Thursday 7th March marks the occasion of World Book Day 2013. And what better way to celebrate the day than by going back to where books make their greatest impact – school.
We took a selection of rare and fascinating books to the pupils of Bousfield Primary School in Chelsea. Bousfield, which opened in 1956, is situated just round the corner from our shop. The teachers and pupils are all passionate about books and historically the school has a very strong literary heritage. Beatrix Potter, the children’s author and illustrator, was born and grew up in a house on the site of Bousfield. Some of her books, including Peter Rabbit, were written there, and it is reputed that Mrs Tiggy-Winkle is buried under the mulberry tree in the garden.
The school also has a long-lasting relationship with Quentin Blake who is a neighbour and who visits the school several times a year. The biggest celebration of the year being when Year 6 (11 years old) graduate and write their very own book which is then signed by Quentin. He also helps giving out prizes and draws illustrations for the pupils.
So, with a bag full of first editions and rare treasures of bookmaking history, owner, Pom Harrington went back to school. Year 5 and Year 6 were given the chance to look at first editions of some of the world’s best loved children’s books.
Pom first introduced the kids to a single leaf of the Gutenberg Bible, the world’s first ever printed book with movable type. He demonstrated the origin of the printed word by showing some cast metal types that we use in the Chelsea Bindery and that are commonly referred to as “slugs” by bookbinders.
After guessing when and how long it took for the first copies of the bible to be printed, the answer that all the pupils wanted to know was “How much does it actually cost?” This was a prefect opportunity for the teacher to jump in with a Maths question “If a single leaf of the Gutenberg Bible is £50,000, how much would a 450-page bible cost?”
Pom then introduced the pupils to the concept of first editions and how to identify them. And what better way to do this than by taking the example of schoolkids favourite’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone. Full of knowledge and tips on the subject, the pupils were eager to check if they owned a first edition of Harry Potter at home.
To finish the session, the pupils were presented several children’s literature classic such as Winnie-the-Pooh and to their delight some of Roald Dahl‘s classics, which included Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
As the session finished, we were invited to the library corner to check for any rare gems. Several of the books turned out to be first editions, although they are not planning to be made available for sale!
* World Book Day was originally designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading and is celebrated in over 100 countries around the globe. It was first introduced in Britain in 1955 and every child in full-time education in the UK is given a voucher to be spent on books. Pupils also usually celebrate by dressing up as their favourite book character.