Sunday, 30 September 2012

Early Science Books

I will be posting a large number of interesting very early science related title-pages for your enjoyment.
No.1. My attempt at translating old English. A Prognostication Everlasting of Right Good Effect ... At The End Plain, Brief, Pleasant, Rules to Judge the Weather. Written by Leonard Digges, and published in 1556.

No.2. De Zee-Atlas, Ofte Water-Weereld. By Pieter Goos. Published in Amsterdam in 1666.

No.3. Monalosphaerum by Jean-Francois Fernel. Published in 1526. The monalosphaerum could be used for astronomical and time measurements, and for finding height and distances in surveying. Apparently.

No.4. Globe Du Monde by Simon Girault. Published in 1592. The text, in dialogue form, contains an account of the discovery of America.

No.5. De Magnete by William Gilbert. Published by Peter Short in 1600. An important presentation copy of the first major English scientific treatise based on experimental methods of research, and which is the foundation of electrical science.

No.6. Salt-Water Sweetened; Or, a True Account of the Great Advantages of this new Invention both by Sea and by Land. By Robert Fitzgerald. Published William Cademan, in 1683.

No.7. Subtensial Plain Trigonometry, Wrought with a Sliding-Rule, with Gunter's Lines: And Also Arithmetically, in a Very Concise Manner... By Thomas Abel, of Bourn in Lincolnshire. Printed and Sold for the Author, by Andrew Steuart, 1761.

No.8. Arithmeticall Navigation: Or, an Order therof; Compiled and Published for the Advancement of Navigation. By Thomas Addison, Practitioner in the Art of Navigation. Printed for Nathaniel Gosse at Radcliffe, in 1625.

I will post some more scanned images on here over the coming weeks.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Mussolini on Marriage

Mussolini as an Agony Aunt might seem unlikely to us today, but before he decided to get into bed with Mr. Hitler he was surprisingly popular in the UK. This advert appeared in a 1928 issue of John O'London's Weekly.
I have 100s of rare issues of early John O'London's Weekly, if you are interested in purchasing any of these fascinating literary periodicals please don't hesitate to contact me.

Clockwork Orange

The cover from my 1972 Films and Filming magazine which features the soon to be released Stanley Kubrick classic A Clockwork Orange, which was an adaptation of Anthony Burgess's 1962 novella.
If you are interested in purchasing this magazine please don't hesitate to contact me for details.

Dudelsack by Gerald Kersh

In my humble opinion this is one of the best short stories ever written. First published in the October 9, 1942, issue of John O'London's Weekly. Below you can read just the beginning, it might help to wet your appetite to read more of Kersh's wonderful writing.

When something stirs up the bottom of my cup and the bitter grounds get between my teeth; when I am sad and angry, I think of Dudelsack. And so I shall remember him always. He was a strange, forlorn little man. In thick-soled boots he stood four feet seven inches tall. In a wet overcoat he might have weighed ninety pounds. Somehow he had managed to live sixty years. He was grey, small bodied and hairy as a bird-eating spider. Out of his flannel shirt sprang a skinny neck, so tense and sinewy that it might have been an arrangement of wire designed to prevent his head from flying off. Now that I think of it, the top of his skull really did look like the flat, dented dome of a champagne cork. Unhappy Dudelsack, so full of pressure and ferment - there must have been good strong stuff inside him before his jolting journey through Time shook it all to foam......

If you are interested in purchasing this John O'London's Weekly please feel free to contact me for details.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Arthur Rackham and Alice in Wonderland

Published by William Heinemann in 1907. This in number 1073 of 1030 copies published. Includes 13 coloured plates and other illustrations by Arthur Rackham, red morroco and gilt by Bayntun-Riviere with morroco onlay design of Alice.


Complete set of Winnie-the-Pooh books published by Methuen, 1924-28. All illustrated by E.H. Shepard.

Vladimir Nabokov/Vladimir Nabokoff-Sirin

Published in 1936 Camera Obscura was the authors first book to be translated into English. Most copies of this first edition were destroyed in a warehouse fire, so this book in its original dust jacket is very rare.

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost a Poem in Ten Books. Now that is a proper poem. Scan of the title pages of my 1669 and 1671 editions.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Books and Fruit

I have decided to try and print some of the title pages from my rare book collection on to fruit. Here is my first attempt.

John Keats

Below you will see a scanned image of the title page of one of my more valuable books, Poems, Supposed to have been written at Bristol, By Thomas Rowley, and Others, In the Fifteenth Century; This was published in 1777. If you look closely at the top right hand-side of the image you will see that John Keats has inscribed by hand this volume to Henry Reynolds.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Every Picture Tells a Story

I wonder how many completely different stories would be written if you gave twenty writers the task of studying my photograph below, before unleashing there literary imaginations.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A Name in Vain

Two Hour Short Story

It was not a big hotel and it had a clean well-kept air. It would probably do, Ralph Curtis thought. He walked in and turned towards the reception desk. Behind it a dark, good-looking girl smiled at him in welcome, but he hardly noticed. His mind was ruminating on the walk he had just done from the railway station. The dazzle of shop-lights, the swish of car wheels through the wet streets, the incipient cold in his head, had combined to bemuse him a little. He stared about him momentarily, almost as if to establish his surroundings more clearly in his mind. He was vaguely conscious of the girl's expectant attitude.
"A single room, please." he said absently and with such diffidence that he noticed it himself. "Just for one night. And I should like some dinner, please."
"Yes sir. Dinner is being served now. Sign the register, please." He had not wished to be discourteous, but it was clear that his remoteness had displeased her. All he wanted was a quiet evening, with his thoughts undisturbed, in readiness for the heavy day that lay ahead tomorrow.
His hand wrote rapidly and he looked down to see with a start that he had written  as his name "Rudolph Curwen." It was quite an easy mistake to make, really, for Ralph Curtis was a similar looking name, and a familiar one too. As he had walked from the station his eye had been caught by a display in a bookseller's window. The name Rudolph Curwen was monotonously repeated on the cleverly stacked copies of a newly published novel. The appearance of the display remained clearly in his mind, and above all the name of the author seemed to dominate his thoughts.
He looked down at the entry in the register. You could hardly cross out one name and write in another. Altogether too peculiar, it would create suspicion. The seconds were passing by and still he stood staring at it. The receptionist was looking at him, frowning in a puzzled way. It would not do if she thought she recognised the name, though probably she was of the thousands who never read a book. Meanwhile, the time had passed when he might have changed it. Someone less shy, he was thinking, would just have laughed it off, altered the name and made some remark about being run in for impersonation.
The receptionist handed him a key. "Room 107, Mr Curwen." There was a new note of awe in her voice. "Excuse my mentioning it, sir," she went on, in the breathless manner of one taking the plunge. "But I saw in the bookshop that you are going to be there tomorrow to autograph books people buy. She was as shy and apprehensive as Ralph Curtis himself.
He began to protest. "You must not think that my business here tomorrow..." but she went on "I've just read The Heart's True Fancy. Such a lovely story. Would you sign it for me please, sir?"
He suddenly felt foolish, with a thumping, sinking feeling in his stomach. He turned his face away to hide his blush. He could not start writing "Rudolph Curwen" inside books. There was no telling where that would lead before the evening ended.
"Later, perhaps," he said, annoyed with himself for again sounding curt and remote in his confusion. "I must get settled in my room first."
He had not protested his identity as Ralph Curtis. He seized the key, turned and almost ran towards the stairs.
When he came down a little later for his dinner he sat at an unoccupied table for two, and noticed with pleasure that few people were in the dining-room. After a dinner in peaceful solitude he would take a short walk to look at this town of Stavebury which he had never before visited.
As he started on his soup he became aware of a man approaching him. A loud, hearty voice said. "Don't mind if I join you, do you?" and at once a florid man in a brown tweed suit sat facing him, his square, red face beaming below his glossy, black hair. "Always lonely, first night in a hotel, so I've come to keep you company. Habit of mine. Bit of friendliness among strangers always welcome, eh?"
He gave a little laugh, while Ralph Curtis moved his lips, not knowing himself the significance of the meaningless sound which emerged. Conversation with this insensitive type would be impossible. But he looked the sort who might be content to chatter away without getting any response.
"My name's George Peacock," the man was saying. "Lived in this hotel for ten years. Must have chatted to thousands of birds of passage, as you might say, in that time. Extraordinary what a lot of remarkable people there are about. That's something really in your line, eh?" He gave his little chuckle again and looked across the table knowingly.
Ralph Curtis gave him a blank, cold look. He could be obstinate with these aggresive bone-heads. It was pleasant people who made him shy and self-conscious, because there was an obligation to be pleasant himself.
"What do you mean, my line?" He tried to sound aloof.
"Well you know, all these books. Never read any of them myself, I must admit. Westerns are more to my taste."
"What books?" said Curtis, unsmiling and without interest.
Peacock laughed. "Oh, come off it, now, Mr. Curwen. I've had a look at your name in the hotel register."
Ralph Curtis turned to look wildly round the dining-room. It was still nearly empty, but at least one curious eye was upon him. This man Peacock had such a loud voice.
"You mustn't take me for the novelist," he said desperately. "After all, 'Curwen' is not such a terribly uncommon name."
Pecock laughed still more louldly. "That's a good one, Mr Curwen." He put his soup spoon down and began to tick off the items on his fingers. "One: Rudolph Curwen will be autographing books at Hawkins and Hudson tomorrow. Two: you arrive today. Three: your Christian name's Rudolph. Then you say you're not the novelist. That kind of coincidence might get by in one of your books, Mr. Curwen, but give old George Peacock credit for a little common. End of sermon." He laughed again and resumed eating his soup.
"As I say, I've not read any of your books," Peacock went on, "but I like the titles in the shop window. Awake and Dream, for instance; how did you think of that one?"
Curtis could stand no more. He got up from the table, feeling the blood in his cheeks, mumbled something about being back shortly, and rushed out, carefully avoiding the eyes of diners and waiters. He almost ran to the foot of the stairs, where he found the way blocked by a smiling young man. "Mr. Curwen? I am a reporter from the Stavebury Echo. Would you favour me with a short interview?"
"No, no, impossible." He tried to run upstairs but three people were coming down, filling the whole width. He was trapped.
"Do you take your characters from real life? Have you anything I may quote about your next book?"
Curtis was desperate. "Can't tell you. Leave me alone," he stammered out incoherently. "Got a headache. Heavy day tomorrow."
He pushed his way past, ran to his room and shut the door. He sank trembling and exhausted into an armchair.
Next morning he had his breakfast in his room, the slipped rapidly out into the street. He walked down to Hawkins and Hudsons, entered and said to an assistant, "Mr. Curtis to see Mr. Hudson."
He was shown into an office at the back. Mr. Hudson rose beaming from his desk, one hand extended in greeting.
You are very prompt, Mr. Curtis. I trust you enjoyed your quiet evening in Stavebury yesterday?"
"It was terrible," said Curtis. "Like a fool, I absentmindedly signed my pen name in the hotel register."

Sunday, 16 September 2012

1934 Raphael's Almanac and Poland

This article is taken from Raphael's Almanac: Or the Poetic Messenger published in 1934. They start off so well, then....


Poland is liable to a sudden alarm from Germany. Jupiter favours the country with increasing trade and some good fortune through complications amongst other nations. This land will make very rapid progress and achieves a good deal of prosperity and favourable trade expansion. Warsaw is growing in political power and importance, and although there may be border troubles the indications are the the Poles will hold their own and make progress and headway.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

1970s Advertising

The 1970s, the decade when sexist advertising wasn't only accepted it was almost compulsory. The fashion feature below is from Tennis World Magazine.

Kingsley Amis Interview

This short extract of an interview with Kingsley Amis is taken from the May, 1984 issue of Books and Bookmen. Mr. Amis was slightly the worse for drink at the time.

"I hate getting down to it, the writing I mean. And then as soon as I'm up there in my study, at the typewriter, it's a case of, 'You fool, don't you realise that even if this is not the only thing you're good at, at any rate it is the only thing you enjoy - well, getting pissed with your mates you enjoy - but it's the only meaningful activity you enjoy.' - 'Oh yes,' I say back to myself...And it's more than just an activity. In a way it makes things comprehensible...if this isn't getting too fine spun, but (pause) Writing fiction (pause) takes for granted (pause) that (pause) there is some sense in life. And there isn't any sense in life. But if that's all you thought, you'd go mad. So there's this illusion that life has meaning which fiction encourages. And all the great novels, and not necessarily just the great novels, say or imply a pattern in events. You get this wonderful feeling of being Lord of Creation, well described in one of the Renaissance critics. He was talking about poetry, but it comes to the same thing. 'The poet makes for himself a new Nature. He also will create worlds.'''

If you are interested in purchasing any of my "Books and Bookmen" issues please feel free to contact me.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Life of a Vicar

The Life of a Vicar
This wonderful poem was written by the even more wonderful Mr. Gary Walker (Me). My first attempt at poetry. Can you tell?

The life of a Vicar
Is one I admire,
With a collar so white
And his simple attire.
The ladies adore him
They all flutter and froth,
“He so understands me
That man of the cloth.

If only my husband
Could have such finesse,
He plays darts once a week
And wants sex even less.
The Vicar’s so knowing
So handsome and true,
Oh God let me have him
Before my mate Sue.

I help out at church
And I ask for no fee.
Just one look from my hero
Sends me weak at the knee.
Sue waltzes around him
In skirts far too short,
She’ll go mad when I show her
The one that I bought.

He winked at me once
As I glided close by,
Sue mocked when I told her
“He had dust in his eye.”
Just bitter and twisted
And jealous of me,
I’ll show that old bag
Just you wait and see.

I was arrested on Sunday
For what I can’t say,
It was after the service
He’d asked me to stay.
The excuse was some cleaning
But I read his mind,
It was cassock removing
Before he went blind.

He was knelt in the vestry
When I locked the door,
And turned with a fright
When I laid on the floor.
He cried “are you ill”
As I lifted my skirt,
“My God” Mrs. Watson
Was he starting to flirt?

“Lay beside me” I said
“HELP HELP” he did cry,
He rushed for the door
“It’s locked” I did sigh.
“Please give me the key
Mrs. Watson I beg,”
“It’s safe in my garter
At the top of my leg.”

Then Sue began shouting
“What’s going on”?
“The police” yelled the vicar
This was all going wrong.
Why don’t you want me?
“Is it Sue?” I did say,
“No you’re very attractive
But sorry I’m Gay.”

The Police then the Firemen
Arrived at the door,
They smashed through the lock
grabbing me from the floor.
Both men were in uniform
All stocky and tall,
I said “You’re both lovely”
“Could I give you a call?"

Literary Cliques

The Duckworth Gang

In a Redcliffe Square apartment, a party is in session. Two floors up, in this quintessential Sloane enclave, a large and richly furnished room vibrates gently with a profusion of celebrities. Look around and you will spot the media types, the fat jazz singer, the faded rock starlet, the professional gossip, the tough actress, the Irish horse breeder....
Over by the fire are the writers. There are four of them, all women, and they sit there together looking slightly gloomy, as though they have seen it all before. They are a distinctive quartet (although only one is a well-known face) for they sit in line abreast on chairs beside the hearth, their heads canted to catch each other's words, their corporate manner redolent of a Fifties-ish Pym-style gentility. They are the Duckworth Gang: Anna Haycraft, Beryl Bainbridge, Caroline Blackwood and Patrice Chaplin. And their intense, supportive fondness for each other is matched by their prize winning pre-eminence in the field of fiction.
The undoubted centre of this group is Anna Haycraft, better known as Alice Thomas Ellis, whose third novel, The 27th Kingdom, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She is a small and perfectly bell-shaped woman with sad eyes and a silken voice, graceful and maternal in manner but wary of interviews.........

This is the beginning of a fascinating article written by John Walsh, and published in the February, 1983 issue of Books and Bookmen.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Last Heil

This brilliant cartoon by E.H. Shepard appeared in the 2nd May, 1945 issue of Punch. Entitled The Last Heil it depicts German soldiers hoisting the corpse of Hitler in the air and waving him as you would a white flag. E.H. Shepard (illustrator of Winnie The Pooh) would not have known that Hitler was dead at the time of drawing this cartoon, as his death was only announced on the 1st May, 1945, and this Punch issue would have been printed a few days before that. If there is anyone who is interested in purchasing this original Punch Magazine please feel free to contact me


Below you will see a scanned copy of a 15th Century illuminated manuscript. Not sure you will ever get anything like this with a Kindle book reader.

Literary Quiz

  1. The following authors have each written works with the word "Green" in their titles. Name the works: (a) Michael Arlen; (b) Elizabeth Goudge; (c) Richard Llewellyn; (d) Marc Connelly.
  2. (a) Thackeray called a bar sinister the mark of bastardy. What is the correct term? (b) Victor Hugo translated the name of a Scottish river estuary into Premier des Quatre. What did he mean? (c) In the Winter's Tale, Shakespeare says the vessel bearing the infant Perdita was wrecked off the coast of Bohemia. Why was this impossible?
  3. Name three blind poets.
     Write your answers in the comment box below to win the greatest prize of all.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Tour of Britain

Here is a photograph I took yesterday of the cyclists racing through Lowestoft in Suffolk. Mark Cavendish is fourth in line. Sadly he fell off his bike a few hundred yards from the finishing line.

"The Return" by Walter De La Mare

A Review

The authors who can convey a sense of supernatural terror in fiction can be numbered on the fingers of one hand. Edgar Allan Poe, Le Fanu in "Uncle Silas" and "The House by the Churchyard," Oliver Onions in "The Beckoning Fair One," have conveyed eerie horror in different measures. Walter de la Mare's "The Return" is a novel of intensive atmosphere, very inadequately recognized on its first issue in 1910, must be ranked with the supreme fiction of the fearsome.
De la Mare can get utter mad tragedy into a quatrain. In a book of 300 odd pages he enters the secret places of the soul and shakes the fabric of the House of Life.
The story begins with slipshod Arthur Lawford, made more irresolute by the melancholy of illness, loitering into the graveyard at Widderstone and pondering over the almost illegible inscription:-
 Here lie ye Bones of one,
Nicholas Sabathier, a Stranger to this Parish,
who fell by his own hand on ye
Eve of Ste. Michael and all the Angels

He sits there till darkness comes, brooding on this death and the little purpose of life, and wakes up from a half-dream curiously exultant and active, an odd smile darkening his face. Lawford is vaguely conscious of some ghastly change in himself. Only when he reaches his home, enters his bedroom, and begins the commonplace business of shaving does the mystery of a weird transformation touch his heart as with a death cold hand.
If you haven't read this book, go and get it today, and dare you read it alone in your bedroom.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

1920s American Literature

One striking feature of the way American literature developed in its most exciting phase, during the 1920s, was through the symbiotic relationship that grew up between the younger and more daring American writers of the postwar generation and their French contemporaries. Paris was the clearing house for all this; it was during the 1920s that, it seemed, almost an entire generation of American writers headed for Paris, partly driven by cultural revolt against the materialism and commercialism of Harding's and Coolidge's America, partly drawn by the cheap franc and the fact that in Prohibition times there you could get a drink, partly tempted by the realization that Paris bohemia was in a state of chaotic yet exciting avant garde vitality, fed not just by French experimentalists but by Russians and other emigres from recent wars and revolutions. There was another, more subtle benefit: in the 1920s in France, America was chic, in part as a result of America's crucial intervention in the War and the Peace settlement that followed. American jazz, American primitivism and frankness, American skyscrapers, American cocktails, Josephine Baker, American films, all helped in the synbiosis - and so did the stirring excitements of the new American writing, which seemed, as Gertrude Stein said, "to have gone to Paris to happen."

The Unfortunate "E"

The most unfortunate letter in the alphabet, it is said, is the letter E, because it is always out of cash, for ever in debt, never out of danger, and in hell all the time. That's true. Still, it is never in war, always in peace, and always in something to eat. It is in the beginning of existence, the commencement of ease, and the end of trouble. Without it, there would be no life, and no heaven. It is the centre of honesty and is always in love. It is the beginning of encouragement and endeavour and the end of failure.

Writer's Quiz

If you can be the first to name all the authors featured in this video I will send you a copy of one of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazines.

The Camomile Lawn

Review of Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley.

Wartime London: blackouts, rationing, the City aflame. Augustus John spotted at the bar of the Royal Court, telephone calls restricted to three minutes apiece. Against this background a group of twelve main characters each undergo a loss of the varying states of innocence in which they began the war. One-legged Uncle Richard is freed of his anti-semitism and self-pity by the acquisition of a Jewish mistress and a new, hinged leg (its ppredecessor is used to poke the fire). His wife downs secateurs and cardigan for high-heels and furs and a love-affair of some compulsion. The younger set behave in like manner, aided by the fact that of five cousins only two share the same parents - the maximum of incestous permutation is allowed. A brace of young identical twins complete the circle.
Between romantic liasions they gather in London and in Cornwall to discuss the progress of war, the taking and exchange of lovers and, most of all, each other. They talk incessantly: in cars, trains and restaurants; over the kitchen table, the telephone and in bed. War is a great unifier and they remain on affectionate terms - coming together for a funeral some forty years later their tongues are still wagging.
There is as I have already eluded to, a chatty cast, Mary Wesley's dialogue is absolutely credible and, in parts, extremely funny - some scenes made me laugh out loud. The action leaps back and forwards in time without dislocating the narrative. Touches of Cornish dialect are used to good effect.
But there are weaknesses, chiefly when the conversation stops. The Moon, "an outrageous balloon" risis "red, gold then silver into a taffeta sky". Sultry Calypso reminisces on the clifftops: "Here where she stood Oliver had said 'I want to fuck you'." Elsewhere this word appears eight time in one sentence.
Nevertheless, The Camomile Lawn is a very funny book and the apparent frivolity of the discourse belies a sort of courage. Careless talk saves lives. Ivy Compton Burnett wrote: "We must use words as they are used or stand aside from life." Mary Wesley uses words very much as they are used.

1919 Richmal Crompton

I have in my collection of John O'London's Weekly a rare original copy of the June 14, 1919 issue which contains the first publication of "William Goes to the Pictures" by Richmal Crompton. The first Just William book appeared in 1922. If anyone is interested in purchasing this issue please don't hesitate to contact me.

The Art of Finis

Some Notes on Novel-Endings

In literary composition the beginning and the ending are of more moment than the body of the history or tale, and the ending should receive the maximum of attention. "Nothing is ended with honour," says Dr. Johnson, "which does not conclude better than it began." However finely a dramatic story may start, it may still be a failure on accout of its tame ending. That commonplace finish may prove more disastrous than a commonplace opening.
It is interesting in this connection to recall the conclusion of one of the greats, and mark how they say good-bye. In "David Copperfield" Dickens writes, "O Agnes! O my soul! so may thy face be by me when I close my life indeed; so may I, when realities are melting from me like the shadows which I now dismiss, still find thee near me pointing upward!"


Friday, 7 September 2012

Europe in the Middle Ages

Anyone interested in the state of Europe during the Middle Ages could do a lot worse than read these three volumes written by Henry Hallam. This edition was published by John Murray, in 1872. My Ebay Auction

The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen


"Habit is not mere subjection, it is a tender tie: when one remembers habit it seems to have been happiness." An appropriately bitter-sweet reflection from Elizabeth Bowen's moving story of Portia Quayne, whose sad fact it is to be rejected by everyone she is involved with.

A New York Dance by Donald E. Westlake


One of the few masters of that underrated genre, the comedy thriller, at the top of his form with a treasure hunt in Manhattan. The prize is a priceless Aztec statuette, smuggled through Customs in a shipment of plaster copies and then delivered where? Westlake assembles a Runyonesque cast, scatters some clues, and lets Greed do the rest.

Memoirs of an Anti-Semite by Gregor von Rezzori


The Rumanian hero of this semi-autobiographical novel has been brought up to despise Jews. But time and again Jews cross his path in the most intimate circumstances, so that he begins to question his received opinion of them. An introspective tour de force which also gives a luminous portrait of the Central European melting pot between the wars.

Horror Books

Below you can watch a short video I put together which shows a small sample of my collection of Horror titles. Sadly in many cases the covers are better than the stories within.

1919-1920 Masonic Calendar Warwickshire

I have always found Masonic publications of interest if only because they are an excellent resource when looking into the history of a particular region of the country. They can also be of great interest to anyone interested in genealogy as they are usually full of family names of Masonic members. The one shown below also contains many fine photographic plates.

Talwin Morris

Talwin Morris was part of the "Glasgow Style" along with Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Morris' book cover designs for publishers like Blackie and Son, and Gresham (shown below) brought this style of design to a wide audience. The book shown is from my own collection of Talwin Morris designed covers. This one was published by The Gresham Publishing Company circa 1913.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Secondhand Bookshops of York

Extracts taken from a feature on the antiquarian bookshops of York, in the February, 1984 issue of "Books and Bookmen". Written by Peter Stothard.

"It's one of the last things left to collect, I suppose. Quite appropriate really." The speaker is Dr. Jeffrey Stern, joint owner of York's most prosperous antiquarian bookshop. In his hand is a flimsy brown copy of The Quantum Theory of Line Spectra by the Danish physicist, Niels Bohr. This is an important work in the academic history of the atomic bomb. The condition: fine The price: £300. "If you want something a bit cheaper, how about this? Isotopes by Francis William Aston. 1922 edition." Original price, 9 shillings: today's price: £95.
Dr. Stern does not pretend to understand Bohr's contribution to electron theory, nor how Aston, who began his career as a brewery chemist, ended it on the brink of unravelling the atomic nucleus. Neither he nor his partner claims any expertise in physics. What they do know is that Japanese collectors are prepared to come to York to pay huge prices for the intellectual precursors of Hiroshima - as long, of course as they are first editions in fine condition. Stern, in fact, is an expert on Lewis Carroll. While the boom in "bomb books" would provide a nice paradox for the Red Queen, it has also helped McDowell & Stern to the top position in Britain's most ambitious book city - and to a turnover last year of some half million pounds.
York has sixteen antiquarian booksellers, mostly cited around the Minster and loosely linked in a recently formed trade association. McDowell & Stern will sell you Keynes' first book Indian Currency and Finance for £200 or his later Economic Consequences of the Peace for £20 as well as those old physics and chemistry books that the unwise amongst us might easily pay our local bookseller to take away.
For the past fifteen years Peter Miller, a 36 year old, round-faced art lover, has worked in Ken Spelman Books on Micklegate. For the past eleven years he has owned it - borrowing £25,000 from the bank to go into business that at that time would not have been every bank manager's favourite. His first big deal was to pay £1,250 through the fondly remembered solicitors Birdsall and Snowball for a collection belonging to Major Roberts, "a clever chap from the Twenties who managed to avoid Galsworthy, Masefield and Walpole and collect instead, Huxley, Beckett and Nancy Cunard". He still recalls the investment with terror. "It was an enormous sum for me". Today he would be prepared to pay £20,000 for the same books, which would put their retail value at around £40,000.
His most memorable deal was to buy 7,500 books from the housekeeper of a deceased York physician, Dr. Pope. The good doctor had an impeccable taste in literature but curious faith in the preservative power of the 3-in-1 oil with which he used to anoint the covers of his books. "The standard edition of William Morris - hessian with paper labels - suffered very badly. The only one to escape was a 39-volume set of Ruskin in Moroccan leather guaranteed by the British Museum. That apparently was a good enough guarantee for the doctor. This added a new description to the book catalogues: 'slightly oiled'''.

Books That Shocked

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller.
This is Henry Miller's own review of his work from 1960: "This is not a book in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty.......what you will."
Makes a nice change from the bullshit reviews we now get with the advent of "New Media".

Paddington Bear

An interview with Michael Bond the creator of Paddington Bear, from the October, 1959 issue of "Books and Bookmen. Left Click on the picture below to increase its size, then Right Click and choose View Image on the drop down menu. You can then increase the size of the text.

Great British Comedians

This was going to be a list of my top ten favourite British comedians, but as you can see I could only think of five great comics. Well actually there are only four as I named Tommy Cooper twice. Feel free to add your favourites in the comment box.

  1. Spike Milligan
  2. Tommy Cooper
  3. Dave Allen (Irish, but I don't care it's my blog)
  4. Billy Connolly
  5. Tommy Cooper (So good I've named him twice)

"Book Man" Television Programme

Photographs from the old "Book Man" television programme from 1960. Included here are, G.B. Stern, Spike Milligan, Vladimir Nabokov, Kingsley Amis, Colin Wilson, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Nicholas Monsarrat, Simon Raven, and Laurie Lee.
Taken from the January, 1960 issue of "Books and Bookmen".

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Banned Books of 1960

Britain: Lolita has been banned by the Eastbourne Public Libraries Committee. Said Alderman Alan Skinner: "The disgusting goings on in bed of a dirty old man with a young girl does not appear to be the sort of thing on which public money should be spent.
The magazine, Harper's Bazaar, included Lolita in its Christmas gift suggestions "for your debutante niece."
Finchley Public Library has banned Loathsome Women, by Dr. Leopold Stein and Martha Alexander. The neighbouring borough of Hampstead has offered to lend it to the Finchley reader who requested it.

Australia: Erskine Caldwell's God's Little Acre has been ruled obscene in Melbourne.

Ireland: Night and the City, a novel by West Indian novelist, Samuel Selvon, has been banned as indecent by the Eire Censorship of Publications Board.

Malta: Droll Stories, by Balzac, and Woman of Paris, by Edmond de Goncourt have both been banned from the island as indecent.

Pakistan: The ban on the Concise Oxford Dictionary has been lifted following an undertaking by the publishers to issue a correction slip containing a revised definition of "Pakistan".

Taken from the January, 1960 issue of Books and Bookmen.

Review of The Patchwork Hero

The Patchwork Hero by Michael Noonan

"The cries of the snipers almost shaped themselves into bright letters as they struck the morning air." That is the confusing, over-written and mercifully brief opening paragraph of the book and it would be a great pity if you allowed yourself to be persuaded that you didn't want to read a book about war, for this is not such a work.
Apart from that opening, the tale is almost faultless in construction, and the snipers are small boys who snipe at Hardy, the narrator, in words.
The scene is set in Australasia, according to the blurb, but it is a story of boyhood that might have been set in any one of a dozen countries.
There is shrewd observation in the character drawing and the atmosphere of childhood and life in Serenity is very well done indeed, so well, in fact, that the characters come to life immediately you meet them. The Patchwork Hero is Barney, Hardy's father and the author sews together about sixty scenes to give us a picture. And how well he does it!
Technically first-class, and very good reading.

Brian Aldiss

From the November, 1959 issue of Books and Bookmen. Brian Aldiss writes about his surprise at becoming established as a science fiction writer. Left Click on the picture below to increase its size, then Right Click and choose View Image on the drop down menu. You can then increase the size of the text.

1959 Review of Lolita

From the November, 1959 issue of Books and Bookmen. Review of two controversial novels, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, and The Lovely Awful Thing by Maurice Rickards. Left Click on the picture below to increase its size, then Right Click and choose View Image on the drop down menu. You can then increase the size of the text.

1959 Review of P.G. Wodehouse latest Books

This is from the July, 1959 issue of Books and Bookmen. Left Click on the picture below to increase its size, then Right Click and choose View Image on the drop down menu. You can then increase the size of the text.

1959 Crime Writers' Association Dinner

Photographs from the 1959 Crime Writers' Association Dinner. Some of the featured writers are, Herbert Harris, Charles Franklin, Jean Plaidy, Austin Lee, John Creasey, Dorothy Eden, Marjorie Allingham, Kenneth Royce, Mary Kelly, Josephine Bell, and Michael Underwood.

Terry-Thomas and Grundig

The wonderful Terry-Thomas advertising Grundig Tape Recorders in 1958.

The Art of Fiction by Georges Simenon

This is the first part of a long interview carried out by Carvel Collins with Georges Simenon and published in the August, 1959, issue of Books and Bookmen. Left Click on the picture below to increase its size, then Right Click and choose View Image on the drop down menu. You can then increase the size of the text. I will post the rest of the interview on here only if someone asks for it by leaving a message in the Comment Box.

Audrey Erskine Lindop

Her Moment of Success. From the April, 1958 issue of Books and Bookmen. Left Click on the picture below to increase its size, then Right Click and choose View Image on the drop down menu. You can then increase the size of the text.