Swallows and Amazons series with readable illustrations?
July 22, 2016 3:34 AM   Subscribe

Which edition of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series has the most detail in the maps/drawings?

When I was a child, the Swallows and Amazons series was one of my favorites.
Unfortunately, the versions I had were cheap, with maps you couldn't decipher and illustrated captions you couldn't read.

Now, I would like to introduce the series to my child and am looking for editions that capture the full detail of the charts and drawings.

The series is, of course, available on Amazon and friends, in trade and hardback but little is said about the quality of the book itself.

Recommendations, please.
I prefer new, but specific used editions to keep an eye out for are also welcome.
posted by madajb to Shopping (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
So I got the hardcover editions from Waterstones once, and they're the ones that have a montage of the illustrations on the dust jacket with a monochrome (green for the first book) wash of sorts in the interstices.

But I find it interesting that you're so keen on the illustrations themselves as they're rather a joke among Ransome fans. He was so disgusted by the work of the illustrator Jonathan Cape hired for the first two books that he went back and re-did all the drawings by himself. Unfortunately he couldn't draw faces or hands terribly well, so it tends to be a lot of figures in the distance or shots of the children from behind.

Some of the landscapes are evocative, but aside from the (rather nice) maps in the endpapers, I don't know that there's much to recommend the illustrations beyond general charm and accuracy of detail in ships (particularly in the books such as Peter Duck).

I don't know if enlargement would do these drawings any good, for example.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 5:04 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

And after buying the hardcover editions of the first two, by the way, we've switched to paperback for the rest. They're the same size printing, more or less, but take up less shelf space and have done better on trips.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 5:06 AM on July 22, 2016

Ah, and one last thing! As these books were published in the 1930s, they're stuck in the eternal copyright twilight of the Melancholy-Elephants scenario. As a result, I believe Random House holds sole rights to publish the things, so any edition you get will come from them or an imprint of them. My editions actually still have the old Jonathan Cape imprint on the title page, but I don't know how much that's still operative.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 5:08 AM on July 22, 2016

I loved Arthur Ransome's "Swallows and Amazons" as a child and now have a modern copy.
It is a 416-page paperback with 424 pictures and two maps, a two-page general map of the lake showing Rio, R. Amazon, and other places including Unexplored Arctic, Antarctic, etc., and a smaller map of Wildcat Island. "Illustrated by the Author with help from Miss Nancy Blackett".
There is an Authors Note, signed A.R. and dated Haverthwaite, May 19th, 1958.
Published by Red Fox Books, a division of Random House Children's Books in London.
This Red Fox edition 2001, copyright (by) Arthur Ransome 1930. ISBN 978 0 099 427359. It cost UK £7.99
posted by lungtaworld at 5:21 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a softcover copy of Swallows and Amazons by David R Godine from 1994. This has the two maps and they are legible.
posted by bdc34 at 8:01 AM on July 22, 2016

I have a hardback copy of Swallows & Amazons/Winter Holiday dated 1992 (ISBN 0091754119). It's illustrated by the author. As rum-soaked space hobo said above, there are lot of pictures from behind and they are simple and old-fashioned but, in my opinion, charming. There are only two maps - here's an example of one. Here's an example of an illustration, of which there are 20+. There are also various tiny drawings.
posted by badmoonrising at 12:35 PM on July 22, 2016

I have 8 volumes of Swallows and Amazons tales and have reread them many times, including Winter Holiday, The Picts and the Martyrs, Swallowdale, Great Northern, Pigeon Post, Missee Lee, and the original Swallows and Amazons. (I hesitate to tell you how many times in my adult life I have thought about the people who made their living as charcoal burners. They were a bit exotic to the children, in the way that tinkers or gypsies were described, but were accepted as a necessary part of the local ecology. I can't imagine such a thing today).

All the books are reprints with the most recent printing dates of either 1984 or 1988. All the illustrations and maps are very readable, with Ransom's hand-printed captions. I think they are charming, and the stories are definitely from a much more naive era, but one it is a pleasure to visit occasionally.
posted by citygirl at 10:00 PM on July 22, 2016

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