Wednesday, 2 November 2016

E.J.Oxenham, The Abbey Girls - New Treasures

On the list of the ten most popular posts on this blog is my post about Elsie J. Oxenham's Abbey Girls series. One of the things that has fascinated me ever since I started this blog was what gets hits and what doesn't. If you'd asked me beforehand about the potential popularity of any of the posts, I'd not have picked that one to hit the top of the list -  a post about a long out of print series of vintage English boarding school books...! And yet, it is.

One of the issues with collecting old books is the availability of the books themselves. Until recently with the efforts of Girls Gone By Publishering and the Elsie J. Oxenham Society, the books were all out of print. It was a matter of scouring secondhand bookstores and op shops, hoping against hope that there'd be a treasure lurking tucked away on a bottom shelf, in the form of one of the more difficult to find from the series. I have a few of those in my - incomplete - set. Others I managed to pick up through dealers. And then the new paperbacks from the aforementioned publishers came out, with their covers carrying reproductions of the original hardcovers' illustrations. On the whole, they've been very well done, and it's marvelous to be able to actually read the stories, not just to be able to start filling in the gaps of the series. Currently, there are four new ones available that I need to save up to get that are so rare that finding the original hardcovers is well nigh impossible, and if one does surface, they can be prohibitively expensive.

Cut to the first weekly shopping to the South Melbourne Market and the [compulsory] exploration of the bookshop situated right at the bottom of the stairs from the carpark, and I was delighted to find a copy of Jandy Mac Comes Back - one of the later, and more common of the series. I already had it, my existing copy was terribly battered, and the one in the store was in good condition WITH an intact dust jacket - bonus. So, I fronted up to the cash register, only to be asked by the proprietor if I collected the series. When I said yes, he directed my attention to the two beautiful, fat, cobalt blue hardcovers on the top shelf behind the till...

First edition copies of The Abbey Girls and The Abbey Girls Again.

Beautiful. Expensive. Rare.

He pulled them down for me to look at, and I was in lust, immediately. However, mindful of our tight budget at the moment, I regretfully handed them back - quite apart from anything else, I have copies of both. Nice copies, particularly the first one, but not first editions, and there is something a bit special about first editions...

Then DB appeared, asking what I'd found, and the guy pulled them down again to show him. Whereupon, DB insisted that I get them. I demurred, because $$$$$ - many $$$$$. Again he insisted, and I had to remind him of our very long list of other, more important things we need, for the house, for ourselves... But he was insistent, saying - correctly - that they were a once in a lifetime opportunity, and they'd give me huge amounts of pleasure - at which point the proprietor told us he was happy for the books to be paid off over time. That clinched it for DB - he fished out $100 and asked if that was enough to start with, which it was. Last weekend, I paid off the last $50 and brought them home.

They ARE beautiful, and I'm very tickled to have them. I'll take my copy of The Abbey Girls Again in and see if he'll take that off my hands, but I'll keep my original copy of The Abbey Girls as it is also a nice, very old edition, with quite different coloured plates - it's the book I used to illustrate the linked post about the series up at the top of this post.

DB has managed to save up to buy himself a new pair of nicks (cycling pants) in the meantime, which was one of the more urgent things on his list. We still need rugs for our floors, a cabinet for the glasswear that's still in packing boxes, and wardrobes for our bedroom so we can stop living out of suitcases and packing boxes, and an island bench for the kitchen that has additional storage space... We'll get them all eventually, and in the meantime, I have my beautiful treasures which are motivation enough to pull all the books that just got unpacked and shoved into the bookcases any old how, and rearrange them properly so that they can take pride of place at the beginning end of the line of Abbey books!


  1. Fantastic! I am lucky enough to have a few really nice early copies, but I also have a bunch of Seagull editions and some modern reprints - Biddy's Secret for example. Most of my nice hardbacks were collected by my mother who had original owned first editions of all the early books. But her aunt (her aunt!) threw them all away when she went to uni. Needless to say aunt was never forgiven.
    What's your favourite plot line? Mine is Rosamund marrying an invalid who is not really expected to live long and going on to have about 6 children including all those little girls with the same name! Bonkers stuff but I am always rereading.

    1. BTW I write about crisps and crispy snacks and my most popular post is about a snack that looks like deep fried cricket and tastes of peas. I thought it horrible but over 900 people can't stop reading about it! Weird.

    2. OMG - if anyone ever spoke to that aunt again she'd have been very lucky...!!!
      One of my favourites in the series is Queen of the Abbey - I think Jen is close to my favourite character, and Ken is one of the few men in the series that appears often enough to get a sense of who he actually is, where the others are really shadowy figures.
      I'll pass on that snack - it does sound yuck!!

    3. Yes Ken is quite real isn't he. Shame he is forced to have a dreadful accident and shunted off on that world cruise. Probably an excuse to get rid of Jen as she is far more interesting than the self-absorbed Joy. Certainly Ken is a proper person compared to the dreadful Andrew and the bossy Sir Ivor Quellyn (he sounds ghastly). And the Earl of Kentisbury is a little bit too saintly (probably all that ill-heath). I think the next best man is probably Jock although he does kind of lose it when Maidlin starts having children.
      Oh my aunt Dodo. She was... the worst aunt ever. Because of her antics I am forever unable to eat peeled apple! Don't ask.

    4. Great analyses of all the menfolk, LOL!! Joy just irritates me, and the mess she makes of those twins....argh!!! Bratty little toads! Jack Raymond, again, not much of him, is OK too - love all his stuff with Littlejan when she's injured.
      I hate to think about how many of the old editions of the books must have just been dumped... Op shops are OK, at least someone eventually finds them there and gives them a home, but I know of book collections that were just boxed up and taken to the tip - ARGH!!!

    5. Absolutely aargh! Such a tragedy.
      You're quite right. The twins are frightful. I loathe all that dreadful "kiddie speak" and why are they never punished when friends and relations are nearly burned to death or drowned? Considering how moral Elsie J is for so much of the books I don't get the way she wrote the twins at all.
      And... the names! especially towards the end of the series. I bet you wanted to name a daughter Jantyjoy didn't you?? Go on. Admit it!

    6. Ha! No, not Jantyjoy, but if I'd had a daughter, I'd quite possibly have used Rosamund...

    7. Rosamund is a pretty name and she's a great character. Despite all the twins. Jantyjoy is dreadful though isn't it?
      Fun to discuss some of my favourite books ever. Thanks. I don't know if you have ever read my thoughts on the Abbey Girls?

    8. I hadn't read your post, no - just did and left you a comment.
      Jantyjoy is awful, as is Biddy calling herself Madame Bidet, as reminded by your post!