So what was in the parcel? Two sample copies of GGB books -- two handsome paperback reprints of Saucers over the Moor and Sea Witch Comes Home. These books really are a thing of beauty and, as Keats wrote: ‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases...’
Saucers over the Moor has an atmospheric cover that is a reproduction of the 1955 dustwrapper, while Sea Witch Comes Home sports the original cover from its 1960 first edition — an innovation that combined a photograph taken at Walberswick in Suffolk by Malcolm Saville himself with superimposed portraits by the illustrator Terry Freeman of the main characters, David and Rose. The representation of David Morton with a fruity-coloured shirt and tucked-in neckerchief makes him look uncannily like a young Michael Portillo!
The Girls Gone By reissues have lots of bonus material; they use the text of the first editions and rigorously but sympathetically check and correct these, providing detailed notes on the text, along with a new introduction, a biography of the author, a detailed publishing history and often ‘extra features’ such as essays about the illustrators and the locations of the books. Rather like Persephone Books — who reprint neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century (mostly women) writers — Girls Gone By are providing an invaluable service, producing beautiful objects of nostalgia and enjoyment. They are true to their aims of making these books ‘available at affordable prices and to make ownership possible not only for existing collectors but for new collectors so that the books continue to survive.’ Like David Morton and Michael Portillo, I'm more than happy to don a fruity shirt and join in the campaign to celebrate the survival of things worth keeping.