Saturday, September 12, 2009

Arthur Ransome's Swallows & Amazons

A few years ago, on one of those lazy, hot summer days, I was strolling around town wondering what to do for lunch. What I really fancied was lazing around in the park with a picnic, which I hadn't done for years. Not since I was a kid. Well, not on my own anyway. And here I was on my own, so I needed something to read.

A quick trawl around the charity shops turned up just the right book: Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome. I hadn't read any of the Swallows and Amazons books since school, but it was one of my favourite children's series, up there with Jennings and the Lone Pine novels.

So I sat in the park, reading and munching on a sandwich. The sandwich finished, I kept reading. Eventually the heat and the need to do some shopping put an end to this tranquil idyll, but I'd got through a good chunk of the book and it was just as good as I remembered.

Over the past couple of years I've picked up other Swallows and Amazons books whenever I've stumbled across them at the right (cheap) price. As I can never remember which ones I've bought recently and which ones I remember from when I was a kid, as usual I've ended up with duplicates of some titles. Not intentionally, but it does mean I can offer you this little cover gallery.

The covers I remember are the 1970s Puffin reprints which, I'm pretty sure, had covers based on Ransome's original illustrations. In about 1985, Puffin reprinted the whole series with new painted covers by Anthony Kerins. Then there was a reprint by Red Fox in 1993, who produced another edition in 2001.

The gallery below is a mixture of these different series. Hope you enjoy it.


Swallows and Amazons. London, Jonathan Cape, 1930.

Swallowdale. London, Jonathan Cape, 1931.

Peter Duck. London, Jonathan Cape, 1932.

Winter Holiday. London, Jonathan Cape, 1933.

Coot Club. London, Jonathan Cape, 1934.

Pigeon Post. London, Jonathan Cape, 1936.

We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea. London, Jonathan Cape, 1937.

Secret Water. London, Jonathan Cape, 1939.

The Big Six. London, Jonathan Cape, 1940.

Missee Lee. London, Jonathan Cape, 1941.

The Picts and the Martyrs. London, Jonathan Cape, 1943.

Great Northern?. London, Jonathan Cape, 1947.

Swallows and Amazons Forever [abridged edition of Coot Club and The Big Six].
London, Puffin Books, 1983.

Coots in the North, and Other Stories, ed. Hugh Brogan. London, Jonathan Cape, 1988. [[Don't have this one. Apparently this collection contains the incomplete novel that Ransome was working on when he died.]]

(* A fuller set of scans of covers for the various books can be found here.)


  1. I really enjoyed your 'Cover Gallery', Steve. There were 12 Ransome books in the series & there were 12 Hugh Lofting books in the Doctor Dolittle series - possibly an idea for another Cover Gallery? Unfortunately the recent films are so awful & unrelated to the original books, it would have been best for them to have different titles and then they could have been judged on their own merits. I mean to say, Dr Dolittle's black daughter working as a vet in Harlem!?!

  2. Then there are the American Godine published books which also use Ransome's drawings as their cover art, though sometimes different ones from Puffin.



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