Inspired by the richness of the Childcraft sets we have loved, a few of us have been toiling to collect, compare, and curate all of the American printings of Childcraft that we can. We want to understand the history and evolution of Childcraft and then help would-be buyers in the discernment of which Childcraft books or sets to acquire for their home libraries.
If you are unfamiliar with Childcraft, check out our overview post which gives a basic orientation here.
Second, as we post about Childcraft sets or annuals, we will tag each post so that readers can easily find all of our Childcraft articles in one neat spot.
Finally, we have come to the conclusion that Childcraft sets seemed to evolve every 10 years or so. While they were printing entire collections almost every year and supplementing with annuals and books of interest along the way, there seemed to be one main formatting evolution almost every decade.
In the earliest days, those formatting changes took the form of expansion, more and more inclusion. By the 1960s, however, it switched from expansion to a mode of curating. Some volumes were replaced with more successful or more “worthy” annuals. From then on, the “set” was always evolving and annuals were being added every year.
After looking at dozens of volumes, those of us working on the project, have come to the consensus that there are really four main philosophical shifts: the orange sets, the mid-century sets (up to just after and including the 50th Anniversary) (50th Anniversary was 1984 but anything in the 80s was good), the post-50th anniversary sets, and the modern sets. For our money, we heartily recommend any of the orange sets and any of the mid-century sets. We are not as impressed with the post-50th anniversary sets as we noticed a distinct shift toward progressive ideas, lower quality art, less engaging writing, trimmed content and more of a textbook feel than we prefer. We are absolutely opposed to the modern/current set which is common core aligned, has very intense colors, and a very modern and progressive feel. In short, it is our sense that approximately post-50th anniversary publication, Childcraft began to lose its “living” quality.