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No matter whether it’s the late 19th or the beginning of the 21st century, many people – especially children – need a bit of encouragement to reach for the book.
The posters you’ll see below were designed in most cases in the first half of the 20th century. You’ll see examples not only from the US but also the Netherlands or Poland.
Most of the posters in this list come from the Work Projects Administration poster collection – the first U.S. Government program to support arts and education.
What’s important, these great colorful vintage designs are available for sale in a resolution high enough to hang them on the wall – in a classroom, library, or reading nook.
We’d be grateful for sharing other examples of retro book posters, especially the ones that are non-English.
Please leave your suggestions in the comments or via social media and we’ll follow your advice.
20 vintage posters about books and libraries
Be kind to books. A poster designed by Arlington Gregg, printed by Illinois WPA Art Project, aimed at encouraging children to join book clubs. ⇢ Amazon.
Back to nature books. A poster from 1910 showing a father and his sons reading a book in the outdoors. ⇢ Vintagraph.
Good books build character. A reproduction of the retro poster from WPA (Work Projects Administration). ⇢ Amazon.
Books. A book poster from 1930, featuring a father and son onboard a ship filled with books. ⇢ Zazzle.
Father reading a book to children. An original print ad from 1946 encouraging to travel with the airlines of the United States. The headline goes: “I’m getting to know my children again.” ⇢ Amazon.
Geef een boek – Give a book. A vintage Dutch book poster from 1958, designed by Kees Kelfkens, and featuring a cat sitting on a chair with a book. ⇢ Katten Kabinet.
Week van het Boek – A Week of the Book. A vintage Dutch poster announcing the book week, and showing a person with a stack of books. ⇢ Zazzle.
January. A year of good reading ahead. Another book poster from a large WPA collection from the Library of Congress. Created and published for the fist time between 1936 and 1941. ⇢ Amazon.
In March read the books you've always meant to read. A reproduction of the Work Projects Administration poster from 1941. A poster features a woman and several books by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, or William Makepeace Thackeray. ⇢ Amazon.
September. Back to work, back to school, back to books. A reproduction of the Work Projects Administration poster from 1940. ⇢ Amazon.
September. Back to work – back to school, back to books. A poster from Chicago WPA Art Project was first published between 1936 and 1940. It shows a boy holding a book in his raised hand. ⇢ Amazon.
October – a good time to read. A poster designed by Albert M. Bender for the WPA Statewide Library Project, and printed betweeen 1936 and 1940. It features a boy reading a book surrounded by the images of Halloween. ⇢ Amazon.
Miss Muffet reading a picture book. A poster created by Arlington Gregg for Chicago WPA project was aimed at promoting reading among children. ⇢ Zazzle.
These books are too good to miss. The poster for Illinois WPA Art Project, designed between 1936 and 1940. The text goes: “Doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief agree… these books are too good to miss!” ⇢ Vintagraph.
For greater knowledge on more subjects use your library often. From Work Projects Administration Poster Collection at the Library of Congress comes the 1940 poster showing a man in a pose based on Rodin’s “Thinker,” and saying “For greater knowledge on more subjects use your library often!” ⇢ Amazon.
Book Week 1930. A poster announcing Book Week to be held between November 16th and 22nd, 1930. ⇢ AllPosters.
Books for Christmas. Original Polish book poster from 1955, designed by Eryk Lipiński. The text says “Książka najlepszym podarkiem świątecznym,” which translates to “The book is the best Christmas gift.” ⇢ Grafiteria.
Book supplies for winter. A poster designed by Gustaw Majewski, and printed in 1955. It says in Polish “Przywożę zapasy na zimowe czasy” (I bring supplies for winter times). ⇢ Grafiteria.
Books wanted. A WWI poster asking citizens to donate books to soldiers fighting in Europe. The text says: Books wanted. For our men in camp and “over there.” Take your gifts to the public library. ⇢ Zazzle.
The camp library is yours. Read to win the war. A poster published by American Library Association in 1917. The text goes: “You will find popular books for fighting men in the recreational buildings and at other points in this camp. Free. No red tape. Open every day.” ⇢ Amazon.
The vacation reading club. This poster promoting reading was created in 1939 for the WPA Federal Art Project. The title says: “The vacation reading club – join now at your public library.” ⇢ Amazon.
Chicago Public Library Week. This poster showing a globe with a book on North America was designed to promote Chicago Public Library Week. ⇢ Amazon.
Chicago Public Library Curb Service. A poster for bookmobile service of the Chicago Public Library. Designed and printed between 1936 and 1941, as a part of the Illinois WPA Art Project. The text goes: “Curb service 10,000 current books – convenient, free, time saving.” ⇢ Amazon.
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Book and library posters – recommended sites
There are tons of posters that relate to books, libraries, and reading. Here are our favorite sites where you can find them.
Etsy – a great destination if you want to gift something unique in style. All items are made to order by shop owners, so they differ in production values. A great thing is that you can talk directly to shop owner and get a personalized item.
Redbubble – a marketplace for custom designed items, including prints, stationery, cases & covers, or t-shirts. Artists upload their artworks, and the company is handling production and shipping. Many options for art prints: sizes, papers, frames.
Zazzle – the store offers a huge selection of merchandise of all kinds. What’s more, users can customize the existing artwork.
Amazon – if you are an Amazon customer, you should check out Amazon before you go anywhere else. The largest online store includes lots of literary prints – and most of the book poster reproductions that are available on the web.
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