I can see an occasional series starting here on Penny Reads. Vintage annuals found in secondhand book shops. After featuring the Buzby Annual that Bonn and I came across in a National Trust shop of all places, today I bring you the Black Beauty Annual from 1978.
Written in 1877, Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty is probably one of the best selling books of all time. Although Sewell died only 5 months after its publication, she lived to see its success. For years children have loved the story, but it also holds important messages about animal welfare, kindness, sympathy and respect.
What made someone decide to produce a Black Beauty Annual in 1978 is slightly unclear though. I do know that in that year there was a Hanna-Barbera animated version released via CBS, but I’m not clear that this was every released or shown here in the UK where this annual was published. Even if it was, I can’t find any link in the annual itself to Hanna-Barbera.
The annual contains the regular mix that you expected in annuals back in the 70s and 80s. There are quite a few stories for children to read, but also jokes, games, puzzles and some educational bits.
As well as a section on Anna Sewell herself, many of the horses featured the story are profiled, and there’s even a section on famous horses in the bible. I do wonder if they were struggling for content a bit by the end there!
One thing I note about the annual is the fact that it exclusively contains illustrations. There’s not a single photograph of a horse in there at all. I don’t know if that’s because it was cheaper to employ illustrators than photographers, or just quicker. Or maybe a style decision?
With four illustrators listed as having worked on the book, and no author or editor, I’m guessing that the illustrations were seen as an important part of the book as a whole though. It just seems a bit strange to me that they all get credited, yet those responsible for all the words don’t. Or maybe that’s just the way it was back in 1978?