Boutell’s First Editions of To-Day


Having a bit of a clear-out and I came across this: First Editions of To-Day and How to Tell Them, by H. S. Boutell, published by Elkin Mathews & Marrot in 1928.  A copy given to E. A. M. Norie for Christmas in that year – a thoughtful present to a young man still at Oxford – inscribed with love from his mother to her son, Evelyn Arundel Medows Norie (1908-1944), who died on active service in France in 1944.  I rather think that it’s a book I inherited from my predecessors, Hugh Jones and Cyril Nash.  Not a book I have looked at in years, much as I fondly remember it as one of my earliest introductions to the mysteries and eccentricities of the world of rare books, but simply because its contents were later subsumed in their entirety into the more recent compilations of Edward N.  Zempel and Linda A. Verkler, published in various ever-expanding editions as First Editions, A Guide to Identification, of which I still have a working copy within easy reach of my desk.

boutell1Boutell’s book first appeared at the height of that feverish and curious point in time when, for a few short years, collecting modern first editions was seen as the ultimately cool, sexy and fashionable thing to do.  That was obviously always going to end in tears – and it duly did, in the wake of the Wall Street Crash.  But the period also called forth a spate of guides to book-collecting, most of them meretricious and memorable only for the spectacularly wrong advice on who and what to collect as the best investment.  But Boutell’s book was a little different.  It aimed to answer that perennial question – one that booksellers are still asked weekly if not daily – “How do you tell if a book is a first edition?”  Boutell’s answer was so obvious that no-one else seems to have thought of it.  He simply wrote to all the leading publishers, on both sides of the Atlantic, and asked how they marked their first editions – and then reprinted their answers verbatim.

I shall confine my remarks to the British publishers – I am far more familiar with those – but it is interesting to note that publishers who operated on both sides of the Atlantic tended to do things differently in each jurisdiction.  In this country, the long-established Longmans, Green & Co. were confidence-inspiring: “We always date the title page of our books, and unless the book is marked “— Impression” or “— Edition” it is a first edition”.  Worth noting here – as Boutell was at pains to point out – is the explicit assumption that a subsequent impression (printing) even of the original edition was not and is not regarded as a “first edition” in collecting terms, whatever its technical status in bibliography.  Martin Secker was even more succinct: “Bibliographical entry on the reverse of the title page” – and this was more or less the answer given, albeit at rather greater length, by most of the British publishers.  T. Werner Laurie followed “the custom laid down by the Publishers’ Association” – a surprise to find that there were official guidelines.  No other publisher mentioned these, but they represented the most common British practice, stating “First published —” on the verso of the title-page and listing (where applicable) consecutive impressions and editions below that.

William Heinemann were among the most reliable of publishers, clearly outlining the boutell2publishing history of the book on the verso of the title-page – “We take great pains to get these bibliographical notes accurate and to discriminate carefully between new impressions and new editions”.  This had perhaps not always been the case, but was consistent from “soon after 1920”.  Methuen, another reliable publisher, had been using this standard system since 1905.  What Heinemann did not do, in a splendid old-school example of English haughtiness and condescension, was to “follow the American practice of printing the words ‘First Edition’ anywhere in our books.  This I believe is quite a recent idea inspired by the interest taken by the modern American in first editions of modern books”.  A strange statement from a business which had become essentially American-owned since the death of William Henry Heinemann in 1920, but such was the view from Bloomsbury.  Meanwhile, in Mayfair, the much older and more patrician firm of John Murray was doing just that: they had – “for some years” – been printing “First Edition” on the verso of the title-page – and why no other British publishers seem to have followed them down this fairly obvious route remains a puzzle.  But what is unclear from the Murray statement is whether they retained the “First Edition” designation on later impressions of that original edition.

Not all of the publishers were helpful.  Chatto & Windus stated that they “use no particular distinguishing sign to mark our first editions”, although I can’t recall their books (at least in the twentieth century) ever being particularly problematic.  The same can’t be said of W. Collins, Sons & Co., who likewise did “not adopt any special method”, but it becomes clear from the rest of their statement that although cheaper editions were noted, fresh impressions of the original edition were generally not.

boutell3Some publishers – booksellers will know them – were almost obstructive.  These are the publishers who cause the problems and where we need to fall back on a wall of bibliographies, the scouring of library catalogues, the skill and expertise of seasoned booksellers, and, not infrequently, a trip to the British Library to look at the copy deposited for copyright (and even that is not always conclusive): – Hodder & Stoughton: “We are unable to help you with regard to our First Editions, as our methods vary with every book”; Hutchinson & Co. – “We do not mark First Editions in any way”.  Nor did Hurst & Blackett, while Ward, Lock & Co. also had “no fixed method of designating our first editions”.

Herbert Jenkins were not much better, although they claimed that first editions were dated, reprints marked, and cheap editions undated – collectors of P. G. Wodehouse may know otherwise.  There were other publishers too who made claims that might raise an eyebrow.  J. W. Arrowsmith reported that fresh impressions of their books were clearly marked.  This may conceivably have been true in 1928, but it certainly was not back in the 1890s, when their best-sellers like Three Men in a Boat, Diary of a Nobody, and The Prisoner of Zenda first appeared.  All three – and especially the first – are distinctly problematic.  A. & C. Black were another to state that “subsequent editions and impressions are so noted” – a remark patently untrue at that time, as is witnessed by Colin Inman’s bibliography of their Colour Books and the later spin-offs.

Boutell’s enquiries obviously gave a number of publishers pause to think.  Some, like the Poetry Bookshop, promised to do better or to be more consistent in the future: W. & R. Chambers promised they would henceforth print the words “original edition” in the first impressions of their books.  They reiterated that this was their practice in two later editions of Boutell, so I assume that this was the case.  I can’t recall ever having seen a book so marked, but then I don’t appear to have had a book published by Chambers published later than 1896 pass through my hands for at least twenty years, so I can’t be sure.

boutell4The most entertaining entry comes from Frederick Warne & Co., who stated mysteriously, “We did at one time mark first editions of our publications with a private mark, but we are afraid the habit has been discontinued over a number of years now, and we have even lost trace of the private marks”.  Given the number of tiny variations in the Warne first editions of Beatrix Potter, I suspect this may be true, but on the whole, I think I would rather believe that this was a delicious hoax designed to give booksellers and book-collectors sleepless nights.  But does anyone know anything about these private marks? – do share.

[UPDATE] Peter Allen of Robert Temple Antiquarian Booksellers now writes to say that he thinks their private mark used in the 1880s and 1890s may have been an initialled shield stamped in blind on the back cover. He has generally found it only on books from their file library, one of which, at least, was apparently never published due (probably) to a copyright dispute – and in one instance on a copy of “Little Lord Fauntleroy” (1886) not from that source.

Perhaps oddly, in that this was a book for collectors published at the height of the issue-point mania of the time, none of the publishers appears to mention the ever-present possibility of different issues within that first impression.  Boutell would appear not to have asked the question.  His introduction in fact makes no real distinction between issue and impression.  The book offers no help in cases where, perhaps, the first impression appears in two or more different bindings, or variant dust-jackets, or where, say, some copies have cancelled leaves, but that said, in its quiet way, this was an invaluable book for collectors, at least in sorting the sheep from the goats in the publishing world.

What of H. S. Boutell himself? – a man in whose debt we genuinely remain.  Most striking of all is that he was just twenty-three years of age when he produced the book.  Born at the American Legation at Bern in Switzerland on 11th August 1905, Henry Sherman Boutell (1905-1931) – grandson of the American lawyer and diplomat of the same name – is recorded variously as writer, literary agent, and bibliographer.  He seems to have had some connection with the London Mercury and co-authored a piece on Robert Frost for The Colophon in 1930.  His name turns up in the passenger lists on a number of transatlantic crossings in the 1920s, as well as in Hawaii and New Zealand, sometimes in the company of his parents, the lawyer Roger Sherman Gates Boutell (1881-1962) and his wife Avis Burley (1883-1962), who had married in Chicago in 1904 – and sometimes too in the company of Anita Day Porterfield, née Day (1895-1972), an American literary agent ten years his senior, whom he was to marry in 1930, the year before his own shockingly early death in London on 23rd March 1931 at the age of twenty-five.

The later editions of 1937 (some authorities give 1939) and 1949, both published in the United States, were enlarged and expanded by Roger Boutell – I assume his younger brother, a second Roger Sherman Gates Boutell (1914-1993), but his father was still alive at this point, so I am not entirely sure.  A fourth edition, revised and enlarged by Wanda Underhill, appeared in 1965.  The whole corpus of accumulated material from the first three editions, together with material from their own 1977 A First Edition? Statements of Selected North American, British Commonwealth, and Irish Publishers, was absorbed into Zempel and Verkler’s First Editions, A Guide to Identification, which itself ran through four editions between 1984 and 2001.  Get a copy of any of these if you have a mind to.  Some of the more obscure methods of designating first editions employed by some of the more transient publishers are things of joy.  But better than that, these statements direct from the publishers take you deeper into the books they published and, in their waywardness and idiosyncrasy, make you relish them all the more.

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Designer Bookbinders Prize-Giving 2018

Sundrie Pieces - binding by Kaori Maki

Sundrie Pieces – binding by Kaori Maki. © Designer Bookbinders

Invariably a pleasure to go along to the annual Designer Bookbinders prize-giving evening.  Always interesting work to be seen and interesting people to talk to.  I had already been fortunate enough to have seen and been able to handle most of the books at the judging day a few weeks ago, which gives a certain advantage – books and bindings need to be handled to be fully appreciated.  But they can also look quite different when show-cased and put on display.  An example of that is this binding by Kaori Maki (Sundrie Pieces by George Herbert) which very deservedly won one of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association’s Highly Commended Certificates (judged by current President Angus O’Neill of the Omega Bookshop).

I hadn’t really noticed the binding on the judging day – I can’t actually recall seeing it (and may actually not have done) – but lit up and on show it is quite superb, giving at once both the impression of being carefully sculpted and of being fully alive.  You can see it along with other bindings from the competition at the St. Bride Foundation in Bride Lane, off Fleet Street, until 27th November.

The Illustrated Man - binding by Glenn Malkin. © Designer Bookbinders

The Illustrated Man – binding by Glenn Malkin. © Designer Bookbinders

Another of the ABA’s Highly Commended Certificates went to this equally deserving binding by Glenn Malkin on this year’s set book (The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury).  This one I had seen earlier and fully concurred with our President’s judgement.

The set books are supplied by the Folio Society and the Society’s own first prize for Best Set Book went to Mel Jefferson.

The Illustrated Man - binding by Mel Jefferson. © Designer Bookbinders

The Illustrated Man – binding by Mel Jefferson. © Designer Bookbinders

This is the book which then went on to win the Mansfield Medal for the Best Book in the entire competition.  Mel Jefferson also won the Harmatan Leather Prize for another quite different binding (you can see it, along with all the other prize-winners on the Designer Bookbinders website).

The runner-up for the Folio Society Prize went to Gillian Stewart for the binding below, which personally I liked just as much (a little more actually).

The Illustrated Man - binding by Gillian Stewart. © Designer Bookbinders.

The Illustrated Man – binding by Gillian Stewart. © Designer Bookbinders.

I was also rather taken by Miranda Kemp’s take on the set book, which won the St. Bride Foundation Prize for Finishing, although I seem to think it was being displayed the other way up at St. Bride’s last night.

But the binding I liked the best of all was Clare Bryan’s interpretation of The Illustrated Man.  I gave it my own Ash Rare Books Lettering Award for its imaginative use of letters and numbers, fully integrated into the overall design, and for its innovative use of technology – the design was somehow printed directly on to the leather in a technique I’m not sure I’ve come across in bookbinding before.  Not conventional tooling by any means, but innovative and beautifully executed.

The Illustrated Man - binding by Clare Bryan. © Designer Bookbinders.

The Illustrated Man – binding by Clare Bryan. © Designer Bookbinders.

And – of course – what you can’t possibly see here is the way the book comes alive as it slides out of its slip-case – as it slips past a diagonally striped transparent screen, the figures really do seem to flicker into life.  An immensely satisfying piece of work and – the whole binding extremely well made and perfect for the text inside – and, had I had a say in it, it would have been given a bigger prize still.

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W. L. Walton


© Getty Images, Science & Society Picture Library.

Given that his work is found in all the major collections and that it includes some of the most defining and memorable images of the nineteenth century, it is in a way surprising that no-one has ever thought to establish who the artist, engraver, and (above all) lithographer, W. L. Walton actually was.  Take, for example, this extraordinary predictive image of a flying-machine hovering over London published in 1843 – “The Ariel” – brainchild of William Henson and John Stringfellow, who had patented the design the previous year and intended their Aerial Steam Transit Company to become an airborne freight company.  There is a companion print of the flying-machine over the Egyptian pyramids.  Neither “The Ariel” nor the company ever actually got off the ground, but the partners were working along the right lines and their ideas lay behind the earliest successful aeroplanes.

Death of Albert

© Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images.

Amongst Walton’s other lithographs are impressive views of the Great Exhibition, powerful images of Balaklava and Sevastopol at the time of the Crimean War, and that high-point of Victorian mawkishness, “The Last Moments of H.R.H. the Prince Consort”, commemorating the death of Albert at Windsor Castle in December 1861.  There is too that most charming and popular of Victorian cricket prints, “The Cricket Match, Tonbridge School” – and, not least, the quite remarkable “International Contest Between Heenan and Sayers at Farnborough, on the 17th of April, 1860” – a depiction of a boxing match for the world championship between the great Tom Sayers and the American champion, John Heenan – the faces of 250 notables in the crowd all captured from photographs taken at the event and faithfully depicted by Walton.

Cricket at Tonbridge School

The Cricket Match, Tonbridge School. ©

I wanted to establish something more about W. L. Walton for some work I am doing on the parish maps of London – one of his earliest and least-known works was his rendition of Anthony Portington’s map of St. Pancras published in 1829.  His first name is sometimes given as William (which is correct) and his dates are sometimes given as 1796-1872 (which are not) – apart from that nothing seems previously to have been established.  Scouring the internet produced not much more than the fact that someone on Etsy has stolen my entire description of an early Walton print word-for-word without any acknowledgement – the second example of such aggravating piracy in a week, although at least the other culprit had the decency to buy the book from me before regurgitating my description – again word-for-word and without acknowledgement. This is tiresome.

Extract from 1851 Census

© National Archives

Walton’s full name was in fact William Louis Walton, but what made him particularly difficult to trace was that he himself was not sure when or where he was born.  You can see in the extract from the 1851 Census Return, when he and his family were living on Homerton High Street, that his place of birth is indicated only by “n.k.” – not known – and although his age is given as thirty-six (suggesting a birth-date of about 1815, which can hardly be right as he was producing prints at least as early as 1827), this has clearly been an afterthought added in over another “n.k.”.  In 1861 he suggested a revised birth-date of about 1811 and that he had been born in Hackney, but although his age remained consistent with that in 1871, his place of birth was once more recorded as unknown.

Sayers v Heenan 1860

The International Contest Between Heenan and Sayers at Farnborough, on the 17th of April, 1860. © Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 775144.

At the time of his marriage to Sophia Robinson Dent (1824-1907), the daughter of a corn-factor, at St. Olave, Hart Street, on 1st July 1843, his father’s name was said to be Joseph (occupation naval officer), so I suspect that in reality he was the William Walton born on the 18th June 1808, son of Joseph and Jane Walton, who was baptised at St. Matthew, Bethnal Green (near enough to Hackney), on the 17th July 1808 – this is a date which fits much better with his recorded career.

There is no record of his having used the middle name Louis early in life and I rather think that he simply adopted it at some point, perhaps in homage to that great lithographic artist Louis Haghe (1806-1885), whom he must have known through their mutual close connections with the foremost lithographic printers of the period, William Day and Charles Joseph Hullmandel.  Similarities in style are readily seen and I rather think that Haghe was perhaps Walton’s mentor, which further leads to the thought that Walton could well have been related to his contemporary, Joseph Fowell Walton, who became Hullmandel’s partner in the 1840s.

As for the rest of the record of his life, William Louis Walton (1808?-1879) exhibited landscapes at the Royal Society of British Artists 1837-1840 and at the Royal Academy in 1855.  He had three daughters – Sophia Lucy Walton, later Sharpe (1843-1920), Edith Berengaria Constance Walton, later Carr (1855-1940), and Isabel or Isabella Rowena Walton, born in Kingston, Surrey, in 1858, but whom I have been unable to trace beyond 1871.

Houses in Torriano Avenue

Houses in Torriano Avenue / Hampshire Street, NW5 cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Mike Quinn –

Walton lived the peripatetic life of an artist, living at various time in every quarter of London – from Hammersmith in the west, Kennington in the south, Homerton in the east, and Kentish Town in the north.  One address in particular stood out – No. 1 Torriano Avenue, Kentish Town, where he and his family were living in the early 1860s.  It was an address which sounded vaguely familiar.  It took me a little while to recall the connection – but strangely, unaccountably, remarkably – this was the very same house occupied either side of 1900 by the sisters Laetitia Worms, Rosetta Worms, Emily Worms, Eliza Worms and Hannah Worms.  All five of the sisters were originally involved in running their own business in manufacturing fancy items made of wool – baby-boots, dresses for children, etc., – although by 1901 only Emily (the crochet expert) was still plying that trade.  The eldest sister, Laetitia, deaf and dumb since birth, had retired, Rosetta was running the house although doubling as a pianist, for the younger sisters were now running a music and dance academy from the house, with Eliza the music-teacher and Hannah the dance-instructor.  And, yes – they were my second cousins (albeit four times removed) – and no, I can’t knit, sing, or dance.

Family digression aside, William Louis Walton, having lived to see at least two daughters married, living once more in Torriano Avenue, but now at No. 119, died on the 14th May 1879.  Probate on a somewhat meagre estate for such a versatile, gifted and industrious man – it was valued at under £200 – was granted to his widow on the 7th August 1879. A man who deserves rather better from posterity.


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Victorian Opulence

Segg's London & Fashionable Resorts 1888I acquired a nineteenth-century London guide-book a few weeks ago – nothing much unusual in that.  Something I have been doing routinely, almost reflexively, for more years than any of us care to remember.  What was unusual was that it was not one I had ever come across before, at least to the best of my recollection (although these days my recollection is becoming as frayed at the edges as most of my shirts).  Unusual too, in that I had never come across the publisher before – and, to pass on a tip given to me by an old-time bookseller many years ago – while it’s by no means unusual to come across a previously unknown author or title, if you come across a previously unencountered London publisher (at least in your regular field), then the book is very likely a rare one.

The guide-book is called “London and Fashionable Resorts, (Illustrated): A Complete Guide to the Places of Amusement, Objects of Interest, Parks, Clubs, Markets, Docks, Leading Hotels, and also a Directory, in Concise Form, of First Class Reliable Houses in the Various Branches of Trade” – published by J. P. Segg & Co. of Regent Street in 1888, and claiming to be in its seventeenth year of publication.  What is even more unusual about it is its size – it’s usually a prerequisite of a guidebook that even if not fully pocketable it should at least be readily portable – but this is large (elephant octavo) – and it is heavy – elaborate cloth gilt over thick bevelled boards, all edges gilt, and 240 pages of creamy paper.

The text printed throughout in purple and gold, as if designed for visiting emperors, this is clearly a guide-book for those for whom travelling light would have been unthinkable.  We are in a world of indulgence, a world of footmen and flunkies.  Priced at a guinea – that’s over £100 in today’s terms, nearer £500 relative to average earnings – this is a guide-book for the rich and privileged.

Remington Standard Type-Writer 1888Beyond the polychromatic title-page, there are indices to the “business announcements” – advertisements for the exclusive from silk to champagne – Madame Clarisse of Park Lane for the “prettiest children’s dresses in London” and afternoon tea; Madame Kerswell of Grosvenor Street, court dressmaker; Litsica, Marx & Co. of the Strand for your cigarettes; E. M. Reilly & Co. of London and Paris for your guns and ammunition – and even that ultimate status symbol in 1888 –  an imported Remington type-writer – “No more writer’s cramp! No more round shoulders! No more late hours! No more delayed correspondence! No more illegible letters!” – sole London office, Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict of Gracechurch Street (you would, of course, I imagine, have had a personal assistant to work it for you).

Madame LeckyThere follows a more or less standard piece on London and its principal thoroughfares and buildings, illustrated with purple wood-engravings – all routine enough, although the wildly idiosyncratic (and not wholly accurate) six-page timeline of London history had me smiling.  Then the commercial business of the guide really begins – editorial write-ups in glowing terms of the of the dozen or so “leading houses” (principally, but not exclusively, those who had paid out for a full-page advertisement) – Piesse & Lubin of New Bond Street for their exquisite perfumes; Mrs E. Billinghay Hart of Belgravia for her corsets; Messrs Barkentin & Krall of Regent Street (coincidentally occupying the ground floor of the publisher’s office) for gold and jewels; Arthur Tooth & Sons of the Haymarket for works of art; J. H. Dallmayer of Bloomsbury for telescopes, etc.

Ellen TerryNext comes a splendid “Album of Operatic, Dramatic, and Musical Celebrities” – fifteen portraits – Ellen Terry, Adelina Patti, Madame Albani, Lily Langtry, all the big stars of the day – backed up by pages of advertisements for the theatres. The railways feature next, but we are not talking here about day-trips to the seaside – the advertisements are for glamorous international travel – to Paris and beyond, via Dover and Calais; or by “the most picturesque route” via Newhaven, Dieppe or Rouen; or from Liverpool Street with the Great Eastern via Harwich and Antwerp or Rotterdam.  And not just by train, there are luxury steamships sailing to every port in the world. But we are still in London for the moment – and here are the best hotels: a double-page spread for the Langham; single pages for the Charing Cross Hotel (under entirely new management); the Westminster Palace; the South Kensington; Rawlings’s of Jermyn Street; Brown’s of Dover Street, and half a dozen more.

Advertisement for J. P. Segg & Co. 1888The final third of the book is a separate section on the “fashionable resorts” outside London – Brighton, Bournemouth, Eastbourne, Hastings and dozens more, interspersed with advertisements for palatial hotels across the country, but it is in the publisher’s own advertisements that we can see the reality of the publication: J. P. Segg & Co. ran a free postal advice service, perhaps something like a Victorian Trivago or TripAdvisor, but were also advertising contractors for the hotel trade – offering to undertake “the whole of their advertising – in journals, hotels, railway stations, etc., etc. Particulars on application”.

No surprise to find that Segg also published a parallel guide, virtually identical in format, called “The Hotels of Europe, America, Asia, Australasia & Africa : With Maps and Railway and Steamship Routes” – “a marvel of publishing skill and artistic beauty—nothing more can be said of it save that it stands unique” (Scots Magazine, 1st October 1894).  I shall return to the mysterious John Philip Segg in a moment, but a number of the wood-engraved illustrations are signed in the block as having been engraved by Henry Herbert, which takes us back to the earliest editions of both these guides, published back in the 1870s by that same Henry Herbert – Segg had only taken them over in the mid-1880s.

Lyceum TheatreThe earliest edition of the London guide was published by Herbert in 1872 under a slightly different title (“London. A Complete Guide to the Leading Hotels, Places of Amusement …”).  The dark green binding is less elaborate, but still richly gilt, the text slimmer at 180 pages, but the price and format are the same – each page with a charming chromolithographic border in gold and colours, the emphasis already on luxury and conspicuous consumption.  Despite the greater prominence given to hotels in the title, only seven are actually featured (with only the Langham appearing in both editions – fashions change fast in this world).  Herbert’s emphasis was rather more on the retail shops, with advertisements for silk, chandeliers, chronometers, damask table linen, portmanteaus, hats, jewellery, kid gloves, perfumes, cut-glass, ivory-backed brushes, merino socks, whips, cigars, carriages, oriental carpets, Elliott & Fry’s Talbotype Gallery for photography (with a specimen photograph of a simpering blonde), and boots and shoes “as worn by the Princess of Wales” from Gundry & Sons of Soho Square.

Anchor LineA number of the advertisements, including that placed by “The Graphic” magazine, address themselves particularly to American visitors – and Henry Herbert was himself running an “American Agency” – free advice on all matters from his office in Charterhouse Buildings and “goods of all descriptions purchased and shipped on moderate commission”.  The map of London was supplied by Edward Stanford and most of the illustrations of London buildings in the guide section are two-to-a-page steel engravings by J. T. Wood of the Strand (for whom see this earlier post).  They look a little untidy, out of place, and definitely outmoded in an otherwise slickly produced exercise in chromolithography and were soon abandoned in subsequent editions.

Henry HerbertWhether Henry Jacob Herbert (1838-1884) genuinely engraved his own replacement engravings I somehow doubt, although the signatures in the blocks are clear enough.  He had no background in engraving, or even in publishing.  He was the son of a comfortably-off Nottingham lace manufacturer and that was originally his own occupation until he left the family business at the age of twenty-five.  Now living in London, he was described somewhat nebulously as a manufacturer and foreign merchant in 1871, before he began his foray into top-end publishing the following year.  The London guide-book was followed by the international hotel guide in 1874, originally confined to the hotels of Europe.

Hoses of Parliament, engraved by Henry HerbertHerbert’s only other publication, as far as I can make out, was “Herbert’s Metropolitan Hand-Book for Railways, Tramways, Omnibuses, River Steamboats, and Cab Fares”, published from 1875 onwards, illustrated with maps from Bradshaw and Bartholomew, later becoming “Sights of London Illustrated: and Metropolitan Handbook for Railways”.  This was pitched at completely the opposite end of the market – a cheap and entirely pocketable guide to public transport – “This handbook will be of the greatest service … correct in detail, well arranged, and of a very handy size, whilst its moderate price brings it within the reach of nearly everyone, being as cheap an eighteenpennyworth of the kind as has ever been offered to the public” (Hampshire Advertiser, 20th February 1875).

Whether Herbert had judged the market correctly at either end of the spectrum, I rather doubt. All three of his publications seem to be inordinately scarce.  I imagine it was all financed on inherited money, but however that may be, time for Herbert was running out.  After several years of ill-health, medical complications, and radical surgery – by now also troubled with mounting business and financial worries – Herbert committed a painful and long-drawn-out suicide at his home in Sheen Park, Richmond, by drinking the best part a bottle of carbolic acid. A harrowing account of the inquest was published in the “Surrey Comet”, Saturday 12th January 1884.

Edwards' Royal Cambridge HotelPublication of the two large guides was then taken over by J. P. Segg & Co., which brought a puzzle, because I could find no trace of any real person of the name of John Philip Segg.  As it turned out, revealed in reports of a bankruptcy hearing in 1886, this was the trading name of one George Eustace Skliros, a Greek dentist who had been practicing in London since at least 1878.  Skliros had presumably overstretched himself in taking on and financing the guides, with premises in both Bouverie Street for the printing and Regent Street for the administration.  He had also just started a new publication called “Future Careers for our Sons and Daughters at Home and Abroad”.  The first part of that had appeared in late 1885, was very well received by the press, and had some distinguished writers, including the printer and journalist Emily Faithfull on “Employment for Women”. This appears not to have survived his bankruptcy, but the guides did and Skliros was soon released from his obligations and resumed their publication.


Queens Hotel, EastbourneQuite why a Greek dentist moved sideways into the field of luxury guide-books, I have no idea, because George Eustace Skliros took his dentistry very seriously.  He continued to practice in the Segg offices in Regent Street and as late as 1915 was sharing those offices with two other dentists.  He became the publisher of the “British Journal of Dental Science” for a number of years, and if we look at the other publications of J. P. Segg & Co. – this is what the imprint is best known for – they are all books on dentistry: Richard Denison Pedley’s “The Teeth of Pauper Children”, “The Diseases of Children’s Teeth”, and “The Hygiene of the Mouth”; Edmund Roughton’s “Oral Surgery” and “General Surgery and Pathology for Dentists”; Thomas Edward Constant’s “How to Give Gas. With a Detailed Description of the Apparatus Employed”; a translation of Nathaniel Feuer’s “The Relation between Affections of the Teeth and of the Eyes”; George Cunningham’s “Defective Personal Hygiene as it Affects the Teeth”; Harry Rose’s “Dental Mechanics” and “Vulcanite Work”; Sidney Spokes’ “The Care of the Teeth during School Life”, etc.

Skliros discontinued publishing the guide-books after 1903 – the final edition of the London guide in that year retains most of the earlier features, but the London section has contracted in favour of the other fashionable resorts, the crisp wood-engraved portraits of the celebrities have largely been replaced by not wholly satisfactory blurry photographs, and beyond the theatre and hotel advertising there is very little else. It was an era which had probably come to an end.

Skliros himself continued his agency work, becoming also a shipping agent and import-export wholesaler. In 1905 J. P. Segg & Co. won the contract to print the elaborate commemorative stamps for the following year’s Olympic Games in Athens – highly prized by philatelists, I believe.  Always in the vanguard of technology – Skliros had been one of the first men in London to own a telephone back in the 1880s – and in yet another inexplicable departure from dentistry, Skliros opened a “cinematograph theatre” in Rotherhithe – he got into trouble with the authorities in 1911 for showing films on a Sunday.

In 1916, he patented a device for alleviating back-pain – some kind of hot-water bottle strapped to the lower back – and there was also the curious case of the extortion trial at Marlborough Street in 1910, where Skliros stood accused of having tried to blackmail the former Greek Minister in London, Demetrius Metaxas, over some money alleged to be owing.  A trial perhaps most notable for the fact that Metaxas was represented by the brilliant and mercurial F. E. Smith – although even this greatest of barristers couldn’t get the charge to stick – but that is perhaps a story for another day.

Skliros remained registered as a dentist until 1920 and continued to be listed in London telephone directories until 1924, but then apparently returned to Greece, where he is reported to have died at Lefkas in or about 1932.  He had given his age as forty on the 1891 Census, but the same undocumented source for his death suggests that he may have been some ten years older. In either event, it was a life fully lived and we can be grateful to both him and his unfortunate predecessor, Henry Herbert – two unconventional outsiders – for preserving these glimpses into a forgotten world of Victorian opulence.

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James Reynolds and his Transparent Diagrams

Reynolds' DiagramsSeptember again, so off for my annual visit to the York Book Fair last weekend.  For once I’ll gloss over the startling inadequacies of both my riverside hotel and the Italian restaurant nearby, because it remained a thoroughly enjoyable couple of days nonetheless.  Lots of book-chat (and a modicum of gossip) with friends old and new, old and young – and an excellent haul at the fair itself, in fact my best haul at York in some years.

Lots of purchases I could very easily write about, but my favourite is this attractive Victorian cloth folder simply titled “Diagrams of Geology, History, and Physical Geography”.  Inside are eighteen attractive diagrams on card, all published by James Reynolds (1817-1876) of 174 Strand in London, with two (“Waterfalls” and “Eclipses”) bearing the additional imprints of other contemporary London publishers.  Most of the diagrams also feature explanatory notes. Not all are dated, but those which are range in date from 1846 to 1850, and the topics covered veer off into architecture, astronomy, ethnography, and the prehistoric, as well as those promised on the cover.

Comparative Magnitudes of the Planets

Twelve of the cards bear the additional information that they were drawn and engraved by John Emslie.  One – a “Geographical Diagram of the Earth Adapted for Illustrating its Movements” has two volvelles (and who doesn’t love a volvelle?) – but, best of all, four of the diagrams (“Transparent Diagram of the Phases of the Moon”, “Transparent Chart of the Heavens”, “Transparent Solar System”, and “Comparative Magnitudes of the Planets”) are – as the titles imply – constructed with cut-outs and translucent papers, so that when the card is held to the light the image is brilliantly lit up to the pleasure and delight of the viewer.  “Oh, wow! – That’s amazing” has been the most frequent response to everyone I’ve shown them to this week (which is just about everyone I’ve seen – everyone who’s come to the house, plus a few random passers-by).

Transparent Diagram of the Phases of the Moon

As I had only just bought from a nearby stand a copy of Reynolds’ 1851 Great Exhibition map of London (engraved by the unfortunate Henry Martin, and with Emslie’s little map of the “Chief Objects of Interest in London” also included in the case), it was turning into something of a Reynolds day.  He is someone that I have long felt has never been given his just due as an innovative and important publisher. The Exhibition Map of LondonBorn in Islington, his father was a printer, but Reynolds had set up for himself in the Strand by the 1830s and proceeded to produce a stream of instructive and educational material – standard maps and atlases, of course, but also thematic maps – astronomical maps, geological maps, zoological maps, botanical maps, tidal charts, physical maps, meteorological maps, ethnographic maps, geognostic profiles, and more. He was the first in the field in London on a number of these counts, and although he operated mainly at the cheaper end of the market, his work was always accurate and reliable.  He routinely employed geographers as distinguished as Ernest George Ravenstein (1834-1913) and the geologist Professor John Morris (1810-1886) to advise on and construct his maps.

Advertisement for larger paper charts for schools. London Daily News, 9th July 1847 © British Library Board

Advertisement for larger paper diagrams for schools. London Daily News, 9th July 1847 © British Library Board

The card diagrams in the folder illustrate everything that he was about – inexpensive but very attractive and fully up-to-date educational tools to be employed in the class-room and elsewhere.  And he produced very large numbers of them.  I have seen it said that the diagrams were sold in sets of twelve, but the present folder contains eighteen, while the last one I had contained just eight (including two transparent diagrams, one of the moon, and one of the stellar universe, not replicated here). The Antediluvian WorldSome may have been mislaid over the years, of course, but I am fairly sure that the diagrams were originally sold individually and that you could go into his shop (frequently referred to as a print warehouse) and make an ad hoc selection for which a folder would be provided if you bought a sufficient number.

Reynolds and his family lived all his working life over the shop on the Strand and after his death, in 1876, the business was continued on into the twentieth century as “James Reynolds & Sons” by his sons William Henry Reynolds (1847-1907) and Frederick Reynolds (b.1850). His daughter, Alice Mary Reynolds (b.1852), also worked for the firm as a chromolithographic artist.

Stokes’s Capital Mnemonical Globe, 1868 © Barron Maps

Stokes’s Capital Mnemonical Globe, 1868 © Barron Maps

Reynolds’ frequent collaborator over many years, John Emslie (1813-1875), was another native Londoner, born near the Elephant & Castle, and the son of a post-office clerk.  Trained as an engraver, he is remembered for heraldic work and portraits, as well as his work on Ruskin’s “Modern Painters” (1856-1860), but increasingly over the years he came to specialise in maps and technical material, frequently as a skilled draughtsman as well as an engraver. He lived for most of his life on or near the Gray’s Inn Road and was followed into the business by his own two sons, John Philipps Emslie (1839-1913) and William Roland Emslie (1842-1918).  A collection of almost 200 of his engravings was donated to the British Museum in 1913, but a personal favourite is the somewhat surreal “Stokes’s Capital Mnemonical Globe” of 1868, engraved by Emslie & Sons for William Stokes, “Teacher of Memory” at the Royal Polytechnic Institution on Regent Street, for more on whom see Rod Barron’s excellent website.

For some individual Reynolds charts and diagrams, as well as full details of the folder, see the Ash Rare Books website.

Posted in Antique Maps, Book Collecting, Book Fairs, Engravers, London Map Trade, Mapsellers, Printsellers | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ribble Ramble

Neil Summersgill's Stock

A brief excursion northwards last week.  In truth, much more of a mini-break than a serious book-hunting expedition – but we did hire a car and spend one day on the book trail.  First stop was a warm welcome at the hilltop lair of Neil Summersgill high above the Ribble Valley, somewhere north-west of Blackburn.  Fantastic views on a clear day, we were told – actually they were pretty good even in the half-mist.  Neil is someone I’ve been buying books from fairly regularly at book-fairs over the last few years – one of those people who always seems to have something irresistible – and I’ve even managed to sell quite a number of them.

Neil Summersgill's Study

His stock at home (viewable strictly by appointment) didn’t in any way disappoint.  The books in truly excellent condition – and very reasonably priced.

Neil Summersgill

Neil Summersgill

Lots of nineteenth-century literature, plenty of other things too – but nothing modern or dust-jacketed.  A boxful of books soon picked out and assembled, which Neil will send on when he returns from his annual American road-trip.

And of course, when booksellers meet it’s not just a matter of buying and selling.  There’s gossip too and anecdotes of past times.  Unsurprisingly, we agreed on the iniquity and uselessness of the big banks – his family’s experiences long and bitter.  It wasn’t always so: my first bank manager backed me to the hilt when I first set up for myself at the age of twenty-three, but then that was back in the blessed days before we ceded the world entirely to the interests of corrupt multinationals and all the crony-corporatism of globalist big business.  It would, needless to say, never happen now.

Richard Thornton's Stock

A tasty sandwich in the local pub and then on to Richard Thornton about ten minutes away.  I’ve bought a dozen or more books from Richard on the internet over the years (he’s been selling that way for twenty years now) – an E. M. Forster, a Ted Hughes, a couple of Philip Larkins, and a particularly nice Tom Stoppard, I seem to recall – but although he was based in London until five years ago, I don’t think we had ever met until now.

Richard Thornton

Richard Thornton

Another warm welcome and a very large stock to look at – some 15,000 books apparently (again viewable strictly by appointment) – mainly modern literature, but children’s books, sport and history too.  Prices very reasonable indeed and another boxful to be sent on soon found.  We briefly discussed another bookseller in the neighbourhood who had curiously told me on the telephone that he really didn’t want me to come and visit – a bit more chat – our book-buying almost done for the day and then on to a rather damp Clitheroe for a (purely medicinal) cream tea.  A very satisfactory day out.  Good books, good booksellers.

Richard Thornton's Car

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Memory Lane

words etcetera

A friend and former neighbour recently asked me a question about a book I sold on her behalf years and years ago – not a question I could answer from memory.  I descended to the cellar to comb through a bank of rusty old filing cabinets.  Still (as yet) no answer to her particular question, but a number of other questions raised.



All those old invoices – thousands of them – from those pre-internet days when printed catalogues and roneoed monthly hand-lists were the staple of the trade.  Lots of the names still familiar – old friends like Jonathan Potter, or Brian Lake of Jarndyce, or Julian Nangle in his Words Etcetera days – peripatetic even then, with addresses always soon out of date; invoices from the good people at Bayntun’s in Bath, and Marrin & Sons of Folkestone – both still going strong.



There were bills from book-trade legends like Charles William Traylen (1905-2002) of Guildford – a bookseller for eighty years – an invoice for £2,000 from him dated 1979 – that must have been close to an entire annual salary for a bookshop assistant back then.  I played cricket with Charlie Traylen once – in what I think was the last of the old Guv’nors v Bibliomites matches, somewhere in the mid-1970s.   He was skippering the Guv’nors.  “Have we tossed up yet?”, I asked him.  “No – we don’t bother with any of that.  Just go and tell them we’re batting first” – and in those more hierarchical and deferential times, so we did.


I can recall going down to Guildford to collect the book – I seem to remember that the safe or strong-room where the valuable books were kept was rather larger than my entire shop.  Was that the same day I called in on Thomas Thorp (1909-1999) on the High Street?  I rather think it was.  I found one of my regular customers, who lived down that way, dithering over buying what must have been the finest set of “Great Expectations” in the world – original cloth and nigh-on immaculate.  “Should I buy it?”, he asked me.  “Well, if you’re not, then I certainly am”, I responded (there was some demur over this from the Thorp staff, who had perhaps begun to sense that they might be able to offer it rather more profitably to other private customers, if only I would shut up for minute).  My customer eventually heaved a sigh and bought it – and I’ve vainly nursed the hope over nearly forty years that it might one day come my way again.

thomas thorp

Strange to think that these older booksellers I once knew were born over a century ago now, but then I had been trained – half-trained (or half-tamed) might be rather more accurate – by Hugh Ernest Jones (1895-1980) and Cyril Gordon Nash (1899-1982), both born in the nineteenth century. They topped and tailed their surnames to produce the old “Jon Ash” trading name.

peter jolliffe

There were early invoices from the late and much-lamented Peter Jolliffe (1947-2007) when he was still in Oxford – in those palmy days when we could still afford to buy his wonderful books.  I can remember him delivering the first batch from his first list in person – I think the first time we met.  david lowThere were also a couple of invoices from the well-known David Low (1903-1987), author of that highly engaging bookselling memoir “With All Faults” (1973) – bookselling and bookshops in London, Scotland, Ireland and France from the 1920s onwards, with an introduction by no less a personage than Graham Greene.  A note from David on his stylish notepaper dated 24th February 1979 informed me that he still had a few hundred copies left of the 3,000 originally printed.

kcjacobThere were also multiple hand-written invoices and large numbers of books from K. C. Jacob of 8 Chapel Street, Warmington, Peterborough, of whom I can recall nothing at all.  Does anyone? Was this Kate Caroline Jacob (1910-1983), whose death was registered some twenty miles from Peterborough in 1983? – or someone else altogether?  There were also invoices for some relatively expensive books from Michael Lewis of Ashley House, Croscombe, near Wells in Somerset, with his Bewick letter-heading.  I’m fairly sure he was someone I never met or visited.

michael lewis


And then some really rather nice books from Mary Crutch (1925-2004), née Carroll, of 10 Ardbeg Road, Herne Hill, in South London – can anyone enlighten us further about her?

mary crutch

Or does anyone have anything at all to tell of Mrs P. D. Leaver of Stratton St. Margaret near Swindon, who sold me an obscure pamphlet on London dialect for very little money in 1973.  I have it still – it’s still the only copy I have ever seen (and it came with very good first edition of “Nicholas Nickleby” for a fiver).  Was this the Penelope Diana Leaver, née Corbet, who served on Harrow Council for a time, taking charge of the resettlement of Ugandan Asian refugees in the borough in 1972?  Or is this just a coincidence of names?



There were invoices from Derrick Nightingale (1926-2008) of Coombe Road, Kingston-upon-Thames – someone I do recall and whose shop I used to visit at least once a year.  Also in Kingston was R. Wilson Rose – Raymond Wilson Rose (1928-1998), but I don’t think we never met.


D. S. Gunyon of Sandwich High Street was another bookseller from whom I bought a good number of books back in the 1970s.  This was not a shop I ever visited, but it belonged to Dorothy Sibyl Gunyon (1909-1988), who seems to have come to bookselling in later life.  Thesaurus (Jersey) Ltd. of St. Helier in Jersey was another regular supplier.  The business was owned by Irene Creaton (1944-2015) – but again someone I never met.  And who can recall the Beacon Book Company of Thatcham?


irene creaton


Lots of tiny invoices written in a minuscule hand by John F. B. Pragnell of Christchurch – john pragnellI evidently bought a great many books from him, but can’t remember anything else.  And there were invoices too from J. P. Krutina of Rottingdean – Joseph Peter Krutina (1907-1985), a bookseller who began his career in the 1920s, someone I think I would rather have liked to have met, but I’m fairly sure I never did.


Do get in touch if you have anything to add, stories to tell, or reminiscences to share – and if the response is krutinaeither interesting or interested, I might well continue on into a further post with a raft of further names from that era.


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The Confessions of a Book-Hunter – 1926


“I belong to that class of unfortunate beings who are addicted to a habit which it is not easy to break off.  This sounds alarming, but let me assure you that neither drug nor dram is the cause of my undoing, and that I have no intention of following in the foot-steps of the English Opium-Eater. The truth is that I am a bibliophile, and I suffer a complaint common to the tribe, namely a feverish appetite which can only be assuaged by choice tit-bits in the form of ancient quartos and duodecimos”.

The Bookmans' Journal, July 1926.So far, so good – the opening paragraph of an article headed The Confessions of a Book-Hunter, which appeared in the July 1926 issue of The Bookman’s Journal.  But as I read on, I began to have my doubts – this didn’t really sound as if it had been written by someone familiar with, or wholly at ease, with the language of books.  The sticking-point came with the author’s tale of his having discovered “some years ago” that black tulip among books, a copy of Shelley’s anonymous “lost” first book, written with his sister, Elizabeth – Original Poetry, by Victor and Cazire (1810) – in a “particularly dirty bookshop, small, dark and dusty” in the backwaters of Hastings.  He had come out without any money on him, but having hurried home to get some, returned to find that the book been sold for threepence to the book-collector Mr Nicholls [sic] of Barnesbury [sic].  After the death of this collector, the book was subsequently sold at Sotheby’s for £600.

This story cannot possibly be true.  Fake news from 1926. The book-collector Adolphus Frederick Nichols (1811-1902) of 25 Arundel Square, Barnsbury, is thought to have acquired his copy of Original Poetry, by Victor and Cazire for sixpence (almost certainly without realising it was by Shelley and his sister) on November 23rd 1876 (before he lived in Barnsbury).  Nichols died on 19th February 1902.  This book was then indeed sold at Sotheby’s – on November 2nd 1903, and indeed for £600 – then a record price for any nineteenth-century book – but the author of these fake Confessions was at that time only five years old.  And the book had in any case ceased to be a “lost” one even earlier – before the author of these Confessions was even born – a copy inscribed by Shelley to his cousin and fiancée, Harriet Grove, was discovered in the hands of her niece in Dorchester in late 1897 or early 1898 – the first to surface of I think just four copies now known – one in the Ransom Center (the Harriet Grove copy), one in the Huntington (the Nichols copy), one in the British Library (the Wellesley copy discovered in 1903, soon after the sale of the Nichols copy), and one in the Pforzheimer – this last acquired as recently as 2014 (such things still happen) – see A Black Tulip Comes to the Pforzheimer Collection. There is a good account of the discovery of the first three copies in the Burlington Gazette (the supplement to the Burlington Magazine) for December 1903, pp.2-4.

The author of these Confessions was one Edward J. Lavell, a journalist by profession (with all that this implies in terms of veracity) – and I’m certain that it is nothing more than an entertaining piece of journalistic fiction, stitched together from various sources.  It is by no means impossible that he did own some of the books he lists amongst his triumphant discoveries – but I beg leave to doubt it.  On the other hand, I have by now become interested in Lavell.  He was born Joseph Edward Lavell on 27th August 1898 at Wallasey in Cheshire, later in life transposing his forenames.  He was the only child of the Irish financial journalist Mathias Lavelle (usually spelt with a final ‘e’) and his wife Mary Croshaw, who had married in 1897.

By 1921 Edward J. Lavell was working as a journalist in Ramsgate, joining the freemasons in that year, while the 1933 edition of Who’s Who in Literature and other similar interwar works of reference fill in some further background.  He had contributed not just to The Bookman’s Journal, but also The Bolton Journal; The Bolton Evening Chronicle; The Kent Argus; The Irish Independent; The Anglo-Scottish Press; The Fascisti Bulletin; Pitman’s Journal; The Liverpool Evening Express, on which he was sub-editor from 1929, and the Manchester Evening Chronicle.  He was currently living in Manchester (later in Southport) and was the editor of Home Topics, published by the New Catholic Press, a magazine begun in 1923 on the back on an earlier publication called The Catholic Home Journal, which had commenced publication in 1905.  His chief recreation was listed as travel – and records survive of voyages to Cherbourg and Santander in 1925 and 1926.

He married Lucie Cottingham (1906-1991) at Wallasey in 1938 and the couple were living, with his wife’s elderly mother, on Caithness Drive in Wallasey the following year.  Lavell’s occupation on the emergency 1939 Register is mostly illegible, but the words “war correspondent”, “Spain” and “Albania”, seem clear enough.

During the Second World War he contributed a number of occasional articles to the Liverpool Echo – an entertaining and morale-raising piece on the Droll Fellows from Albion: The Strange Englishman; “says little, grouses and deprecates, but sees things through”; a very good article on the pernicious influence of the “cockney” received pronunciation being so heavily promulgated by the BBC; an amusing piece on a wartime bus-conductor’s opening gambit of “Any more for anywhere? Special cheap tickets for Utopia”; articles on Silesia, Czechoslovakia and Japan; on H. G. Wells and the Atomic Bomb; on post-war planning, and on the forthcoming 1945 election, etc., but unless a letter written from Tewkesbury to the Birmingham Daily Post in 1966 on the Rhodesia question is from the same hand, that would appear to have been the end of his journalistic career.  His wife died at Wallasey in 1991, but I have been quite unable to discover when or where Lavell himself died.

His piece in The Bookman’s Journal ends on a slightly plaintive note: “There is a poetic justice in this world.  A publishing firm has just accepted my first novel, and maybe when I am dead copies will find their way to some dusty bookstall, and there be spurned by the bibliophile”.  This is intriguing.  According to the various reference books, Lavell was the author of Treasure Trove and Other Stories (Thanet Publicity Agency, 1922); Memoirs of the Abbe Brouillard (Catholic Press, 1924); The Vision Beautiful (Anglo-Scottish Press, 1925); The Blue Danube (a serial), 1928; Mr Povy, A Seventeenth Century Panorama (short stories), and Italy, a musical drama.

There is a copy of the first of these in the British Library, but nowhere else, as far as I can tell.  As for the rest, I can’t find a single copy or even a trace of them in any of the world’s major libraries, and certainly not in the market-place.  I suppose this might make them technically rarer even than the Shelley book – although I suspect even a seasoned bibliophile might well still spurn them.  But then again – he may simply have made these titles up along with everything else, to boost a rather slender C.V.  Do let me know if you come across a copy of any of them.

I am extremely grateful to my friend and neighbour Gillian Neale, currently studying for a Masters in the History of the Book, for discovering this curious article and letting me have the loan of her copy. 

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John Lothian (1802-1846)


Always a delight to come across an old print depicting a bookshop, particularly if it can be readily identified.  Here is a steel engraving of the “East Side of St. Andrew’s Square, Edinburgh”, engraved by James Johnstone of Edinburgh from an original study by the London artist Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1793-1864).  It was published in 1830 by Jones & Co. of London as one of a series of views of Edinburgh which appeared in monthly parts as “Modern Athens! Displayed in a Series of Views: or, Edinburgh in the Nineteenth Century” (1829-1831).  I came across it last year (although I must certainly have come across it before and simply failed to register the bookshop) in Edinburgh itself – in a bookshop not far from the National Library of Scotland.

lothiansshopIt felt like a gift from the gods.  The bookshop in the print was that of John Lothian (1802-1846) – a man about whom I was intending to speak at a forthcoming talk on the Scottish Map Trade to be given at the Library in a few weeks’ time.  And Lothian was definitely someone I needed to know more of.  I regret to say that we had neglected to give him an entry in “British Map Engravers : A Dictionary of Engravers, Lithographers and Their Principal Employers to 1850” – well, not neglected exactly – he was neither an engraver nor a lithographer, and “principal employer” may be stretching it a bit given his relatively short career – but he was also a globe-maker, or at least a globe-publisher, which should have given him an automatic right of entry as a special category.  All of his maps and atlases are rare, but his globes excessively so – we simply didn’t know he produced any.

Pair of nine-inch globes by John Lothian. Edinburgh : 1828. © William Doyle Galleries, Inc. 2014.

Pair of nine-inch globes by John Lothian. Edinburgh : 1828. © William Doyle Galleries, Inc. 2014.

I used the engraving to illustrate the talk, as well as this image of a pair of Lothian globes from the website of an American auction-house – still the only surviving Lothian globes of which I am aware.  So far, so good – and, although not entirely straightforward, I had managed to put together the outlines of Lothian’s life and career.

He was born in Edinburgh on the 12th September 1802 and baptised at St. Cuthbert’s a week later – the son of Andrew Lothian and his wife Margaret Hogg.  He set up as a bookseller at the age of twenty-two and was at these premises at 41 St. Andrew Square in the New Town from 1824 until 1831.  He began as a general bookseller – mainly religion, with a bit of music and poetry – but soon came to specialise in cartographic material.  By 1830 he was offering an “Historical Atlas of Scotland”, as well as a very prettily engraved and coloured Scottish county atlas; pocket-maps of the individual counties; a pocket bible-atlas; a large map of Edinburgh three feet across, with eighteen fine views; plans of most of the major Scottish towns; pocket road maps; recent maps of the wider world – and a range of globes – five-inch, seven-inch, nine-inch and twelve-inch.

© Daniel Crouch Rare Books

© Daniel Crouch Rare Books

He was clearly by now in thrall to cartography.  The preface to his county atlas insists that “Geography and Chronology have frequently been called the Eyes of History”, we all need our pathway to understanding “macadamized” by the use of maps – without a knowledge of them we will “derive as little benefit … from the facts we carry in our heads, as the ass does from the library he carries on his back”.  This is all true and I hope you will all be attending the London Map Fair this weekend to make good any deficiencies you may have in that regard.  And what is also known about Lothian is that he produced maps of both Edinburgh and Leith engraved by George Bartholomew (1784-1871) – the earliest signed maps from the founder of what was to become one of the greatest of all cartographic publishing houses.

The Scotsman, 7th January 1829. © British Library Board.

The Scotsman, 7th January 1829. © British Library Board.

The reason that his premises are shown with such prominence in the print is simply that he was the Edinburgh agent for the publication of this series of views, working closely with the London publishers, but this set me to thinking of what an engraving like this does not show.  What, in particular, this engraving does not show is what else was going on in this quiet south-east corner of what was originally a highly fashionable residential square – and, although Dundas House at No. 36 (set back from the other frontages and not visible in the print) became the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1825 – the square had not yet become Edinburgh’s major financial hub.  It does not show who Lothian’s neighbours were and does not reveal that this small urban space had become something of a locus for the map trade.  It does not show that the engraver and lithographer Alexander Forrester, who produced some of John Wood’s beautiful town-plans, was a neighbour at No. 30.  It does not reveal that although the celebrated map and atlas-publisher John Thomson had by now moved to No. 32, he had been Lothian’s original next-door neighbour, in the years 1824-1826, at No. 40.

Thomson’s “New General Atlas”, completed in 1817, was quite the equal of anything being produced in London at the time and the first to mark Edinburgh as a potential rival to the capital in terms of map publishing.  He then began work, from 1818 onwards, on his “Atlas of Scotland” – large maps of the Scottish counties made to the highest standard.  Despite an initial 1,200 subscribers, it was, in Thomson’s words – “a work which he never would have undertaken, had he known the difficulties to be encountered”.  Even before it was finished, he went bankrupt and had his estate sequestrated in April 1830.  His creditors were compelled to settle up with the unpaid engravers to enable it to be completed.  It finally appeared in 1832 – a stunning achievement – for the first time adequate mapping of the whole of Scotland was readily available – but Thomson’s final remaining assets were auctioned off in 1836 and he disappeared from view.

Post Office Annual Directory 1824-1825,

Post Office Annual Directory 1824-1825. © National Library of Scotland

Quite what Thomson thought of his young next-door neighbour carrying on a rival map-publishing business, is unknown (and Lothian may have been there first).  But Lothian’s output essentially replicates Thomson’s – but at smaller scale – large folio atlases from Thomson – smaller and (in his words) more “economical and correct” versions from Lothian.  I suppose it is not impossible that the two men viewed their businesses as complementary and that they were colleagues rather than rivals, but that could hardly be the case with some of the other neighbours.  Thomson had moved to St. Andrew Square before the Great Fire of November 1824 in the Old Town compelled so many of his former neighbours to relocate in the same direction.  Among them were the Kirkwood family, at this time represented by the elderly engraver James Kirkwood and his grandson Robert – the very first of those affected by the fire – it broke out in their own workshop when a pot of linseed oil (used in the preparation of plate-printing ink) caught fire. They moved more or less immediately to No. 3 South St. Andrew Street, running south off this corner of the Square, and only a few doors from Lothian and Thomson.

Edinburgh Evening Courant, 26th July 1828.

Edinburgh Evening Courant, 26th July 1828. © British Library Board

Earlier in the century, the Kirkwoods had become the makers of the first serious globes produced in Scotland – and that Lothian should have moved into globe production just at the time his new neighbours were trying to rebuild the business (their plates had been lost in the fire) can hardly have been viewed as a friendly act.  In the event, Robert Kirkwood seems to have won the globe-wars.  It appears to have taken him until 1828 to resume globe-production but by 1832 he was selling his twelve-inch globes for virtually the same price as Lothian’s nine-inch ones – and Lothian moved out of the square.  Forrester had already left and then – in 1835 – so did Kirkwood. John Thomson was the last to leave in 1836 – but just as these major map-businesses depart, who should arrive?  The brothers William and Alexander Keith Johnston (W. & A. K. Johnston), destined for a time to sweep all before them in British mapmaking, moved into No. 4 on the south side – just yards from the Lothian shop. They had been trained by the Kirkwoods and had worked for Thomson, but bought up Thomson’s bankruptcy stock of maps and plates when they were auctioned off – and before long usurped the Kirkwoods in the matter of globes.  They were to remain in St. Andrew Square for the next thirty years.

As for John Lothian, he next appears living with his brothers, Alexander and Andrew (both lawyers) at 37 George Square to the south of the city (not George Street, in the New Town, as is sometimes claimed).  In 1834 he completed both “A New and Elegant Classical Atlas” and his “New General Atlas” – an atlas “neither to be swelled in price or bulk by letter-press, nor by unnecessarily subdividing countries and multiplying maps” – both published in monthly parts and the latter at least apparently printed for him by W. & A. K. Johnston.  He then moved, still with his brother Alexander, to 21 Atholl Crescent (1836-1838), and subsequently to 2 Baxter’s Place (1840-1843).  At this latter address, where, incidentally, Robert Stevenson (1772-1850), the celebrated light-house engineer, was their next-door neighbour, he began to style himself as “geographer” rather than “map publisher”.

Edinburgh Directory 1841.

Edinburgh Directory 1841.

A final move for John Lothian and his brother was to 3 Abercromby Place (1844-1846), the house (again incidentally) where Marie Stopes was born in 1880.  Alexander Lothian’s estate was sequestrated for debt in 1842 – the papers describing him as both advocate and publisher – so presumably he was involved in John Lothian’s residual publishing activities, but beyond winning the Silver Medal of the Edinburgh Society of Arts in 1837 for the invention of a device for bottling liquors, and compiling a “Table to Find the Number of Days Between Two Dates”, marketed as “Lothian’s Time Reckoner” and published by James Brydone in 1839, quite what John Lothian was doing in these years is a little unclear.  But in 1841-1842 he and his brother had been sharing the Baxter’s Place premises with Thomas Brumby Johnston (1814-1897), the younger brother of William and Alexander Keith Johnston, later to become a partner and the future head of the firm – which perhaps suggests that by now Lothian was himself working with or for the Johnstons.

According to Moir’s “Early Maps of Scotland”, John Lothian died on 11th May 1846, his personal estate (valued at £95) consisting of a three-quarter share of copyrights, copper-plates and sheets on hand of his maps and atlases.  I suspect that the final two publications to bear his name, “The People’s Atlas” and the “New Edinburgh General Atlas”, both published by others in 1846, were made up from these surviving plates and sheets.  A later edition of the latter was published by his Edinburgh contemporary John Gellatly and the plates for his county maps seem to have been acquired by Adam & Charles Black.  A relatively short life – just forty-three when he died – and a correspondingly short career – but by no means an insignificant one.

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Deal Done


A couple of posts ago, I featured a picture of an Edinburgh binding from the website of Nick McConnell (McConnell Fine Books).  It brought to mind that I hadn’t been down to Deal on the Kent coast to see him for far too long – and as my new intern lives down in Kent in any case, I thought I might save her the journey up to London, for one day at least, by heading in that direction for a day out book-hunting.  We shall call her Lizzie (because that’s her name) and she is one of this year’s batch of students on the Masters course in the History of the Book at London University.  One of her formal modules is a stint of 200 hours working in the rare book trade, so no doubt you will hear more of her (and quite possibly from her) in the coming weeks.

Although we visited a second-hand bookshop or two along the way, the sum total of our purchases before arriving at Nick’s was meagre: a very cheap book each (simply to read) and a possible minor bargain of a modern first by a not over-collected author for 50p.

McConnell Fine Books (see pictures) are located on Beach Street, right on the front at Deal, looking out to sea – just over the road from the Royal Hotel.  It’s a seventeenth-century building, long known as “The Golden Hind” – and it’s been a bookshop as far back as I can remember.  It’s still a shop, although nowadays it’s open only by appointment.


Nick McConnell

But well worth making that appointment.  Nick has been a specialist in fine bindings for forty years or more and there is nothing in “The Golden Hind” that is less than beautiful – and much that is simply stunning.  Not just the bindings themselves, but the exquisite condition they are preserved in.  Interesting too, in talking to Nick, that one way in which he feels that book-collecting has changed over the years is that nowadays it is not always enough for his customers that a book should be a fine example of the bookbinder’s art, but that the book itself also needs to be both rare and interesting.

This seems to me to represent slightly muddled thinking, or at least to be symptomatic of both wanting to have your cake and eating it – but we go where our customers direct us.  Nick pulled out for us a couple of things to demonstrate this kind of double attraction: a seemingly completely unrecorded book of chair-designs from a Covent Garden maker dating from the 1830s – and two bound volumes of some of Walter Crane’s earliest and most fragile work – beautifully preserved, the colours searing off the page and fresh as the day they were printed.

beachstreetWhile Nick and Lizzie moved on to a discussion of the most effective ways of booksellers using social media – the upshot of which seems to be that she will be spending some of her 200 hours in the trade gingering up his presence on Twitter, Instagram and elsewhere (there was mention of video clips) – I combed the shelves in a more resolutely old-fashioned way.  An uncommon Dickens item (with a genuine issue point for once) bound by Zaehnsdorf – the very same copy as that catalogued by a New York auctioneer in 1926 as “a magnificent copy of the first issue of the first edition” – was the first thing to beguile me.  Soon followed by an oh-so-pretty three-decker from 1830 in a delightful contemporary binding and with another distinguished provenance.  It was turning into a very good day all round.

I’ll be seeing Nick again later today at the ABA Rare Book Fair at its new summer location in Battersea.  You can see him there too – and having seen some of the books he was packing to bring up to town – you will not be disappointed.  And that’s to say nothing of all the many other incredibly good booksellers (180 of them) from all over the world who will also be exhibiting there for the next three days.  We are talking about the crème de la crème.  There can be no excuse for not finding your way there, even if it is south of the river.


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