In 1969 Aidan and Nancy Chambers set up the Thimble Press in order to publish the journal Signal Approaches to Children's Books, which appeared three times a year from 1970 to 2003, unsupported by subsidy or advertising.
Each issue collected articles about some of the many aspects of children's literature - authors, artists, criticism and reviewing, translation, educational theory and practice, and so on. The writing in Signal led to a number of separate publications, including the annual surveys of new books in the 1980s (The Signal Review and The Signal Selection) and the Signal Bookguides, which were authoritative tools regularly used by librarians, teachers and interested parents.
A library of children's books accumulated over the years, serving as a background and reference source for contributors to Thimble Press publications and their editor. In 2010 the traditional-tales section, numbering over 1300 books, was donated to the Seven Stories Collection by Nancy and Aidan Chambers. The collection includes titles recommended in Mary Steele's Traditional Tales: A Signal Bookguide (1989), and copies of these are stickered with the relevant entry numbers.
In Her Own Words
Nancy Chambers says: “To me, poetry (nursery rhymes especially) and traditional tales are the heart of children's books. We honoured poetry with the annual Signal Award (1979-2001), a Signal Booklist by Alan Tucker and a later Signal Bookguide by Jill Bennett and Aidan Chambers. We hope the collection now at Seven Stories will be a new focus for the manifold study of the children's-publishing presentation of the tales.”
The Traditional Tales Book Collection
The majority of the 1300 books in this collection were published between 1970 and 2000 and include:
Traditional Folk and Fairy tales from countries from all around the World particularly Africa, America (including Native American stories), Australia (including Aboriginal stories), China, Japan, Russia, the West Indies, India & Pakistan, as well as the British Isles (including Cornwall and ‘the North’)
Over 90 Hans Christian Andersen books (including multiple editions of Thumbelina, The Snow Queen and The Ugly Duckling) and over 120 Brothers Grimm books (including many compilations and multiple editions of individual titles e.g. Hansel and Gretel; Rumpelstiltskin; Snow White; and Little Red Riding Hood)
Myths and Legends from Ancient Greece, Egypt, and Persia as well as from the Norse, Irish, Welsh and Scottish traditions
Fables including numerous editions of Aesop’s fables and many other traditional tales featuring animals and Stories from World Faiths
Tales from the Arabian nights and multiple editions of stories about mythical and magical characters such as: Robin Hood, King Arthur, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Giants, Mermaids, Witches, Wizards, and Dragons
Many individual Authors / Illustrators / Compilers are strongly represented within this collection including: Kevin Crossley-Holland, Michael Foreman, Errol le Cain, Naomi Lewis, Kathleen Lines, Patrick Lynch, Charles Perrault, Joanna Troughton, and Brian Wildsmith.
Since the donation of the Traditional Tales collection we have received several other wonderful book collections from the Thimble Press library including over 270 children’s literature related reference texts, 72 Pop-up books and boxed book & gift sets, and 25 editions of Alice in Wonderland.
There are strong links between the Thimble Press collection and several of our other book collections most notably: Elaine Moss (Writer, Reviewer, Broadcaster and part-time Primary School Librarian) and Eileen Colwell (pioneer of children's libraries and champion of children's books) both of whom wrote Thimble Press titles (see photo above), and whose personal book collections (of 775 and over 300 books respectively) we hold. We also have Kathleen Lines’ personal collection of over 350 children’s books which are predominantly Traditional Tales, and include many of the titles she wrote / compiled.
If you would like to find out more about our book collections or the many Children’s Literature journals we hold (including Signal Approaches to Children’s Books), then click here to contact us.