Dean’s Rag Book Company made the first cloth books for babies; a revolutionary idea to sell indestructible, washable books for children which was a huge success.
Dean and Son’s had been printing books for many years but at the turn of the 20th century two of the directors decided to take a risk and follow the example of America and Germany trying to take advantage of the growth of the ‘toy’ market. They started in 1902 by producing cotton sheets decorated with brightly coloured designs of dolls and animals. This, however, quickly developed into an experiment to make a cloth book with pictures printed on calico and tied with a ribbon. The experiment was a triumph and in 1903 Dean’s Rag Book Company was formed by Henry Samuel Dean.
The first book produced was Wells Kidd’s ‘The Life of a Bold A B on the ship in the Rolling C’, it was single print colour with two colour cover. The early books were expensive to produce and costly for parents to buy but very quickly the demand grew increasing the print runs and subsequently enabling the whole process to be done more economically so Dean’s Rag Books were made affordable to all parents. The colour palette of the books also increased as the cost was reduced and later books were in full colour.
The ‘golden age’ of Dean’s is described as 1903 until the 1930s with many popular artists of the time designing for their rag books including Charles K Cook, F. M. Barton and Stanley Berkeley and books produced in different languages for export including French, German and the most rare, Russian.
Senior Valuer Michael Dowse
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