Humford Mill Books Christmas Blog - The 'Christmas' Books of Raymond Briggs

Welcome to the second Humford Mill Books blog post - suitably festive and timed to coincide with the upload of our latest listings. This month there are well over two hundred new books listed, as well as a number of new categories, including one devoted to Christmas books.

All the new listings can be found in the category 'Recent Acquisitions' at the top tool-bar under 'Book Categories,' as can all of our categories and authors.

As its nearly Christmas I thought it was an opportune moment to highlight the Christmas books of one of Britain's most popular, slightly irreverent and controversial author/illustrators in Raymond Briggs. The man who produced books such The Snowman and the Father Christmas books, which have become Christmas classics.

Briggs is one of my favourite children's author/illustrator, one who has never been frightened to shy away from controversy and use cartoons to deal with tough issues, as his book on the horrors of nuclear war 'When The Wind Blows' typifies.

However, it is for his children's 'Christmas' books that he is perhaps best known, particularly 'The Snowman.' The book was published in 1978 by Hamish Hamilton with laminated pictorial boards without a dust wrapper, and has gone on to spawn a series of spin-offs.

The book features drawings in pencil crayons, without words, which was famously turned into a short animated film commissioned for Channel Four. The equally famous sound track to the film included 'Walking In The Air' the song which became a UK top 10 hit for a very young Aled Jones.

The second half of the book differs from the film in that in the former there is no meeting with Father Christmas as there is in the film.

Indeed Briggs a self confessed Christmas 'Grinch' confirmed in an interview with 'The Independent' in 2012 that the book which depicts a snowman melting in the morning, was actually about introducing children to the concept of mortality and had nothing to do with Christmas.

Still nonetheless the book and indeed the film have become Christmas classics - with the film being screened by Channel Four every year since its release in 1982! There has even been an animated sequel 'The Snowman and The Snowdog' made in 2012.

Despite the success of 'The Snowman' it is for the book 'Father Christmas' for which Briggs gained formal recognition through the award of the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal. This was Briggs second success having won the award back in 1966 for his illustrations in 'Mother Goose.'

The Medal is a awarded annually by children's librarians for an outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people. Previous winners have included notable illustrators Shirley Hughes, Chris Riddell, Helen Oxenbury, Janet Ahlberg, Anthony Browne and Michael Foreman.

The book was published by Hamish Hamilton in 1973 and issued with a dust wrapper. Briggs took his slightly irreverent approach to the subject, and Father Christmas is depicted as a grumpy old man constantly complaining about his job, having to be out in all weathers the same time every year!

In an interview with The Guardian in 2014 Briggs disclosed that the book took him nearly 18 months to write and draw and that he saw parallel with his own fathers occupation as a milkman, and who like Santa had to work in all weathers.

Briggs followed up the book with the equally popular 'Father Christmas Goes On Holiday' published in 1975, again issued with dustwrapper. Whilst there have been further spin-offs, it is these two books which are both highly sought after by collectors, particularly with their elusive dustwrappers.

The two Father Christmas books were also made into an animated film again commissioned by Channel Four titled 'Father Christmas' in 1991, featuring the voice of Mel Smith as the grumpy Santa.

 In 2014 Puffin produced a three book boxed-set 'The Christmas Collection' which featured 'The Snowman' and the two 'Father Christmas' books together. These were produced in laminated pictorial boards and issued without dustwrappers.

There is little doubt that the Christmas books of Raymond Briggs will continue to grow in popularity as new generations continue to discover them, either directly through the books themselves or through the films.

Humford Mill Books is delighted to offer for sale the exceptionally rare original 'Father Christmas' 1st edition with that elusive dustwrapper, as well as the 1st edition of 'The Snowman' and the 'Christmas Collection' boxed-set.

These books can be found within our Christmas Books or Raymond Briggs categories - the latter containing other new listings by Briggs, including 'When The Wind Blows' and his illustrations in Showell Styles 'First Up Everest' - the account of Hillary's ascent of Everest.

Finally, I would like to close by thanking everyone for their fantastic support in this new business venture and wishing everyone a Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year.