From the Design Desk: Vintage Children’s Books from Poland
Recently in the office, editor Jason Sacher shared an inspiring link to Książki Books, a blog devoted to vintage Polish children’s books and their amazing illustrations.
Coincidentally, my friend Karolina Walichiewicz had just told me about all these children’s books from her childhood that her parents brought over from Poland, which are now gathering dust in boxes at her house. So we invited her to give them some air and share some of her favorites with us. We found tons of inspiration in these precious vintage foreign books.
Karolina helped translate some of the stories and recount her most memorable books from childhood. The language barrier didn’t keep us from appreciating the overwhelming amount of beautiful, pristine illustrations that adorned every book. The color-saturated pages along with the old book smell triggered that nostalgia we all have for reading as a child. The care and craft put into older illustrations, many using only 1 or 2 colors but maximizing results and impact, gave us plenty to ogle over.
And of course there were many examples of full color illustrations that sent us overboard with their attention to detail, the range of styles from book to book, and the warmth that can only come from yellowing with age.
One in particular was a favorite of all the designers and editors, a small charming book about a locomotive and all that it passes along its journey. The illustrated typography was especially inspiring.
We also noticed that many of the books had illustrations that could speak to adults as well as children, often representing darker stories and not shying away from the ugliness of evil or bizarre characters. This makes sense knowing that many older stories, like the classic fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm, were much more violent and scary than the Disneyfied versions we know today. It was refreshing to see similar tales represented in their uncensored, original forms through grotesque yet gripping illustration styles, and be reminded that not all children’s books have to be cute and fuzzy to be good.
After seeing the quality and variety in just this small, personalized collection of vintage books from Poland, it really put in perspective how much else is out there that has been produced by all the countries in the world, and how many amazing books from the past there must be hidden away in closets, waiting to be rediscovered and treasured all over again. Let’s just hope someone will find and share them before they disappear forever!
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