Collins Seagull Library
The Children's Press
An Introduction

The evolution of the dustwrapper spine design for the Seagull Library, from left to right: circa-1949-1955, 1955-1960, and 1960-1965. After this date illustrated laminated covers became the standard.
Outlaws of the Air by Shaw: Children's Press 1927

Wartime Children's Press edition.

The back wrapper emblem of the Crusader series.

Do you remember that awkward stage of life when you wanted to continue reading comics, but adults kept giving you books? Well a pound to a penny if you were British, or a member of one of the colonies, those books were likely to have been the Collins Seagull Library. They were cheap - a mere 2/6d during most of its life, attractively packaged and covered a wide range of classic "Ripping Yarns" that were bound to appeal to Aunts and school prize days.

The Boys series had it's origins in the pre-World War Two childrens series' published by Collins: notably The Children's Press, which was an imprint that also featured such titles as The Bumper Book of type childrens books, the Junior Mystery Series, and to a great extent the Children's Victory Press published during the war. In the late 1940's Collins re-packaged various titles from the older series', and called them the Children's Press: and at the same time began another series called the Collins Standard Series (at 7/- each!).

The "Standard Series" featured a mixture of both Girls and Boys tales including: Treasure Island, South with Scott, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Heidi Grow Up, Swiss Family Robinson, A Child's Garden of Verses, Robinson Crusoe, The Pilgrims Progress, and Monkey Goes Home.

It was however the decision to target three different markets (boys, girls and children) that made Collins the success that it became. In the Boys Series, instead of drawing on the pure classics such as Coral Island, Tom Sawyer and Robinson Crusoe, they also added some stories from their pre-war range (such as Westerman's Wentley series and Styles' Tiger Patrol series), and then threw in some new material by the likes of John Robb and Jeff Jeffreys.

Re-packaging was something that Collins did a lot of: as for example their "Queens Library" series which was released in 1958 under the general Children's Press series, and featured six titles from both their Girls and Boys series. From the Boys Series these were: Coral Island, Under Sealed Orders, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea whilst from the Girls series: Black Beauty, Little Women and Little Men . The major differences between this "mini-series" and the main series being the dustwrapper cover design, and the size (the standard series was 13 x 18.7cm as opposed to the Queen's Library series' 14 x 20cm). The difference in size was only notional as the Queens Library series has exactly the same number of pages as the regular series and carried no illustrations.

Also in 1958 they spun off another series, the "Crusader Series: For Young People" which was exactly the same size as the Queens Library but with different titles. These included: South with Scott, Treasure Island, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (one volume), The Adventures of Pinocchio, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, The Child's Garden of Verses (Stevenson) and Robin of Sherwood (see index). One title was also published in this series that did not appear before or since in any other Collins series, that is Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge.

Yet another sub-series was introduced featuring Famous Dog Stories - identifiable by the bright yellow emblem on the front cover. These were also re-printed from a variety of pre-war editions and had been available on both sides of the Atlantic since the mid-1930's.

Towards the end of the 1960's, Collins re-merged the three series (boys, girls and childrens) into one Children's Library (a step backwards to the days of the Children's Press) that featured a variety of the most popular titles from each series.

And sometime in the late 1960's the Seagull Library quietly flew away - but wait that is not quite the end of the story. Bath (UK) based publishers Robert Frederick revived 12 titles from the Boys and Girls series, complete with dust jackets, in 2008 under their Retro Press imprint- click here for their website.

If you want to see more information about the Girls Series published by Collins you can do no better than visit Jane Badger's page here.

If you have more information to share on this series PLEASE get in touch.


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