw in my head…”

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Judith Gardner in The Children’s Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye 

I moved to Hay-on-Wye in 1978 and like many booksellers in Hay, I started out working for Richard Booth. I spotted about 300 children’s books for sale in Richard’s 30p shop and originally purchased them for a relative working in a school. Soon after I rented some shop space with my husband, he sold clocks one side, and I sold the children’s books I’d bought on the other. Now, at our shop at Toll Cottage on the outskirts of Hay-on-Wye we have over 20,000 second-hand books in stock.

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At the moment, the concentration of books is from the late 1930s to 1980s. They are books to read rather than works of art. I deal mainly with adult collectors, teachers, writers or researchers, rather than children.

Collectors look for series books written about the same characters, such as the Hardy Boys books and the Pollyanna books. Another area for collectors is girl’s school stories by authors like Angela Brazil, Elinor M Brent-Dyer and Dorita Fairlie Bruce. They give a snapshot of social history. Basic adventure books like the Biggles’ books by Captain W. E. Johns, especially the early ones, also sell well. Boys’ school stories are not sought after as much. There is also a big market in second-hand scouting and guiding books.

The second-hand book trade is like dealing in stamps and a totally different market to selling new books. Older books can sell for much more than there original cover price, but a book is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it. If the author has signed the book, it can alter the value, if they add a doodle it could be worth even more.

There is also a high demand for first editions. The first Harry Potter books were sold under the name of Joanne Rowling and these fetch enormous amounts of money.

However, there are trends in the second-hand book sales in the same way as there are with new books. Second-hand book trends tend to go in decades, as people often want to show their children and grandchildren what they were reading as a child. At the moment, they are beginning to come into the 1980s, especially with annuals from that era and science fiction and fantasy titles are very popular.

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At The Children’s Bookshop we operate a free book search service for books not currently in stock. An online catalogue is available and we offer a worldwide postal service.

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The Children’s Bookshop is at Toll Cottage, Pontvaen, Hay-on-Wye HR3 5EW

The Brian Wildsmith Art Museum is in Izukogen, a town south of Tokyo, Japan, with 800 of his paintings on loan to the museum.

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