Lacking a Plate – A Good Thing?

43385I suspect that most booksellers (whether they are willing to admit it or not) have half a shelf or so (rather more in my case) of books that became in some way problematic in the course of cataloguing.  Books which were then put aside to be dealt with on another and perhaps more auspicious occasion.  An occasion which in most instances never quite seems to arrive, but full of New Year resolve and resolution I thought I might rescue one or two of these lost souls from their period in limbo.

Immediately I ground to a halt again.  What am I to make of this?  A 1926 privately printed book of memorial tributes to that great librarian Sir John Young Walker MacAlister (1856-1925) – “The Incomparable Mac” – Librarian and Secretary of the Royal Society of Medicine, founder and editor of “The Library”, Hon. Sec. of the Library Association, etc. – you can look him up in ODNB or on Wikipedia, if you feel so inclined, and there is a 1983 Library Association biography by Shane Godbolt and W. A. Munford.  It’s a book I acquired years ago from the late Barry Bloomfield, himself a librarian of great note, also known as the bibliographer of Auden and Larkin, a much-missed friend who at one time was Director of Collection Development at the British Library.

Sir John Young Walker MacAlister

Sir John Young Walker MacAlister

It is a copy that has evidently been specially bound, although whether it is one of the twelve special copies bound by Cedric Chivers (as apparently are copies in the British Library and National Library of Scotland) is not made clear.  It probably is (needs checking), because as internal inscriptions make plain, this copy once belonged to MacAlister’s widow, Elizabeth MacAlister (1854?-1939).  The inscriptions, in the hand of the MacAlisters’ eldest son, Donald Alexander MacAlister (1875-1968), also make it clear that he was the editor of this graceful little volume, which is something I don’t think we knew before.  In addition, there are pencilled notes identifying the anonymous authors of several of the tributes.

So far, so good.  Nice little book, not exactly rare, but at least uncommon, and with a very attractive provenance.  But then on checking it – there should be five photogravure plates (all portrait photographs of MacAlister taken by his son) – and this copy only has four.  One has pretty obviously been forcibly removed.  The book is defective, which would normally be the end of the matter – not worth cataloguing.  But then again, we all like a book with a narrative to go with it – a book with its own personal story to tell – and this one does.  An inscription by the editor spells out exactly what happened: “My mother hated the full face photo which I had had placed here & cut it out.  I can quite sympathise with her action for Sir John was ill & I ought not to have printed a photo which so obviously showed it. D. M.”

inscriptionI note in passing that one of the British Library copies is also catalogued as having just four plates – has this been similarly doctored?  We have the evidence that the editor regretted including the photograph – perhaps it was removed from copies not distributed immediately.  But the problem remains that however interesting my copy might be, who is going pay good money (or any money at all) for a defective book?  It runs counter to everything we understand and have been taught about book-collecting.

But then again, unless you simply wanted a soulless text to work from, would you not rather have this copy with its close family connections, its back-story and its special binding than a run-of-the-mill copy?  And if that is the case, should I be pricing it at more than a complete copy?  Surely not – but why not?  While I ponder these questions, I think you may find that the book has once again quietly made its way back to its place on the limbo shelf.

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Son of London

Christmas in Electric Avenue, Brixton

Christmas in Electric Avenue, Brixton


Born in Brixton in South London, that literary outsider Thomas Burke (1886-1945) recalls a suburban Christmas of the early 1890s.  A seasonal extract from his posthumously published “Son of London” (1946).

Yorkshire Post, 20th September 1946

Yorkshire Post, 20th September 1946

“I was five years old, and I was in a small candle-lit room in a small house in a dim by-street of a South London suburb, standing as it were in a vortex whirling with the hues of glory.  The glory was composed of many elements; of the street whose rumour came faintly through closed curtains; of a bright wood fire; of sprigs of green stuff with scarlet berries; of Kate Greenaway’s pictures, and the odour of tangerine oranges and the frosty glitter of mince-pies, and a coloured catalogue of Dickins & Jones; of the unearthly mystery of voices in the outer dark singing songs about Good Kings and Shepherds; of shops radiant with storms of light and unimagined treasure; of cards showing scenes in crimson and green and gold of baronial halls or village streets or cottages with lit windows in landscapes of snow, into all of which I could enter as into the rooms of a real house or into the street round the corner; and of the carnival shapes of tins and boxes, and the gay trifles called crackers.

crackersAt the heart of this glory was something that was called Christmas, and this Christmas illuminated the people about me, and my feelings and sensations, as it illuminated the room.  It was not a date in a calendar, a day of the year, a celebration or a holiday.  It was a living presence that set the air tingling, and pervaded all things and transfigured them with its burst of colour – colour blushing, blazing, shining, sparkling.  It had brought at once a hush and a stir; a hush of common living and a stir of new and vital being.  For the first time in my short memory life had come alive; everybody had woken up; and in that exaltation they all, even the most tiresome, became dear to me, and all things became charged with goodness.

Bon MarcheThat, I felt, was Real Life.  All I had known before in my five years, all I had heard talked of as Real Life, had been a grey sham.  That something called Christmas was life as I remembered it at some time that I couldn’t really remember; some time before I entered the cage of this world and that dim street and that little room.  Everything was resolved into living colour and odour and delight – the bright eyes of crystallised fruits, the odour of burning wood, the glow of oranges and the purple of wet streets, and the miles of grieving lamplight whose very grievousness was delight – all were fused into one harmony of spirit and sense called Christmas.

Kate Greenaway Christmas Card

Kate Greenaway Christmas Card

The miracle had been wrought of simple things. There was seldom, in that home, a sixpence to spare at the week’s end, but out of a handful of hoarded coppers an effect was created of the bursting of a flower into bloom.  A few penny toys; a few half-penny Christmas-cards; a ha’porth of holly; a fourpenny box of crackers; a sixpenny box of crystallised fruits; a present of mince-pies; a more generous fire than usual, and two candles instead of one, and somebody’s discarded Kate Greenaway book – and up came that mystery, or sense of mystery, which is the true Christmas”.

Thomas Burke 1886-1945

Thomas Burke 1886-1945

Unaccountably ignored by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Burke is best-known as the author of the notorious and much reprinted “Limehouse Nights” (1916) – the short stories of which provided silent films for both D. W. Griffiths and Charlie Chaplin.  A journalist, anthologist, novelist and short-story writer, he is also remembered for “Twinkletoes : A Tale of Chinatown” (1917);  “Whispering Windows : Tales of the Waterside” (1921); “East of Mansion House” (1928); “The Bloomsbury Wonder” (1929): “Night-Pieces : Eighteen Tales” (1935); “Victorian Grotesque” (1941), “Dark Nights” (1944), etc. – as well as a sequence of books on his native London, much revered by his fellow Londoners – “Nights in Town : A London Autobiography” (1914); “London Lamps : A Book of Songs” (1917); “Out and About, a Note-Book of London in War-Time” (1919); “The Outer Circle : Rambles in Remote London” (1921); “The London Spy : A Book of Town Travels” (1922); “City of Encounters : A London Divertissement” (1932); “The Real East End” (1932) – this with glorious illustrations by Pearl Binder; “London in My Time” (1934); “Dinner is Served! or, Eating Round the World in London” (1937), “The Streets of London” (1940), etc.     

city-of-encountersBiographical information is often wanting or contradictory, but, for the record, Burke was born in Brixton on 30th November 1886, the son of James Burke (1825?-1887), a sixty-one-year-old retired clerk and store-keeper foreman in the civil service, and his considerably younger second wife, Emily Williams (1847-1932), a cook and the daughter of a local coachman.  The couple had married at Herne Hill in 1881. Burke was baptised, as Sidney Thomas Burke, on 4th February 1887 at St. Mark, Kennington, the family then living at 43 St. Lawrence Road, Brixton.  His father died just over a month later, in March, leaving just a fraction over £50 to his widow and two infant children.

His mother was compelled to work as a caretaker, Burke’s childhood was peripatetic and he spent some years in the London Orphan Asylum at Watford.  Selling his first short story at the age of sixteen, by the age of twenty-four he was supporting the family, by now living at Craigton Road in Eltham.  He was at that time supplementing his writing income by working as secretary to a literary agent.  His elder sister, Annie Louisa Burke (b.1884) was working as a waitress and the family finances were helped out by a paying lodger, Rudolf Weber, an Austrian bank-clerk.

When he married Winifred Wells (1896-1983), the daughter of an East End blacksmith, at East Ham Congregational Church on 9th September 1918, he was living at 28 Oakmead Road, Balham – just a five-minute walk from where I sit.  He died on 22nd September 1945 and was cremated at Golders Green a few days later, leaving a rather meagre estate of just £288.3s.6d.  

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Tom and the Crocodiles

Dolores del RioA very attractive haul this year from last weekend’s Chelsea Book Fair.  Always a joy to visit, and I managed to bring away just about as many books as I could carry on both the Friday and the Saturday.  Business all around seemed brisk – and footfall was considerably up on last year.  Good to see all those friends, old and new, and so many smiling faces.

Cataloguing the fresh acquisitions began well when I managed to include a reference to Dolores del Rio wearing this extraordinary outfit – a nice copy of Eric Ambler’s “Journey into Fear” (1940), a masterpiece of a spy thriller and a book I’ve not had a copy of since 2003.  (Dolores del Rio played the exotic cabaret dancer in the 1943 Orson Welles movie version).

Hide my EyesThen a copy of Margery Allingham’s “Hide My Eyes” (1958) – this copy descending from the family of the girl who appears in the photo on the dust-jacket (apparently Margery Allingham’s niece).  And on to dealing with this fabulous art-deco dust-jacket design by Alan Rogers for the British edition of Ursula Parrott’s very modern bright-young-things novel, “Ex-Wife” (1929), filmed the following year as “The Divorcee” – Norma Shearer took Best Actress at the Academy Awards. Does anyone know anything about Alan Rogers?  He did a few posters for London Transport at about this time, but I don’t know what else.  Otherwise, I can’t see how I can make a profit on this one – paid over the odds just for the joy of owning it for a while – but fingers-crossed I shall get my money back.  (Do other booksellers do this?  Probably not – at least not the successful ones).

Ex-WifeLots of further fun to be had in cataloguing the rest, but I think my favourite so far (although by no means the most valuable) is “Tom and the Crocodiles” (dated 1867, but published late in 1866) by Anne Bowman (1796-1886).  Not an author I’d come across before (at least I don’t think so), but she seems to have been just about the only woman writing these over-the-top and dramatically illustrated adventure stories – think Mayne Reid, R. M. Ballantyne and George Manville Fenn.

Tom and the Crocodiles“A new work, from the pen of Miss Anne Bowman, full of adventurous excitement and hair-breadth escapes from all kinds of peril. A family are shipped from London to a West India island, where they pass through a never-ending series of vicissitudes enough to daunt the energies of the strongest amongst the members of it.  No one can complain of monotony who peruses these spirit-stirring pages” – a review of “Tom and the Crocodiles” when it first came out in November 1866 from “Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle”.  What with shipwrecks, pirates, slavers, rapids, jaguars, panthers and native risings, not to mention the unremitting piety and platitudes of the mother, the crocodiles were probably the least of the Selwyn family’s worries.

Frontispiece to Tom and the CrocodilesAnne Bowman was one of the early front-runners in this particular field.  Mayne Reid’s first novel had appeared in 1850, Ballantyne’s first book for children came out in 1856, Manville Fenn’s later still.  Her own, “Laura Temple. A Tale for the Young”, was published in 1852, soon to followed by “Travels of Rolando” (1853); “Esperanza; or, The Home of the Wanderers” (1855); “The Castaways” (1857); “The Young Exiles” (1858); “The Boy Voyagers” and “The Kangaroo Hunters” (both 1859);  “The Bear-Hunters of the Rocky Mountains” (1860); “Among the Tartar Tents” (1861); “The Young Yachtsmen” (1864); “The Boy Foresters : A Tale of the Days of Robin Hood” (1867) and several more, finding time in between to produce other books including, inter alia, “Charade Dramas for the Drawing-Room” (1855); “Routledge’s New Reading Made Easy : A First Book of Lessons” (1855); “Poetry : Selected for the Use of Schools and Families” (1856); her own poems, “The Norman Invasion, and The Day of Rinrory” (1857); “The Common Things of Every-Day Life : A Book of Home Wisdom for Mothers and Daughters” (1857); the intriguing “How to Make the Best of It : A Domestic Tale for Young Ladies” (1861), and even “The New Cookery Book” (1867) – a book of “plump, well-stuffed, nicely-coloured, and tempting appearance, well suited to the subject”, according to the “Illustrated London News”.

© Lavender Fields Books

© Lavender Fields Books

Her books do not seem to be particularly easy to find – at least not in decent condition – but they don’t appear to be particularly expensive either.  For all her evident productivity and contemporary popularity, there seems to have been very little written about her, even by the specialists in children’s fiction. Not even her biographical dates seem to have been firmly established, library catalogues contenting themselves with the fairly self-evident, “Bowman, Anne, active 19th century”.  In fact, she was originally a bookseller, and more than that, a bookseller’s daughter, coming to writing in mid-life with a fully developed eye for what sold and what didn’t.  She may not have had the first-hand experience of adventure in foreign climes of a Reid or a Ballantyne, but she had lived among the inspiration and information on the shelves around her all her life.

Bradford Daily Telegraph, 31st July 1886

Bradford Daily Telegraph, 31st July 1886

For those who want or need to know, she was born at Stanwick St. John in North Yorkshire in 1796, the eldest child of Thomas Bowman and his wife Ann Pulleine Johnston, who had married the previous year.  Moving to nearby Richmond, her father built up a business from 1799 as a combination of bookseller, bookbinder, printer, stationer, owner of a circulating library, and music-seller – a business which passed to Anne Bowman and her younger brother, Thomas Johnston Bowman (1798-1871), in the 1830s.  By 1851 they were employing five men, with their aged parents both still alive and living with them in Bank Yard. Ten years later, Thomas Johnston Bowman had joined his father in becoming a legal clerk, while Anne Bowman, on the back of her success as a writer, could list her occupation simply as that of a railway shareholder. She stopped writing in the late 1860s when she reached her seventies, but lived on for another twenty years or so, dying at Richmond aged ninety-one in July 1886.

Posted in Book Collecting, Book Fairs, Booksellers, Bookshops, Dust-Jackets, Forgotten Authors | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Fidelity of Engravers

Sketch by Henry GastineauA customer apologized to me the other day for wanting actually to see and handle a very modestly priced item before buying it, rather than simply buying it online on the basis of a photograph – and it was a perfectly adequate photograph for most purposes, it must be said. “It’s just not quite the same”, she said.  And she was right.  It’s a question that has been hovering in my mind over the last couple of months as I’ve been re-photographing or re-scanning thousands of items of stock to provide larger and better images for my website.

It’s an ancient website built in the days when the erratic capacity and performance of dial-up modems (for those of you who can remember them) meant that the file-sizes of such images as there were had to be kept to an absolute minimum.  Although piecemeal improvements had been made over the years, it was time for a thorough overhaul.  A decent image for absolutely everything on the site.

But as the new images are added day-by-day, the thought recurs over and again that for all that these are better and larger images, they are still not showing me what I actually see when I look at the book, print or map.  “It’s just not quite the same”.  It’s one of the problems of digitisation generally.  However good the image, it really isn’t the same.

St. Martin’s Priory, near Dover. Kent. 1829. Engraved by Samuel Lacey.

St. Martin’s Priory, near Dover. Kent. 1829. Engraved by Samuel Lacey.

How much more of a problem then in the days before cameras (let alone scanners), when to circulate an image required the skills of an engraver to translate it (in reverse) on to a printing plate or block.  I’m not sure that we really appreciate how difficult this was – or how well those long-forgotten engravers succeeded.

Illustrated are two little sketches by the prolific landscape painter Henry Gastineau (1791-1876), who exhibited at the Society of Painters in Water Colours every year for a period of nearly sixty years, right up to the time of his death at the age of eighty-five – some 1,300 pictures in all.  He was also responsible for hundreds of these little sketches for the publishers of the view-books and series of views so popular from the 1820s to the 1840s – especially views of Wales, but also of most parts of England, with occasional forays to continental Europe.

The two present views – both of Dover and both dating from the late 1820s – were two of the original drawings made for publication in the part-work “England’s Topographer, or, A New and Complete History of the County of Kent : From the Earliest Records to the Present Time, including every Modern Improvement  : Embellished with a Series of Views from Original Drawings”, published by George Virtue between 1828 and 1831 and with text by William Henry Ireland (yes – that Ireland, the Shakespeare forger).

DetailOriginally trained as an engraver himself (his mother was Sarah Deeble, presumably of the engraving family – a detail not mentioned by ODNB), Gastineau with his customary skill and competence knew just what was required.  His sketches in ink, pencil and sepia wash are exactly the same size as the finished engravings were to be.  The first, of the ancient priory of St. Martin of Tours, chartered by Henry I in 1131 and now absorbed into Dover College, was handed over to Samuel Lacey (1786-1859) of Pentonville.  Lacey was the son of a London bookbinder, born in Fetter Lane at the heart of the printing trades, and baptised at St. Andrew Holborn on 31st December 1786.  Specialising in landscape and architectural work, Lacey became one of the top commercial engravers of his day, employed again and again on projects of this sort.

DetailHis task was to translate Gastineau’s free and flowing sketch into a finished engraving – using a technique of incising the image line by careful line (in reverse) on to a steel plate – a technique just about as far from free and flowing as it is possible to get.  Light and flimsy washes rendered by hundreds of closely laid and dovetailing lines (click on the images to enlarge).  And yet how well he does it.  The mood and tone perhaps different, these are totally different media – but what fidelity to the image itself.  As close as it is possible to get to what the artist originally recorded.

The second sketch, of Dover Castle, was given to Henry Adlard (1799-1893) to engrave. The son of a London printer and part of an extensive book-trade family, Adlard was just as prolific and as skilled as Gastineau and Lacey.  His engraving and copper-plate printing business was employing over thirty men by the 1860s and his eye and expertise were often called for in the rôle of an expert witness in deception and forgery trials.  In his work on this Gastineau sketch there is perhaps a little more use of standard formulaic work, especially in his handling of the greenery in the foreground, but we can also note how he has tidied up Gastineau’s depiction of the tiny yacht and the distant horse and wagon to the right of the image.  Again, we can only marvel at the skill and endless patience which must have been involved.

Sketch by Henry Gastineau

We perhaps don’t recognise these skills enough. These steel engravings and the books they are found in are routinely under-catalogued and largely undervalued. Are they as good a representation of Gastineau’s sketches as a colour photograph or a digital scan might have been?  Obviously not.  But which we would rather have is perhaps a rather different question. All the images are here, scanned at high resolution – but you are still not seeing their real texture and depth.  You are still not seeing quite what I am seeing.

Dover Castle, Kent. 1828. Engraved by Henry Adlard.

Dover Castle, Kent. 1828. Engraved by Henry Adlard.

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A. & C. Black’s Colour Books (2)

AddendaA further query and request for help from Mark Godburn

I am trying to find out what book or periodical the text sheets in these images are from. The sheets were used to make dust-jackets for an A. & C. Black book, “Switzerland” (1917). The sheets would most likely be from a book that was printed in the decade or so before 1917. The book probably was bound at the same bindery that bound the “Switzerland”. I don’t know who Black’s bindery was. I can’t get a match to these sheets on Google Books or anywhere else I’ve looked. Perhaps they are familiar to someone.

Thank you, Mark Godburn, North Canaan, CT, USA – email:


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Dove’s English Classics

Bloomfield The third in a series of vignettes of items found (and shops visited) on a recent book-hunting trip.

I found this at High Street Books – Geoff Tyson’s genial and enticing bookshop at Honiton.  Another one of those shops which no neighbourhood should be without (see previous post) – and how blessedly lucky is Honiton in having another one (Graham York Rare Books) just up the road.

A pocket edition of Robert Bloomfield’s “Farmer’s Boy”, together with his “Rural Tales”, bringing together the peasant poet’s best-known and most successful works, originally published in 1800 and 1802 respectively, and both best-sellers in their time. This edition also contains a ten-page memoir of the author, who died in 1823. Evidently published within a few years of that, the volume is bound in an absolutely contemporary full black calf – a sweet and very pleasing little binding.  And it cost considerably less than I spent on last night’s supper.  It is something that never ceases to amaze – how many genuinely interesting books can still be bought for so very little. This is a little fragment of the past, a perfect example of what it is, nigh on 200 years old, and quite beautiful in itself.

bloomfield titleIt forms part of a series known as “Dove’s English Classics”, published by John Fowler Dove (1787-1866) of St John’s Square in Clerkenwell, each book in the series decorated with a frontispiece and an additional vignette title-page, engraved by good engravers from designs by good artists – in this case Henry Corbould (1787-1844).  I don’t have a complete listing of all the titles (does anyone?), but have managed to identify seventy or so.  There must have been rather more, because as early as 1826 Dove was advertising that around eighty were already available and he was to continue producing them for a number of years after that.

dovedeviceThe earliest titles in the series, dating from about 1825 onwards, bear the imprint “Printed for the Proprietors of the English Classics by J. F. Dove” and the series itself was perhaps a revival or a continuation of an earlier series known as “Walker’s British Classics” [see the comment from Simon Alderson below].   Within a couple of years, the imprint becomes a simpler “Printed & Published by J. F. Dove” – his “dove” device prominent on the title-pages.  Dove himself was born in the same part of Suffolk as Robert Bloomfield and it would no doubt have given him particular pleasure to add this title to the collection.

High Street Books, Honiton

High Street Books, Honiton

It is a series which offers a fairly elastic definition both of “English” and of “Classic” – the only real feature uniting a disparate range of titles is that these were all popular and famous books, many of the publications in the series including more than one individual work.  No particular surprise to find Francis Bacon, Bunyan, Edmund Burke, Samuel Butler, Lord Byron, Lord Chesterfield, William Cowper, Day’s “Sandford and Merton”, Gay, Goldsmith, Gray’s “Elegy”, Samuel Johnson, Milton, Bishop Paley, Pope, Shakespeare, Walpole, Isaac Walton, Isaac Watts, Henry Kirke White, and Edward Young all included in the list.  Contemporary usage may just have allowed the Scottish and Irish authors Rabbie Burns, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Adam Smith, Tobias Smollett, Jonathan Swift and James Thomson to be included in this general category of “English”, but probably not the American Benjamin Franklin – still less Homer, Horace, Ovid and Virgil – unless translations by Pope and Dryden make them so.  Elsewhere in the series, we also find the not obviously “English” Sophie Ristaud Cottin, François Fénelon, Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian, Alain-René Lesage, Jean Louis de Lolme (albeit on the “English Constitution”), Jean-François Marmontel, François de la Rochefoucauld and Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre.

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser – Saturday 18th November 1826.

Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser – Saturday 18th November 1826.

Women are well represented, which may come as a surprise to some.  As well as Madame Cottin, there were Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Fanny Burney – both “Cecilia” and “Evelina”, the “little spitfire” Hester Chapone, the American Susan Huntington, Ellis Cornelia Knight, Hannah More, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the “queen of gothic” Ann Radcliffe, Clara Reeve, Lady Rachel Russell, and Sarah Trimmer. I’ve also seen reference to Elizabeth Inchbald, Harriet Newell and Hester Thrale appearing in the series, although I have not been able to verify that.  Interestingly, a copy of Dove’s edition of Laetitia Barbauld’s “Evenings at Home” featured in a much-reported court case in 1827. The “beautiful and elegantly dressed” Elizabeth Watts, a young woman of twenty-two, was revealed as a kleptomaniac who had “a kind of large pocket at the back of her silk cloak” filled with articles of plunder. When she was arrested the secret pocket was found to contain, alongside the book, three ounces of tea, a fowl, a piece of pickled pork, a pair of gloves, and two of three pairs of stockings.  Her reticule was additionally found to conceal a coral necklace, a pearl brooch, a gold chain, etc. Her defence was that “she knew not what she was doing at the time”.

© Foster’s Bookshop

© Foster’s Bookshop

By the standards of the period, these “Dove’s English Classics” were cheap.  Although admittedly nowhere near as cheap as such things became later in the nineteenth century, they provided a relatively affordable way of acquiring rather an impressive and interesting collection of standard texts.  A memoir of the self-educated bookseller and writer on antiquities, William Grainge of Harrogate, records that “Our author spent the first twenty-seven years of his life working on his father’s farm, and all the while educating himself, for he left the village school … when about twelve years of age.  All his leisure was spent in reading, or in some other way of gathering knowledge.  At this early age Dove’s ‘English Classics’ were his especial favourites.  Being small pocket volumes, they were well adapted for his purpose, and were constant companions when at work—for he shared in all the labours of his father’s farm, and at noon, or other times, when those about him rested or slept, he read” (Shipley Times, 5th April 1907).

© George Bayntun

© George Bayntun

The books appear generally to have been issued in printed boards – here’s a nice example from the George Bayntun website – although I gather that some of the later titles at least could be had in cloth with paper labels, or even full cloth gilt.  But as Dove’s advertisement makes clear, copies of all the titles were always kept in stock “in elegant bindings, for presents, &c”, and I imagine that this is how this Bloomfield volume, once the property of a Mrs J. Englefield, started out in life. This may well also be true of the pictured examples from Bow Windows and Foster’s bookshops.

As for Dove himself, he was born 20th October 1787 and baptised on the 18th November of that year at the local church of St. Gregory at Sudbury, in Suffolk – the son of Humphry Dove and his wife Ruth Yardley.  He was apprenticed into the Stationers’ Company in 1803 and was active as a printer in Clerkenwell in his own right from at least as early as 1813, probably earlier.  There he remained for the next twenty years, although he briefly had additional premises on Piccadilly either side of 1830.

© Bow Windows Bookshop

© Bow Windows Bookshop

He worked extensively for John Murray and other publishers and is known especially for the classical texts he printed for Richard Priestley. That he was in quite a large way of business is attested in the reports of trial in 1826 of one of his former employees for stealing 130lbs of type from the Clerkenwell premises, probably with the help of accomplices.  It says much for his humanity that on hearing that the culprit’s wife had no money for food he went round in person to give her financial assistance.

In or about 1833, while still in his forties, he retired to Suffolk with his wife, Elizabeth Debenham (1787-1876), whom he had married in 1812.  Whether it was a matter of family money or that he had made a handsome fortune from the “English Classics”, he plainly had no need to work again.  His only further appearance in public life appears to have been the occasion on which he held an oak sapling for Queen Victoria to plant at Burghley in 1844 (Prince Albert planted a lime).  Dove was apparently staying at Burghley at the time. The Queen was charmed and asked for his address so that she could write to him.

For the remainder of his life, he lived at a house or cottage called Hopleys at Horningsheath, with his wife, a cook, and a housemaid.  On the 1851 census return he was recorded as having “no profession, but occupier of a park of fifty acres”. He died on the 17th October 1866 and there is a memorial to him in St. Leonard’s churchyard at Horringer.

After his retirement from the book trade, “Dove’s English Classics” were taken over by his successors, “Scott & Webster” (“Scott, Webster & Geary” from 1836) and some further titles were added.  In sum, I can’t think of any valid reason at all why anyone would not want to collect this series.  Modestly priced, full of interest and challenge, hours of the very best of old reading, highly attractive and demanding very little room – Away you go!

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The End of the World

WorldsEnd3World’s End – well – not quite the end of the world, but at least as far as James II was prepared to ride out on his constitutionals down the King’s Road.  WorldsEnd2A district of London at the western end of Chelsea which gives its name to the World’s End Bookshop – a shop I’ve known under various owners over the years. The last incumbent, Steve Dickson, actually used to work for me in the long ago when the world was young, but for the last few years it has belonged to Giles Lyon, an active and energetic bookseller always out and about buying books.


Kaitlyn Mellini

I was deeply flattered when he called me a while back to ask if he could send his new assistant over to me one morning a week to be given some tuition in cataloguing. I was happy to oblige and Kaitlyn Mellini from Portland, Oregon, proved an apt, affable and willing pupil – a quick study as we used to say.  Having discovered for herself my weakness for certain types of recondite and largely unsaleable fiction, she offered me a book the other day – and I have to say that she had researched it and catalogued it so nicely that I couldn’t say no.  Not only that, but she made me want to read it too – which is the ultimate accolade in cataloguing.  I went over to the shop to pick it up and to see how she was getting on.  Giles was out (probably buying yet more books) and Kaitlyn was presiding over the shop – all neat and tidy, customers popping in and out, the books carefully arranged, pride of place given to a handsome newly acquired book-case for the more expensive material.

World's End BookshopIt’s the sort of shop that every neighbourhood should have and probably once did – catering for book-buyers of all kinds.  Genuinely serving the local community.  Quite a large stock crammed into a smallish space, but everything accessible.  Books at all prices.  Books of all kinds from the genuinely antiquarian to the cheap and cheerful second-hand.  A customer wanted a copy of “Brave New World” and was given a choice of anything from a paperback to a first edition. Whatever the question was, there was something to fit the bill, and Kaitlyn knew where to find it. I paid for my book and bought a couple of others as well – one to read, one to sell. A thoroughly pleasant and somewhat nostalgic afternoon, because I can remember a time when such shops as this were reasonably plentiful. They are no longer – use them or lose them.

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William Fletcher Wodson

Vignettes of items found (and shops visited) on a recent book-hunting trip.

Jonathan Potter Antique MapsA map this week – found and purchased on a visit to Jonathan Potter in Bath a couple of weeks ago.  Jonathan has been a friend and colleague for over forty years – he’s been mentioned on the blog before – but this was my first visit to his new premises in Margarets Buildings, tucked away between the Circus and the Royal Crescent. You can’t miss it – it’s bright orange. The stock as immaculate and as interesting as ever.  Jonathan has been a thorough student of maps since his teens and now has a lifetime’s expertise.  No-one better to advise you or to know a rare map.  Good to see him, as always – and an additional pleasure to find Helen Kershaw, a friend of more recent vintage, known from Rare Books School, acting as his Friday assistant.

The sort of map you might find anywhere, although I suspect probably won’t.  A map of York by the well-regarded local surveyor Robert Cooper, marking out the enlarged new boundaries proposed by the Parliamentary Commissioners to be established under the Reform Bill.  A scribbled note from a former owner suggests that the map originally appeared in the 1829 third edition of “The Stranger’s Guide through the City of York”, published at Henry Bellerby’s New Circulating Library.  I’ve not as yet had a chance to verify this, but I’m a little doubtful.  It doesn’t look like a guide-book map at all – there is nothing like the kind of detail necessary to guide a stranger through York’s complex street pattern.  The date also seems a touch too early for a map relating to the Reform Bill.  It has a topicality and immediacy of purpose which suggests that it was almost certainly published for separate sale.  My guess would be that someone probably had it bound into the guide-book in an ad hoc manner.

If that be the case, it may just represent a fragment of a lost career. What particularly took my eye was the name of the lithographer – Wodson.  A name, I very much regret to say, not to be found in “British Map Engravers : A Dictionary of Engravers, Lithographers and their Principal Employers to 1850”.  Sorry about that – this will hopefully be redressed in our planned supplement – but it’s a name of sufficient obscurity for the lapse perhaps to be pardonable.

William Fletcher Wodson (1801-1860) was born at York on the 28th August 1801 and baptised there (at St. Crux) three days later.  He was the son of William Wodson, a cutler and surgeon’s instrument maker, and his wife Ann Fletcher, who had married in 1799.  His younger brother, Thomas Wodson (1803-1851), later became the publisher of “The Yorkshireman”.  Nothing is known to me of his early years, but by 1830 (probably earlier) William Fletcher Wodson was a bookseller and stationer on the Pavement in York. On the evidence of this map and a handful of prints in various collections, he was also a lithographer and printer. It was a short-lived business and the remainder of his career has little to do with maps, bookselling, or lithography (although his son later became a stationer).  It does however serve as a salutary reminder of how tough life can be for booksellers who forsake their trade – we’re really not fitted for life in the real world.  It’s also a story of endless nineteenth-century resilience.


Bell’s New Weekly Messenger – 15th September 1833

In 1833, it was reported in “Bell’s New Weekly Messenger” that Wodson had disappeared from York without leaving a forwarding address. His creditors eventually caught up with him in Cheltenham, where he had married Anne Elizabeth Milner in September 1831. The couple baptised sons there in 1833 and 1835, the younger dying at the age of eight months. At exactly this time, Wodson was imprisoned for debt, a new career as a furniture broker in Cheltenham having already ended in failure.  At a hearing in November, it became apparent that he had given power of attorney to a brother-in-law, William Henry Milner, with whom he was now in partnership as a confectioner and lozenge-maker. Milner had seemingly sold property and collected debts owing to Wodson to the tune of some £500, but then paid off all his own debts before handing the balance over to Wodson.

Eventually discharged in March 1836, Wodson returned to York and appears to have set up a school of some sort. He was at 21 High Ousegate in 1840, but this venture too ended in failure and he went to ground again in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1841. Financial misfortune still dogged him.  His share of the family estate, together with all his other assets (“if any”, the formal notice gratuitously added), was ordered to be sold by auction at York in 1843.  A dividend of 3s.9d (just under 19p) in the pound was eventually distributed to his creditors in 1847.

His wife had died at Newcastle in 1845, and Wodson once more re-emerged in York, listed on the 1851 census as a solicitor’s clerk.  Thereafter he went back to Newcastle, described somewhat nebulously in the 1850s as an agent – and there he died, after a short illness, on 11th January 1860.

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A Binding by Lucien Broca

Broca Binding The first in a sequence of vignettes of books found (and bookshops visited) from a recent book-hunting trip.

They say you can’t judge a book by looking at its cover, but we know that this is not always true.  Sometimes there is little else that it is needful to judge – as in the case of this superb binding of about 1900 by the London bookbinder Lucien Broca.

Yes, yes – I know it’s another Harrison Ainsworth novel and I’ve repeatedly promised never, ever, to buy another one (see the previous “Bound by Worsfold” post from earlier this year), but I wasn’t going to turn this down when I ran into it at Bayntun’s in Bath last week.  Magnificent shop, magnificent bindings – if you don’t know it, stop reading, drop what you are doing, and go there right now. It was the last stop on my latest book-hunting tour – as indeed it was the first stop on my first ever book-hunting safari over forty years ago. Still in thrall to the place.

All I can say in my own defence on the Harrison Ainsworth front, is that Bayntun’s had two of his novels bound by Broca and (a) this one was a title I’ve not come across before, and (b) I had the iron will and self-control not to buy them both.  As to Broca – he was, I suspect, comparatively little known until the revelation in Marianne Tidcombe’s “Women Bookbinders, 1880-1920” (1996), that the finest work of the well-known and much-lauded bookbinder Sarah Prideaux (1853-1933) – that from the years following 1894 – was in fact executed for her, following her designs and instructions, by an anonymous trade finisher, one Lucien Broca. There are pictures of Prideaux bindings all over the internet – attributions to Broca, not so much.

BrocaStampBroca’s own work, signed with his own stamp, is relatively uncommon. As far as I can make out, there are just four or five examples currently on the market. There is apparently no example in the British Library – at least not in its database of bookbindings – although the Folger has a superb Broca binding on a 1619 “Midsommer Nights Dreame”.

Information about Broca himself is even more scant. He was French, a handful of listings in London street directories between 1875 and 1901, a short partnership with Simon Kaufmann in 1876-1877, not much else – so I’ve done some digging.

Lucien Broca (1839-1910) was born in the tiny French village of Sorbs in 1839.  He first appears in London in Frith Street, Soho, in 1875, remaining there until 1879 and working with Simon Kaufman (1856-1897) in the middle of that period – Kaufmann a native of Koblenz and generally described as a dealer in “plush leather and fancy goods”, rather than a bookbinder.

Broca then disappears from view, at least as far as the street directories are concerned, until 1890.  I assume he was working for other people during this period. In 1890, he re-appears in Shaftesbury Avenue, initially at Nos. 46-47 (1890-1891), then at No. 154 (1892-1896).  It was also in 1890 that he married Florence Mary Rummery (1872-1947), the London-born daughter of a grocer’s assistant – a girl of eighteen and more than thirty years his junior.  There was perhaps something covert about this, as on the 1891 census return she is still described as single and as living at home with her parents.  Her occupation is given as a bookbinder’s book-sewer, and I can only assume that she was Broca’s assistant. They had their one and only child, Lucien Jean (John) Broca (1895-1968) in the spring of 1895.

Broca then disappears from the directories again until 1901 – he was perhaps working more or less full-time for Sarah Prideaux at this period.  In 1901-1902 he was in Percy Street, by now described as an “art binder”, living over the workshop with his wife and son. His final appearance as a bookbinder in the directories seems to have been in 1904, by now in Gerrard Street, still in Soho.

From there I can only assume that this master craftsman, by now in his sixties, was struck by some failure of health, hand or eye, which prevented his continuing to work as a binder.  He ended his days, from at least 1907, selling confectionery on Chiswick High Road, the business continuing for a time under his widow. He died on 30th December 1910 at a nursing home in Merton and probate on his meagre effects of £233.17s.3d was granted to his widow the following October.


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A. & C. Black’s Colour Books

A couple of further questions from Mark Godburn.Inman Bibliography

Most of you will know and will have come across the A. & C. Black Colour Books published in the early years of the last century. The first of them, Mortimer Menpes’ “War Impressions” – the text by his daughter, Dorothy Menpes – was published in May 1901 and is generally regarded as the first British book to make use of the recently developed “three-colour” process to furnish the full-colour plates. Hundreds of further titles followed, all richly illustrated in the same manner.

Richard Bagot : The Italian Lakes. Pictures by Ella Du Cane.We know a great deal about these handsome productions from Colin Inman’s 1990 bibliography and collectors’ guide. We know about the authors, like Dorothy Whistler Menpes. We know about the illustrators, like her father, Whistler’s former studio assistant, Mortimer Menpes.  We know about Richard Bagot and Ella Du Cane who combined to produce “The Italian Lakes” in 1905.  We know about Albert Angus Turbayne and his colleagues at the Carlton Studio, who produced many of the distinctive and stylish cover designs. We know quite a bit about the printers and the print-runs. But what we do not appear to know is who actually manufactured the cloth binding cases.  The answer is most likely to be found in the A. & C. Black Archive at the University of Reading – but Mark lives in Connecticut – so his question is, “If anyone knows who was the bindery for the A&C Black Colour Books in the 1900-1920 period, please email me”.

Edwin Drood dust-Jacket“Also, a follow up to an earlier post about early jacketed books that are unlocated today, someone saw the Charles Dickens “Edwin Drood” (London, 1870) in jacket back in the 1980s in a display case, apparently in California. They thought it was at the Huntington Library, but the Huntington doesn’t have it. If this jogs anyone’s memory about where the book might actually be today, I’d like to hear from you”.


Many thanks, Mark Godburn

North Canaan, CT


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