The Lighter Side of Larkin

Like an Enormous Yes

News to some of you, perhaps, that the poet Philip Larkin had a lighter side – but indeed he did.

D. J. Roberts. Photograph ©Harpreet Kalsi.

D. J. Roberts. Photograph ©Harpreet Kalsi.

It’s this affirmative side of his life which is explored in a new exhibition at the National Poetry Library on the South Bank – an exhibition called “Larkinworld” – put on by my friend, the artist D. J. Roberts (

As he writes, “The show is very much my personal take on Larkin’s world, and to many it may seem surprisingly upbeat.  This is because I have always had an unusual relationship with Larkin … I respond to many of these poems rather differently to the way it is clear Larkin intended”.  It is the special sense of place – the landscape and townscape in Larkin – to which the artist responds – “Psychologically Larkin’s world may often be one of morbid obsession, but physically it is a world of bars and shopping malls and cinemas, and this is the world I identify with”.

LarkinworldIt’s a very thoughtful, intriguing and understated exhibition.  Beyond Roberts’ own exquisite little sketches – and the splendidly affirmative “Enormous Yes” of his neon sign – there are simply scattered through it little clues, suggestions and quiet symbols of Larkin’s wider life.  “I’ve selected records, books, images and ephemera that conjure up for me Larkin’s world” – things mentioned in his writings, some excerpts, the places he knew, his interests, the writers he admired, his fondness for cricket, and some friends.

All What JazzIt’s a world of music – Larkin wrote extensively about jazz of course, well beyond his “Daily Telegraph” pieces collected in “All What Jazz” in 1970.  There’s his poem “For Sidney Bechet” – “Like New Orleans reflected on the water” (you can listen to a recording of Larkin reading this) – but oddly, even bizarrely, this highly revered jazz critic, generally regarded as an apostle of “trad”, is also on record as saying that he thought Bob Dylan’s “Mr Tambourine Man” just about the best song ever written.  And we all know what began “Rather late for me / Between the end of the Chatterley ban / And the Beatles’ first LP”.  There is homage too to Billie Holiday and Bix Beiderbecke (who was played at his funeral) – and a display of Larkin’s own unpublished blues lyrics.

Larkin Books

And it’s a world of books.  There are nods to some of Larkin’s literary heroes – Dickens, Hardy and Surtees – but what pleased me most when I was asked about lending some books for the exhibition was that I was able to come up with some of Larkin’s favourite light reading.  I never knew Larkin, but I did know his friend and bibliographer, the late Barry Bloomfield.

Philip Larkin & Barry Bloomfield.

Philip Larkin & Barry Bloomfield.

Both librarians by trade, they shared a taste for vintage old-school detective fiction.  Among Barry’s books was an almost complete collection of the sixty or more mysteries written by the Brentford school-mistress Gladys Mitchell, featuring her psychoanalyst sleuth Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley – “dry without being shrivelled, and bird-like without being pretty”.  She was a particular Larkin favourite and although most of Barry’s books were shelved elsewhere, the Gladys Mitchells were kept in the Bloomfields’ guest bedroom so as to be readily at hand when Larkin came to stay.

Gladys Mitchell, “Merlin’s Furlong”. London : Michael Joseph, 1953. Jacket design by B. G. Yates.

Gladys Mitchell, “Merlin’s Furlong”. London : Michael Joseph, 1953. Jacket design by B. G. Yates.

I was so pleased that I still had a couple of them left in stock (she is quite heavily collected by the cognoscenti) so as to be able to offer a choice for the exhibition. I can’t quite claim that Larkin read this one in bed – but he would certainly have seen it and been able to so had he wished.

Do get along to the exhibition if you can – it’s illuminating and thought-provoking – and Larkin’s reputation doesn’t diminish.  It’s on until the 28th April 2017 at the National Poetry Library, Level 5, Royal Festival Hall – details here at

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School Pieces

Detail from The Progress of Education (R. Harrild, 1810) © John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

Detail from The Progress of Education (R. Harrild, 1810)
© John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

A request for help from Jill Shefrin

Jill Shefrin is a Canadian independent historian and bibliographer of children’s books and ephemera published in Britain in the long eighteenth century.  She’s currently preparing a descriptive bibliography and historical study of “school pieces” or writing blanks, and she’d love to hear from anyone holding any English, Irish or colonial American examples.  Although they are today called writing blanks or writing sheets, in the long eighteenth century they were most often described as “school pieces”.

Rich Man and Lazarus (William Mason, n.d.) © Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library

Rich Man and Lazarus (William Mason, n.d.)
© Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library

Elegant engraved sheets published between about 1660 and 1860 and filled in by children with examples of their best handwriting, often at Christmas (accounting for their alternative name of “Christmas pieces”).  Relatively few examples survive, but there appears to have been a longstanding and thriving market for school pieces.  Jill has identified over fifty English and Irish printsellers who offered them for sale over two centuries, but only a few have survived in more than single copies. Attractive and often colourful, one would think they were the preserve of wealthy and aristocratic children, but in 1840 the Morning Chronicle reported that on Christmas day in the Clerkenwell workhouse “one of the overseers, has generally supplied the children with Christmas pieces to write for prizes”.

Jill Shefrin

Jill Shefrin

Jill’s The Dartons : Publishers of Educational Aids, Pastimes & Juvenile Ephemera, 1787-1876 (Cotsen Occasional Press, 2009), was awarded the Justin G. Schiller (Bibliographical Society of America) & the F. J. Harvey Darton Award (Children’s Books History Society).  She has taught the Children’s Books course at the London Rare Books School since 2008 and is a Senior Research Associate at Trinity College, University of Toronto.  She’s currently also an RBC Foundation Visiting Fellow at the Bodleian Library, working with their extensive holdings of school pieces, but she’s interested in seeing any and all examples.

You can contact her—and find out more about her work—through her website

Jill Shefrin / /Senior Research Associate in Arts, Trinity College, University of Toronto

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French Semi-Transparent Dust-Jackets

1891A guest post from Mark Godburn

I would like to hear from anyone with knowledge of the common 19th and early 20th century French books in bound wrappers which are often found with semi-transparent dust-jackets. These jackets typically have tri-folded French flaps.

It had always been my understanding that these jackets were original issue. I have seen them on French books as early as the 1820s and 1830s. Most American and British dealers I spoke to also thought these jackets were original issue.

However, when I was researching my book, “Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets” (2016), the Paris book scout Martin Stone insisted to me that nearly all such jackets were later additions by French antiquarian book dealers, not original issue.  He said he had observed French dealers adding such jackets to old, wrapper-bound French books for decades, and that they continue to do so to this day.

So I again consulted with experts in American and British bookselling, and they all deferred to Martin, saying he was the one who would know, based on his years in the Paris trade.

There are exceptions, of course, such as an 1887 Zola book I saw in bound wrappers which had a printed opaque jacket that matched the printing on the binding; this jacket was obviously original issue.  Other exceptions would include some limited edition French books in bound wrappers which were issued with semi-transparent jackets over the wrappers circa 1900.

I would like to hear from anyone with thoughts on the origin of the semi-transparent French jackets. Email me at  My thanks to Laurence Worms for posting this.

Mark Godburn, North Canaan, CT, USA.

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Maps and the 20th Century : Drawing the Line

The Navy League Map, Illustrating British Naval History.  London : W. & A.K. Johnston, 1901. BL Maps 950.(136.). © British Library Board.

The Navy League Map, Illustrating British Naval History. London : W. & A.K. Johnston, 1901. BL Maps 950.(136.). © British Library Board.

For some reason, I didn’t get my customary invitation to the press preview of the latest British Library exhibition, “Maps and the 20th Century : Drawing the Line”, when it opened towards the end of last year – perhaps it was something I said.  No matter, it’s still on for another six weeks or so – and I finally found some time to visit it a few days ago.

I found it challenging, which is a good thing.  Challenging in terms of confronting our immediate past – and indeed our present.  And challenging in terms of confronting my own mindset.  The exhibition opens cutely with a real time digital map plotting the pattern and density of people touring the exhibition itself, which opens up a whole range of ideas on mapping, surveillance and the centrality of our own experience in judging the world.  It’s certainly a more complex and less assured world than that pictured in the next map, the “Navy League” map of the world published in 1901 and “dedicated to the children of the British Empire”, a map of which the Earl of Meath could complacently state that “No school should be considered properly equipped which has not the full-sized Navy League Wall Map of the Empire hanging on the walls within easy view of the scholars” (cited in Tim Bryars’ excellent essay in the book of the same name which accompanies the exhibition).

The section of the exhibition devoted to the theme of “Mapping War” is the hardest hitting.  A salutary reminder of what a blood-stained mess most of the twentieth century was and the twenty-first continues to be.  The section of a map of Belfast cut to fit a rifle-butt and the plan of the Lidice Massacre are truly chilling.  So, in a different way, is the highly detailed Soviet map of that well-known hub of the industrial and military complex otherwise known as the seaside resort of Brighton.

Western Front Trench Model, 1917. © British Library Board.

Western Front Trench Model, 1917. © British Library Board.

On a purely personal level, I stood in shock before a ‘Haig Model’ relief map of the Western Front centred on Passchendaele, the very terrain on which my own grandfather was killed in action a hundred years ago.  A man I never knew.  A man my father never knew.  And adjacent to that, a silk map of the type used by Airey Neave, briefly a customer of mine before he was murdered by the Irish National Liberation Army, in his escape from Colditz – a map I would have thought wholly inadequate to that extraordinary task.

Schaffhausen Airey Neave escape map. London : The War Office, ca. 1940. BL Maps CC.5.a.424. © British Library Board.

Schaffhausen Airey Neave escape map. London : The War Office, ca. 1940. BL Maps CC.5.a.424. © British Library Board.

I am not at all sure that I go along with one of the basic premises of the exhibition: that the all-pervasiveness of maps in the twentieth century meant, as one of the captions has it, that maps became “more real to people than the reality they claimed to represent”.  Maps are treated here,  a position perhaps made more explicit in the book than the exhibition itself, as if they are, and always have been, in the vanguard of the fake news and post-truth business – that all workaday maps, not just those made for more or less explicit propaganda purposes, lay claim to a scientific objectivity but in fact represent an illusion and are merely “tools of persuasion”.

It’s been a view fashionable among certain historians of cartography for the last thirty years or so, probably expressed at its most extreme by the late Brian Harley: “Cartography deploys its vocabulary accordingly so that it embodies a systematic social inequality.  The distinctions of class and power are engineered, reified and legitimated in the map by means of cartographic signs.  The rule seems to be ‘the more powerful, the more prominent’.  To those who have strength in the world shall be added strength in the map.  Using all the tricks of the cartographic trade—size of symbol, thickness of line, height of lettering, hatching and shading, the addition of color—we can trace this reinforcing tendency in innumerable European maps” (J. B. Harley, Deconstructing the Map. Cartographica, v. 26, n. 2 (Spring 1989), 1-20).

It is of course true that maps, for reasons of scale, are of necessity highly selective in their choice of detail – and that the process of selection may be compromised in any one of a number of ways.  (This is of course also true of the selection or non-selection of maps to be displayed in an exhibition).  Another caption reminds us, quite rightly, that properly to comprehend a map (or an exhibition) we need to understand why it was drawn in the first place – a lesson, it seemed to me, that was not being given nearly enough emphasis to the groups of schoolchildren being routinely indoctrinated as I made my way round.  But I have always firmly rejected the view that the maps we use for our everyday ordinary purposes are devices to deceive or oppress us.  That view seems to me to be a nonsense and in itself a form of deceit.

But I have to admit the exhibition made me confront an uncomfortable truth.  There is far more deceit in maps and there are far more maps intended to deceive than I was prepared for.  I had always rather dismissed the propaganda map as something that shouldn’t really fool anyone with half a brain.  People are nowhere near as stupid as some would have us believe.  But examples to prove me wrong were there.  I particularly liked the genuinely funny caricature map of the Reaganite view of the world put out by the World Peace Council – in fact a Cominform-funded Communist front organisation operating out of Helsinki.  But the cleverest and patently the most successful in the long run, not least in having been paid for by the people it was intended to gull, was the “Europe in Britain” propaganda map of the British Isles (here very cautiously captioned), put out by the European Community in the 1970s.  I’m still chuckling over that one.

As our use of maps dwindles to the personalised bubbles of Sat-Nav and App, perfect realisations of the “All About Me” syndrome, go to the exhibition and look back at the last century when we still saw and found reflected a world view that was mainly about others and our own very small place in it – maps both honest and dishonest – but all made for a larger purpose.  As “The Guardian” rightly reported, “There is much that will stop visitors in their tracks”.

Posted in Antique Maps, Exhibitions, Libraries | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Bound by Worsfold

Windsor CastleI’ve let myself down again – perhaps no surprise to regular readers, but seduced by price, a pretty binding and perhaps a hint of aristocratic pedigree, I’ve acquired a book by an author I have been promising myself never, ever, to buy again for at least the last thirty years – an author totally unfashionable, verging on the completely unsaleable, and almost wholly unread since the days of the late Queen Victoria.  In truth he was an author already distinctly unfashionable even while she was still young.  William Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882) of course and his “Windsor Castle” (1843) – forgotten now but a smash hit when it first appeared at the height of his fame and popularity.

His was a career remarkable for its initial success and all too dramatic decline.  As John Sutherland wrote, “Many would have backed Ainsworth’s talent against Dickens’s in 1840.  In the 1860s Dickens was earning £10,000 a novel, Ainsworth a hundredth of that sum; Dickens was buying Gadshill, Ainsworth was forced to sell his property piecemeal” (J.  A.  Sutherland, ‘Lever and Ainsworth: Missing the First Rank’, Victorian Novelists and Publishers (1976), p.160 – cited in ODNB).   At his peak Ainsworth started his own “Ainsworth’s Magazine” at the beginning of 1842 and it was so successful that plans to issue his new novel “Windsor Castle” in the standard monthly parts – an initial print run of 10,000 copies had been announced – were shelved in favour of increasing the price of the magazine and running the new novel in that.  The July 1842 issue of “Ainsworth’s”, in which the first instalment appeared, sold out in a single day and had to be rapidly reprinted.  It was the best thing Ainsworth had ever done according to the pundits – and it remains a spirited version of the perennially fascinating tale of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Cardinal Wolsey, Jane Seymour, etc. – here given an unorthodox twist by the intervention of Herne the Hunter.

Cruikshank IllustrationHenry Colburn bought the book rights and published it in three volumes on 10th May 1843 – three weeks before the serialisation in “Ainsworth’s” came to an end in the June 1843 issue.  The book was rather a staid affair, no doubt intended mainly for the libraries, with just three frontispiece illustrations by the great George Cruikshank.  But this wasn’t what the public wanted.  The public demanded – and soon got – a more reasonably priced one-volume edition with all the Cruikshank plates that had appeared in the magazine – not just all fourteen of the Cruikshank plates, but the other four by the mercurial Frenchman, Antoine “Tony” Johannot, with which publication had commenced, plus all eighty-seven of the wood-engravings in the text engraved by the best hands in London from the designs of William Alfred Delamotte.  This one-volume edition was rushed out within weeks and was available in the shops by the 8th July 1843 – just a month after the serialisation had finished.

The three-volume edition takes precedence and it goes against all the known tenets of book-collecting lore, but you would have to be slightly touched to favour the three-volume version over the feast of Victorian illustration to be had in this one-volume edition (although a serious collector would obviously need to have both).  The one-volume edition is simply much closer to the spirit of the original magazine appearance.  This was evidently the view of owner of this copy who had it handsomely rebound in crimson morocco (the jaunty original cloth gilt carefully preserved at the rear) something over a hundred years ago.

Bound by Worsfold“Bound by Worsfold” reads the tiny and oh-so discreet stamp.  Not a name that I can recall having seen before – but this is evidently the work of a top-notch West End binder to the carriage trade.  A search online reveals nothing much in the way of biography, but comes up with a considerable number of books bound by the same hand, some of which are illustrated here.  Although a few booksellers give him an initial ‘W.’, and a few place him in London – one more specifically in Soho – curiously only a single bookseller has taken the trouble to look up and give us his first name – William – or at least to look it up and get it right (he wasn’t called Charles and he certainly wasn’t the same man as the author, lawyer and journalist William Basil Worsfold, as is claimed on ABE, that home of bibliographical disinformation).  Do we as a trade not think that our customers might care to know exactly whom it was who bound the book we are offering?

The Works of Lord Byron. 1900-1904. Bound by William Worsfold. © David Brass Rare Books.

The Works of Lord Byron. 1900-1904. Bound by William Worsfold. © David Brass Rare Books.

The single bookseller, the honourable exception, is David Brass, whose family roots in the trade go back far enough for his forebears almost certainly to have known William Worsfold personally, but Maurice Packer’s “Bookbinders of Victorian London” (1991) is readily available to the rest of us to confirm the name and place him at 12 Frith Street, Soho, from 1889 onwards. But beyond a reference to an earlier bookbinder of the same name, active in 1853, that is as far as the record goes. Here’s a little more.

J. Fitzgerald Molloy : Court Life below Stairs, or, London under the First Georges, 1714-1760. 1882. Bound by Worsfold of London. © Staniland (Booksellers).

J. Fitzgerald Molloy : Court Life below Stairs, or, London under the First Georges, 1714-1760. 1882. Bound by Worsfold of London. © Staniland (Booksellers).

William Thomas Jennings Worsfold (1856-1929), to give him the full name he only used on formal occasions, was born at Southwark in the latter part of 1856 – the eldest child of William Jennings Worsfold (1835?-1892) and his wife Sarah Hacon (1833-1887), who had married at Lambeth earlier that same year.  His father was also a bookbinder, specifically a finisher, while his mother was the daughter of a local carpenter.

Charles Reade : Hard Cash. A Matter-of-Fact Romance. 1853.  Bound by Worsfold.  © Peter Harrington.

Charles Reade : Hard Cash. A Matter-of-Fact Romance. 1853. Bound by Worsfold. © Peter Harrington.

The Worsfolds were a bookbinding family.  Worsfold’s grandfather – the William Worsfold from 1853 noted by Packer – was a somewhat peripatetic journeyman, but is recorded working for the bookbinder William Hatchard of Brompton back in the 1830s, when Worsfold’s father was born.  The grandfather had married Maria Jennings at St. Martin in the Fields in 1824 and the 1851 census return records Maria Worsfold, née Jennings, as herself a bookbinder, with her son at that time an apprentice.  The family tradition may go back farther still: the British Book Trade Index contains a fragmentary record of an even earlier William Worsfold working as a bookbinder in London in 1803.

Algernon Charles Swinburne : A Collection of Twenty-Seven Bound Volumes. 1867-1908. Bound by Worsfold for Sotheran. © Charles Russell.

Algernon Charles Swinburne : A Collection of Twenty-Seven Bound Volumes. 1867-1908. Bound by Worsfold for Sotheran. © Charles Russell.

Born and bred to the trade, a third or fourth generation bookbinder, William Thomas Jennings Worsfold married Jane Eliza Little (1858-1942), the daughter of an Islington glass-cutter, at St. Mary Newington on 25th October 1879.  They were to have nine children in all, six of whom survived to adulthood.  It was close-knit family.  In 1881 Worsfold’s parents were living at 41 Tracey Street, Kennington, with his younger brother, Thomas Jennings Worsfold (1858-1929) – also a finisher – while he and his new wife and an infant daughter were living two doors away at No. 45.  The brother later moved in with Worsfold and his wife – until he himself married somewhat late in life – and was almost certainly actively involved in the business which Worsfold was to set up at 12 Frith Street in or about 1889.  It was a stable business and Worsfold remained at that same address for over thirty years – until at least 1923, when he probably retired.  A son, William Thomas Worsfold (b.1882), had joined the business as a clerk at one point, but subsequently became a civil servant, while a younger son, Thomas Henry Worsfold (b.1891), was certainly trained as a bookbinder and was working with his father in 1911.

Anne Ritchie Thackeray : The Village on the Cliff.  1867. Bound by Worsfold. © Antiquates.

Anne Ritchie Thackeray : The Village on the Cliff. 1867. Bound by Worsfold. © Antiquates.

The family lived at various addresses in South London until settling at 14 Cicely Road, Peckham, where Worsfold and his wife spent the last thirty or forty years of their lives. Worsfold died – a couple of months after his younger brother – on the 3rd September 1929.  Probate on an estate valued at £5,014.17s.8d. was granted to his widow on 13th November.

There is still more to be discovered – particularly on the earlier Worsfolds – but for anyone with a particular interest in Worsfold of Frith Street, or indeed in a bookbinder’s workshop practice of the late nineteenth century, there is an 1894 interview with him buried away in the Charles Booth Archive at the London School of Economics (BOOTH/B/101, pp.79-82), as well as a completed wage questionnaire from September 1893 in the same place (BOOTH/A/16, p.10).  There’s always a space here for anyone who wants to seek them out and write them up.

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The Mysterious T. M. R. Whitwell

cricket-whitwellHalf-awake, fogged in toothache, I listened on the radio the other morning to the England cricket team ritually eviscerate itself either side of tea in Chennai.  Life far from a bowl of cherries.  The only redeeming feature was the wit, banter, reminiscence, commentary and analysis from the Test Match Special team, and especially the intelligent, articulate and ever-interesting thoughts of Ed Smith, former Middlesex captain turned writer and journalist.

Psmith JournalistPerhaps it was the coincidence of names, perhaps the fact that the plot turns (very loosely) on an English cricket tour abroad, but it reminded me I had to catalogue and quote a newly arrived copy of P. G. Wodehouse’s “Psmith : Journalist” (1915).  A relatively straightforward task, although the book’s relationship with “The Prince and Betty” (1912) needs a little untangling:  the serialisation of “Psmith : Journalist” in “The Captain” between October 1909 and March 1910 plainly predates both the 1912 British and American book editions of “The Prince and Betty” – which vary greatly from each other – and its own serialisation in “The Strand” (February-April 1912), so it is a little perverse to regard the Psmith book, as many commentators seem to do, as a revised and rewritten version of a revised and rewritten version of itself – it’s the earliest version and in any case, as David A. Jasen commented in his bibliography, it is “the best version of the three”.

Those other Wodehouse bibliographers, Eileen McIlvaine and her co-authors, citing Charles Gould, note a tiny variation in the height of the publisher’s name on the spine, oddly referring to this as “two states of the first issue”, although nowhere else referring to any kind of point of issue or any kind of second issue.  No evidence is adduced for regarding one variant as earlier than the other, but no doubt a bookseller or a collector somewhere will be trying to make something of it.

The Gold Bat

© Peter Harrington Rare Books.

These hazards navigated, I wanted to add a note on the illustrator, T. M. R. Whitwell.  Apart from the present title, he illustrated quite a number of Wodehouse’s earliest books: he was one of the illustrators of “Tales of St. Austin’s” (1903) and then the sole illustrator of “The Gold Bat” (1904); “The Head of Kay’s” (1905); “Mike” (1909) and “Psmith in the City” (1910). He also illustrated virtually all of Wodehouse’s numerous stories for “The Captain” between 1902 and 1911, including the original 1905-1906 illustrations for the serialisation of “The White Feather”, not ultimately used in the book edition in 1907.  He was very much the man who defined the look and feel of one of our most abidingly popular novelists at the outset of his career.  Easy enough to look him up – his full name, his dates – one might have thought – but, no – beyond tabulating his input, the bibliographies are silent.  The half dozen standard reference books I consulted do not even mention him.  How can this be?  The man who illustrated most of those early Wodehouse school stories and we don’t even know who he was?


© Henry Sotheran Ltd.

The internet is strangely silent, although I did stumble upon the interesting “Annotated Psmith Project” (link in the blog-roll), which displays a lot of his work, but only refers to him as the “mysterious” T. M. R. Whitwell.  Beyond that, there is only a note of the 1966 verdict of Richard J. Voorhees: “The illustrations [in Wodehouse’s school novels] are atrocious.  Once they must have attracted readers; today they could only repel or amuse … they make the schoolboys look at least thirty years old; one character, who wears glasses, looks fifty”.

Illustration from Psmith : Journalist.Well – I take his point (up to point) – but I think in looking at the evidence of old photographs we have to recognise that, in an era before antibiotics, people did age considerably more quickly than they do now, or perhaps it was just that, in a more manly age, young men became manlier sooner.  Whitwell was plainly a highly accomplished illustrator.

D/Z 518/1 – Entry in the guest book for the Cock Inn in Chipping Ongar. Here T. M. R. Whitwell illustrates his first visit to the pub in 1893. © Essex Record Office.

D/Z 518/1 – Entry in the guest book for the Cock Inn in Chipping Ongar. Here T. M. R. Whitwell illustrates his first visit to the pub in 1893. © Essex Record Office.

Elsewhere, the blog of the Essex Record Office reproduces this delightful sketch and asks, “Can anyone identify T. M. R. Whitwell … Is this the same Whitwell who illustrated the works of P. G. Wodehouse?”  Well, yes, indeed it is – and I imagine that the sketch has something to do with the illustrations Whitwell contributed to “The ‘Cycling’ Album : Being a Selection of Sketches form [sic] ‘Cycling’, Some Satirical, Some Humorous, Some Serious, and all Artistic, Limned by Such Masters of Cycling Art as George Moore, Percy Kemp, T. M. R. Whitwell”, published in London by the Dangerfield Printing Company in 1893.

Industrial ExploringsWhitwell’s first major book commission was in providing the 100 or so illustrations for R. Andom’s “Industrial Explorings in and around London” (1895) – author and artist portrayed on the cover.  It’s a favourite of mine – “If you can’t go to Kamtschatka, go to Kentish Town and describe that” – a whimsical exploration of the strange worlds-within-worlds of the manufacturing regions of Victorian London – Piano-Land, Rope-Land, Tram-Land, Candle-Land, Gas-Land, Paper-Land, Soap-Land, Mineral-Water-Land, Match-Land, Rubber-Land, Wire-Land and Sweet-Land.  If you don’t know “R. Andom” (Alfred Walter Barrett, 1869-1920) and have a taste for humour in the vein of Jerome K. Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat”, then I can thoroughly recommend.

The Gold Bat – illustrated by T. M. R. Whitwell : contained in “The Captain, A Magazine for Boys and Old Boys”. October 1903 to March 1904. © Patrick Pollak Rare Books.

The Gold Bat – illustrated by T. M. R. Whitwell : contained in “The Captain, A Magazine for Boys and Old Boys”. October 1903 to March 1904. © Patrick Pollak Rare Books.

Whitwell also illustrated R. Andom’s “On Tour with Troddles” (1909), so at that point in time we have him concurrently illustrating two of our finest humorists – extraordinary that the world seems not quite to know who he was.  As it happens, the answer I was looking for was there all along in my own archive – identified as Thomas Montague Radcliff Whitwell (1868-1928) the last time I catalogued a copy of the “Industrial Explorings”.

Very brief outline details of his life and career are in fact available online (by subscription) via the “Artist Biographies” website, but to add a little more to that record, his birth was registered at Hackney in the third quarter of 1868.  He was the son of Thomas Whitwell, a solicitor’s clerk, and his second wife, Eliza Birt, who had married in 1865 – she was presumably a sister or cousin of his first wife, Marian Birt, whom he had married five years and two children earlier.  The young Whitwell seems to have been called Montague in the family and he himself seemed to favour the spelling Radcliff rather than Radcliffe for his second middle-name.

We catch a glimpse of him as a young man, described as a lithographic artist, boarding at the Swan Inn at Doddinghurst in Essex (an easy bicycle ride from Chipping Ongar) in 1891. After the death of his father in 1894, he married Sarah Jane Hanson Southan (1875-1939) at Hastings on 30th April 1896.  She was the daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Ellen Southan, who owned and ran the Washington Hotel at Hastings – her father, described as a civil engineer on the marriage certificate, having died in 1889.

Mantilla Road, Tooting.

Mantilla Road, Tooting.

The marriage seems not to have prospered.  By 1901, the census return suggests that Sarah Whitwell was back in Hastings, helping her mother and sister out at the hotel.  She filed for divorce in 1910 on the grounds of adultery and desertion, her divorce papers stating that Whitwell was now cohabiting with a woman called Olive Henderson in Mantilla Road in Tooting – just the other side of the common from where I sit.  By the following spring, Whitwell and Olivia Philippa Henderson (1869-1955), to give her correct name, were living in Tabley Road, Holloway, with their infant son – also Thomas Montague Radcliff Whitwell (1911-1983). Olivia was the daughter of a London coach-painter and the couple were married in 1912, after the divorce was finalised.

Whether the divorce had any impact on his career is difficult to say – in those far-off days a century ago it may conceivably have done.  Certainly Whitwell seems never to have worked with authors of the celebrity of Wodehouse or even R. Andom again, but I suspect it may more probably have been a matter of his style of work becoming outmoded.  He continued to illustrate the school stories of R. S. Warren Bell, editor of “The Captain”, at least until “The Three Prefects” came out in 1918.  He also illustrated similar school tales at this period by F. Cowley Whitehouse, John Barnett, M. M. Guy, Ascott R. Hope, Frank Elias, Harold Avery, and especially R. A. H. Goodyear, continuing to produce illustrations on into the 1920s.  He died at Northampton, aged just fifty-nine, in 1928.

Postscript December 2017:  For much more on Whitwell, there is now an excellent account by Robert Kirkpatrick on the Bear Alley blog – – a blog also well worth searching for a great deal of similar material.    


Posted in Book Collecting, Cricket, Forgotten Artists | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Looking for Books from Tulkens in Brussels


A guest-post and a request for help from Mark R. Godburn, author of “Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets” (Private Libraries Association & Oak Knoll Press, 2016).

godburnWhen the Tulkens bookshop in Brussels closed in 2008, there were thousands of books in storage that were a century or more old but still in new condition. Many of these books were wrapped in newsprint or other scrap paper, or jacketed in old quire sheets or publishers’ jackets.

I am looking for any books from this shop that are still in these wrappings or jackets. I would like to buy them, or at least record them for my research on early dust-jackets.

ludwig2An account of the shop by the late Martin Stone is in my book “Nineteenth-Century Dust-Jackets” (Private Libraries Association & Oak Knoll Press, 2016), on p. 201, note 36. There also is a chapter devoted to Martin and the Tulkens shop in “Rare Books Uncovered” (Voyageur Press, 2015), by Rebecca Rego Barry.

Martin believed that the stored Tulkens stock had been wrapped and jacketed by the shop’s own staff during World War One when, according to an old handed-down story, they were hiding books from the occupying Germans. I believed that the jackets and wrappings were original issue, but I had seen only one Tulkens book at the time my book was published, and I could not prove it one way or the other. Now, with more examples available, it is clear that many of the scrap paper wrappings and jackets were original issue from the binderies.

french4I would especially like to find any of the A&C Black 20 shilling series that were said to be in quire sheet jackets. If you have any of these books – or know where any are …

Please contact me at

Thank you,

Mark Godburn, The Bookmark, North Canaan, CT, USA.



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Designer Bookbinders 2016

"Through the Woods", binding by Yuko Matsuno.

“Through the Woods”, binding by Yuko Matsuno.

Always a pleasure to attend the prize-giving at the annual awards for the Designer Bookbinders, this year held at the St. Bride Foundation, just off Fleet Street, where all the books will be on display until the 24th November – do get along if you can.  Perhaps not a vintage year this time round – it can’t be every year – but some very attractive and encouraging work all the same.

“Vita Nuova” - binding by Yuko Matsuno.

“Vita Nuova” – binding by Yuko Matsuno.

The outright winner – the Mansfield Medal for the Best Book in the Competition (and the Clothworkers’ Prize for Open Choice Book) – went to this delicate, intricate, intelligent and so carefully crafted binding on a copy of H. E. Bates’ “Through the Woods” (1936) by Yuko Matsuno – a good evening for her as she also picked up one of the ABA’s “Highly Commendeds” for her interpretation of the set book, which this year was the Folio Society’s edition of Dante’s “Vita Nuova”.

“Vita Nuova” - binding by Glenn Malkin.

“Vita Nuova” – binding by Glenn Malkin.

The Folio Society’s own prize for the set book went to Glenn Malkin (who won an ABA “Highly Commended” last year) for his quiet, contemplative and soothing work.  An interview with Glenn on the website (which I’ve just stumbled across) explains all – “The design has sets of nine squares, each made up of nine lines.  This reflects the repeated reference to the ‘perfect’ number nine which appears throughout the book – the root of nine being three, representing the Holy Trinity, and emphasising the perceived perfection of Beatrice.  The black lines at the edge represent the encroaching presence of death, and the red background reflects Beatrice’s crimson coloured dress”.

“Vita Nuova” - binding by Kaitlin Barber.

“Vita Nuova” – binding by Kaitlin Barber.

Elsewhere I was particularly taken with Kaitlin Barber’s dramatic interpretation of the set book, which won the St. Bride Foundation Prize for Finishing (and in my view should perhaps have won more than that).  There’s a better description of it than I could write on the website again.  Another binding I particularly liked was Ann Tout’s quietly effective work (the set book again), which took the J. Hewit & Sons Prize.

"Gawain and the Green Kinght" - binding by Jeanette Koch.

“Gawain and the Green Kinght” – binding by Jeanette Koch.

Also much admired was Jeanette Koch’s interpretation of  “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, which picked up both the Arthur Johnson Prize (judged by Bernard Middleton) and The Judges’ Award (donated by Maggs Bros.)

"Vita Nuova" - binding by Piotr Jarosz.

“Vita Nuova” – binding by Piotr Jarosz.

My own prize – the Ash Rare Books Lettering Award – went this year to the London-based Polish binder Piotr Jarosz.  He was somewhat surprised: he didn’t think he would win anything as his binding was probably the only relatively conventional one in the entire competition, but no harm in that – and hand lettering is immensely difficult.  Well done to him.

I started giving the award a good many years ago because I became frustrated at the number of lovely designs I saw each year which either opted out of lettering completely (it is difficult – but a book without a visible title is of course anathema to a bookseller), or let themselves down with completely inappropriate or just poorly executed lettering.  It remains a problem – but I’m happy to continue donating the award in hope of better things.

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The Real Clara Millard

Continued from “The Most Successful Book-Huntress in the World”, posted on 12th October 2016.

missmillard1896The longest of the interviews with Clara Millard I have traced appeared (ten pages, eleven illustrations) in the society magazine “The Woman at Home” in 1896.  It does not add a great deal to what we already know, but what it does add is interesting.  More used to interviewing aristocratic hostesses, Norman Hurst travelled down to Mulberry House in Teddington to meet the woman of whom he had heard so much, a woman “who has made her way in the world by downright hard work and perseverance”.  Like others, he was astonished by her youth – “I could scarcely credit that this youthful-looking woman, who certainly cannot be more than twenty-five or twenty-six years of age, can have established as she has done the world-wide reputation she has gained in her particular line of business”.  Asked for her secret, she simply puts it down in the main to plain and straightforward dealing with both buyers and sellers.

hurstinterviewThe story of her having to find a way of earning a living at the age of sixteen is repeated, but with the added information that her mother had always been a collector of china and curiosities, and she had learnt and inherited a great deal.  “The Ceramic Gazette” initially showcased the portion of her mother’s collection which her mother wished to sell – and so it all began.  She has been much helped – Lady Charlotte Schreiber, Lady Currie and Baron Rothschild are all mentioned again.  She has had well-known customers from the outset – the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk was her very first and every collector of note among the aristocracy soon followed.  Her connection is worldwide and she has “clients for everything conceivable and inconceivable”.  She is able to employ “agents in every corner of Europe”.  She has a natural aptitude for spotting a fake and her suppliers from among the ancient families can provide all the provenance in the world.  Mr Hurst insists – surely you get “taken in” sometimes.  Miss Millard responds – a little flirtatiously – “‘You have my full permission’, replied Miss Millard, laughing, ‘to try and take me in’”.

mulberryhouseinteriorThere is a guided tour – a bugle from Waterloo, a map sampler, lacework and altar cloths, lamps and fans, the dress in which Emma Hamilton sat for Romney, Dresden china, and much else.  “Hunting up rare books is one of my pursuits too.  Here is a letter received this morning – an order to the amount of four hundred pounds; but if it were four thousand pounds or four hundred pence, all receive the same attention”.  Her latest triumph – the third known copy of Ruskin’s “Queen’s Gardens”, just sold to Mrs Rylands “to add to the famous Althorpe library purchased for £250,000 from Earl Spencer”.  I note in passing that the £400 order received that morning in 1896, so casually introduced, equates to £41,740 in today’s terms, using the Retail Price Index, or to £162,000 in terms of today’s average earnings.

The interview ends with a question about other women perhaps earning a living this way.  Miss Millard points out that she has had the distinct advantage of having lived all her life “among people who thoroughly understood curios”, but confesses she would open more shops but for her “inability to get competent people to manage them.  What I have been trying to get hold of for some time past are two ladies, preferably sisters – they must not be too young nor too old, say between twenty-five and thirty – who have a certain amount of business instinct and tact.  Could I get two ladies of this description, I would take a house for them and stock the shop, putting them in to manage it upon a salary and a commission”.  Surely this should not be too difficult, suggests the interviewer, but apparently it is – “I have been trying for a long time and up to the present have been most unsuccessful”.  Norman Hurst departs “with a feeling of admiration for a woman who has fought her way in the world and is prepared to help others to do likewise”.

His questions were perhaps sufficiently answered, but by now mine are now really starting to stack up.  A business of this size clearly could not be carried on by a single person, but she is apparently unable to find competent staff.  There remains the nagging question as to why, with a plainly well-to-do mother with  a fine collection of china, she was required to earn her own living from the age of sixteen.  She again refers to being brought up among “people” rather than her family.  And not only am I unable to find a birth, marriage, death, or a census return for a real Clara Millard in Teddington, I can’t find her mother either.  Things just do not add up.

It took much luck, a great deal of stabbing in the dark, and some blind guesswork, but I think I now have at least some of the answers.  The clues begin in Mulberry House on the night of the census on 5th April 1891 – the house where the interviews took place and which Clara Millard advertised as her “permanent residential address”.  No sign of her, but present in the house on that night was a man calling himself Ellis H. Ellis – the H.  standing for Heyman or sometime Heymans – a Liverpudlian of fifty years of age, described as a dealer in fine arts.  With him, as well as a cook and a housemaid, both in their teens, were his wife, Clara Ellis, also aged fifty and originally from the remote village of Hutton in Somerset, and a twenty-nine year old daughter, Elizabeth Ellis, apparently born in Chelsea and described, with utter vagueness, as a “traveller’s clerk”.  So we have both a dealer and a Clara in the house, but not ones of the right age or gender.

Ten years earlier, this same Ellis family had been living more modestly nearby, at The Cottage, Middle Lane, Teddington, with Ellis Ellis at that time described as a retired auctioneer.  His wife was not present on census night, away visiting a younger sister in Somerset, but – and here’s the luck – her mother was.  And her mother was a Millard – Elizabeth Millard – the Betsey Millard who as a young woman had given birth to Ellis’s wife, Clara Bartholomew Ellis, née Millard, at Hutton in 1840 – apparently out of wedlock.  Betsey Millard was then an agricultural labourer living in abject rural poverty with her extended family, her grandmother described on the 1841 census as a pauper.  And it was this grandmother, Clara Bartholomew Millard’s great-grandmother, who seems to have brought the child up – they are recorded together and alone, a widowed pauper of eighty-four and a girl of eleven, on the 1851 census.

So we do have a real Clara Millard – but this is plainly not the Clara Millard of the interviews and the international fame – the wrong age, brought up in rural pauperdom, and almost certainly quite unschooled.  But also present in Teddington on census night in 1881 was her daughter, here called Georgie rather than Elizabeth, but certainly the same young woman, and described on the return as an “editress” – that word again – and this precisely at the time that “The Ceramic Gazette”, soon to become the “The Amateur Trader” – editress Clara Millard – was launched.

I now have no doubt at all that Georgie or Georgetta Ellis, to give her the name she later favoured, is the young woman who, using her mother’s maiden name, was actually the face and the driving force behind the whole “Clara Millard” persona and operation so beloved of the press.  As to her father, I couldn’t initially find any trace of Ellis Ellis prior to 1871 – probably because he was known under his real name of Ellis Heyman up until that time.  Why he altered his name I am not sure – it may have had to do with his earlier career in Liverpool and his father’s money troubles in the 1860s.  It may have been a matter of distancing himself from his Jewish roots, or it may indeed have been a way of shielding or reinventing his poverty-born wife and, as it turns out, her almost certainly illegitimate daughter.  He was in fact the son of Lewis Heyman, of Liverpool, who married Sara Elias in London at her wealthy brother’s house in Woburn Square in 1839.  The ceremony was performed by no less a personage than Solomon Herschel, the first formally recognised Chief Rabbi of Great Britain.  By birth, Ellis Heyman was first cousin to the society landscape painters Alfred and Annette Elias.

Liverpool Mercury, 5th November 1859.

Liverpool Mercury, 5th November 1859.

His father, Lewis Heyman, originally from Prussia, was a pawnbroker seemingly in a substantial way of business in Liverpool.  His banked-up advertisements of luxury goods in the Liverpool press are clearly the original model for the “Clara Millard” operation and the original connection with “people who liked nice things”.  By the age of nineteen, his son Ellis, working under a full barrel of names as Ellis Lewis Elias Heyman, had opened his own “commission office for the sale of miscellaneous forfeited valuables”.

Liverpool Mercury, 27th October 1859.

Liverpool Mercury, 27th October 1859.

A few weeks later he was “severely” burned in a gas explosion, having “incautiously” taken a light to investigate a gas leak on opening his shop (Liverpool Mercury, 28th November 1859), but the advertisements continued to flow.  Initially stereoscopic slides and spectacles were heavily featured, but soon there was everything else – clocks, watches, oil paintings, some enticing sounding watercolours, bracelets, jewellery, guns, cameras, instruments – all grist to the mill.

Daily Post, 10th February 1860.

Daily Post, 10th February 1860.

Over 100 separate advertisements hit the Liverpool press in 1860, some issued in tandem with his father.  Then, in the summer of 1861, he began to advertise for books.  He wanted lots of them – 100,000 volumes to be precise.  He had a commission to purchase an unlimited quantity of books for shipment overseas and would pay 50% over regular booksellers’ prices.  His advertisements then suddenly stop more or less altogether, only to re-emerge in 1863 with an offer now to pay “double the price usually offered by booksellers”.  That, as far as I can tell, was the last advertisement he ever issued under his own name, or even as Ellis H.  Ellis.  Perhaps things went horribly wrong – it’s easy to see how they might – buying 100,000 books at twice the going rate is not the most obvious recipe for success.   And certainly his father fell into financial difficulties about this time.  Or perhaps he simply made a fortune and was content just to dabble thereafter.

Liverpool Mercury, 10th October 1861.

Liverpool Mercury, 10th October 1861.

By 1871, or Ellis Heyman, or now most often Ellis Ellis, was described simply as a commission agent.  He was living in lodgings at Lewisham in south east London, ostensibly with his wife and daughter, although Clara Bartholomew Millard did not actually become his wife until later in 1871 when he married her at Lewisham, under his original name of Ellis Lewis Elias Heyman.  (It was as Mrs Heyman that Clara was visiting her sister in Somerset).  Her daughter, called Georgia on the census return earlier that year, was already nine years old.  There were perhaps things that “Clara Millard” did not know even about herself.  She was baptised at the age of eleven at St.  Mary’s, Lewisham, on 15th June 1873, her date of birth given as 8th March 1862 and her name as Elizabeth Georgetta Millard Heyman – although there was clearly some doubt and hesitation up until the last minute over whose name to bestow on her: Millard has very clearly been scrubbed out in the surname column and Heyman substituted.  Her parents are given as “George” and Clara, and her birth father described simply as a gentleman, deceased.

Liverpool Mercury, 17th October 1863.

Liverpool Mercury, 17th October 1863.

What life must have been like for the mother and daughter before Ellis Heyman happened along is difficult to imagine.  They must have fought their way in the world in ways in which Norman Hurst could have had no conception.  The transition of a pauper girl from the country with an illegitimate daughter to a collector of fine china – the daughter becoming the best-known antique dealer in the country – was an extraordinary one.

St. Mary's, Teddington.

St. Mary’s, Teddington.

The only further clue to the origins of the young woman who became “Clara Millard” to the world came when she married – Miss Millard was no longer a Miss.  She married, under a panoply of possible variants of her name, as Elizabeth Georgetta Holland Heyman Ellis, on 11th September 1893 at St.  Mary’s Teddington.  Her husband was a twenty-four year-old man called Nathaniel Charles Dance (1869-1952) – the son of an East End stationer.  Her own age is given, perhaps diplomatically, as twenty-seven.  Her real father’s name is here given as George Holland Ellis, actor.  I can find no trace of George Holland Ellis, as an actor or anything else, but if we assume that the Ellis surname is as fictional as it was for the rest of the family – there are several George Hollands to choose from.  The Anglo-American George Holland was one of the most famous comic actors of his day, although he appears to have lived entirely in America in the latter part of his life.  His son of the same name also trod the boards, and may or may not have been the George Holland who starred in a farce called “A Regular Fix” at the Gaiety in 1878 (The Era, 23 June 1878).  I can trace neither of these George Hollands as being in England at the relevant time, but there was another theatrical George Holland – a man who belonged to a popular acrobatic troupe known as the Rocky Mountain Wonders, who were certainly performing in London in the summer of 1861 – at Astley’s Amphitheatre.  He died suddenly while on tour in Spain in 1863.  That is my best guess, but who her real father was and where precisely she was born remain a mystery.

That Georgetta was indeed “Clara Millard” is proved beyond doubt by her later appearing on official records as Georgetta Dance at the Millard addresses in later life.  Her new husband joined the business – he is described as being employed as a “fine art clerk”, presumably working for his wife,  on the 1901 census, and both Georgetta and her husband are described as dealers in antiques when they turn up, still trading as “Clara Millard”, at Beach Warren, Milford-on-Sea, on the 1911 census.  By then they had two children – a daughter, inevitably named Clara, aged twelve, and Nathaniel Ellis Dance, aged nine.  They returned to Teddington at an address in Waldegrave Road – just across the road from where Noël Coward was born – for a few years in 1916-1919, but then went back to the Hampshire coast.  Georgetta Elizabeth Dance (1862-1926), a.k.a. “Clara Millard”, at one time celebrated as “the most successful book-huntress in the world”, ended her days at a shop or a house called The Miscellany, at Highcliffe-on-Sea.  She died at the age of sixty-four on 20th August 1926 and probate was granted to her husband, described as a retired fine art dealer, on 16th November, her effects stated at £6,541.8s.10d.

The Ellis grave in Teddington Cemetery.

The Ellis grave in Teddington Cemetery.

As to the business, we plainly have to see the hand of her adopted family in its original development.  The young Georgetta must at the very least have learned a great deal from her step-father and quite possibly her step-grandfather, Lewis Heyman, who lived on until 1886.  We can see now why she spoke of “people who liked nice things” rather than her family – and also why, as no blood relative of theirs, she was apparently required to earn her keep from the age sixteen (although she would in fact appear to have been eighteen when she began).  No doubt Ellis Ellis was involved in the business to a greater or a lesser extent: he was living in Mulberry House in 1891 and still turns up on census returns in 1901 and 1911 as an art dealer.  Although he was by then living in Acton with his second wife, he remained on the electoral register in Teddington at addresses associated with the business until 1909 and was buried there in 1911.  A gravestone in Teddington Cemetery commemorates him alongside his first wife and his mother-in-law.  The gravestone is worn and no longer really legible, but a transcription taken a few years ago records that it once read something like, “Elizabeth Bartholomew Millard who passed away in her sleep on the morning of 2 Sep 1890 in her 74th year.  Also Clara, darling wife of Ellis Heyman Ellis and daughter of the above who went to rest on the morning of 7 Sep 1895 in her 54th year.  Also Ellis Heyman Ellis husband of the above died … Oct 1911, aged 71, also known as Ellis Lewis Heyman, dealer in fine arts, buried 17 Oct 1911, aged 71”.

Thomas J. Wise, book-collector and forger, in fact regarded Ellis Ellis himself as the real Clara Millard.  In a singularly unpleasant letter to his crony John Henry Wrenn (11th March 1902) he boasted of how some years earlier he came to acquire his copy of Defoe’s “Due Preparations for the Plague” (1722): “My own copy (now bound in morocco) was a real gift from the gods.  I bought it for 50/-, bound up with one of Mrs. Aphra Behn’s novels.  I bought the Behn, this Defoe being considered by the vendor as of little or no value, and was not charged anything.  And the vendor, of all persons, was the fat black Jew who trades under the name of ‘Miss Clara Millard’!  And this is the fellow who brags that he knows everything!  Would he not tear every hair from his head did he but know that he had parted with a twenty pound book for nothing at all!” – “black” here being used in the sense of dark-complexioned, although I have a notion that Ellis may have been disfigured in the gas explosion.  Hence perhaps a reticence to put himself or his name before the public.  A Svengali to her Trilby? (a novel published in 1894) – well, just perhaps, but Wise, I suspect, was the just the type of man who would ignore a woman completely in matters of business if there was a man to speak to anywhere in the vicinity – and the weight of all the other evidence is against him.  All those journalists traipsing down to Teddington were certainly not interviewing a man, but a very impressive young woman.  There was an open invitation to the public, repeated weekly in the press, to come and meet Miss Millard any day between ten and four.  The business continued after Ellis Ellis left Teddington and after his death.  There is no suggestion anywhere else, so far as I can trace, that the business was run by anyone other than the woman the world knew as “Clara Millard”.

Rachel de Solla.

Rachel de Solla.

That said, there is a distinct tinge of theatre and illusion about the whole affair – the style of the advertising and publicity certainly;  the love of old theatre costumes which comes across in the advertisements – Clara Millard is fingering a white silken gown once worn by Sarah Siddons in the “Sketch” interview;  her missing father, the “actor”; her step-father Ellis Ellis’s second wife – Rachel de Solla, the well-known actress, whom he married in 1898 – someone else whose names and life story would take some unpicking – but who lived on to take leading parts in some of the early English silent feature films – “East Lynne” (1913), “Jane Shore” (1915) and “The Ticket-of-Leave Man” (1918);  the friend and perhaps helper who was visiting the nineteen-year-old “editress” on census night in 1881 – a twenty-year-old actress named Laura Delamotte, daughter of the tolerably well-known artist and wood-engraver Freeman Gage Delamotte and his wife Caroline Westlake, who ran Delamotte’s Hotel, just off the Strand.

There were other members of the family at Georgetta’s wedding – Ellis Ellis’s niece, Sara Louise Heyman, was one of the witnesses.  Her father, Henry Heyman, Ellis’s younger brother (who confuses matters by calling himself Henry Ellis-Heyman when he had premises on Bond Street in the 1890s), was living in Streatham, only ten miles from Teddington, and described as a fine art dealer in 1901, as was his son, Arthur Ellis Heyman, a fine art dealer’s assistant.  I think that we are essentially looking at a family business and a broad network of connections – but there is no doubt who was the star – Clara Millard, Elizabeth Heyman, Georgetta Holland, Georgie Ellis, Georgina or Georgetta Dance – by whichever name she may wish to be remembered – the most successful book-huntress in the world.  “Aut Millard, aut nulla”.

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There Will Be Fun

evanion broadstairs

© The British Library Board. Pressmark Evan.2668. – M. Evanion’s conjuring entertainment at the Assembly Rooms, Broadstairs, 1873.

“There Will Be Fun”, promises the British Library with its new exhibition on the world of Victorian Entertainments.  And so there is – plenty of it.  The material is drawn mainly from the Library’s Evanion Collection, an extraordinary archive of five or six thousand ephemeral nineteenth-century items – posters, flyers, handbills, advertisements, programmes, tickets and so on – put together by Londoner Henry Evans (1832?-1905) – better known as “Evanion”, conjurer and ventriloquist, and quite a star of the variety halls in his prime.  In old age, in ill-health, and down on his luck, he apparently sold the entire collection to the British Museum in 1895 for a pound – any more than that, it seems, and the purchase would have had to be approved by the trustees, who would undoubtedly have said no.  The value, foresight, imagination and instincts of private collectors and the purblindness of the great and good appointed to boards of trustees seem to be eternal verities.

© The British Library Board.  Pressmark Evan.408.  “The Mahatmas Outdone”, presented at the Egyptian Hall by Maskelyne and Cooke in 1891.  Lithographed by Culliford & Sons.

© The British Library Board. Pressmark Evan.408. “The Mahatmas Outdone”, presented at the Egyptian Hall by Maskelyne and Cooke in 1891. Lithographed by Culliford & Sons.

Evanion would no doubt been better offering his collection to Clara Millard (see previous post), who herself had connections to this Victorian world of theatre and illusion – but more of her next week.  The exhibition is built around five larger-than-life characters of the period – first of all Evanion himself, and a career and a publicity machine built on what was perhaps a single a royal performance.  Next up is John Nevil Maskelyne (1839-1917), rather more famous as a magician and illusionist than Evanion and, much to his credit, a scourge of cardsharpers and fake spiritualists.  Originally trained as a watchmaker – his partner George Alfred Cooke (1825-1905) was a cabinet-maker – Maskelyne was a master of the mechanical.  Their tenancy of the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly ran from 1873 to 1905 and throughout the period this was “England’s Home of Mystery”, the home of stage magic and in particular “Psycho” and “Zoe”, Maskelyne’s card-playing and portrait-drawing automata.  Maskelyne is claimed to have invented the trick of levitation and, on a more prosaic level, he patented a coin-operated lock of the type still in use in the public lavatories of my childhood.

© The British Library Board.  Pressmark Evan.2005.  Sanger’s Grand National Amphitheatre, Lambeth, 1881.  Lithographed by James Upton, Birmingham.

© The British Library Board. Pressmark Evan.2005. Sanger’s Grand National Amphitheatre, Lambeth, 1881. Lithographed by James Upton, Birmingham.

“Something new under the sun twice daily” was the tag-line of “Lord” George Sanger (1825-1911), greatest showman of the age, master of the travelling circus, and later the tenant of more permanent theatrical arenas, including the famous old Astley’s Amphitheatre in London.  His autobiography was simply called “Seventy Years a Showman : My Life and Adventures in Camp and Caravan the World Over” (1908).  Helen Peden, the British Library curator in charge of the exhibition, drew our attention to a passage recounting a bloody battle on the public highway with a rival travelling troupe, each group intent on reaching the best pitch first.  Sanger’s  murder in 1911 made national headlines and thousands attended his funeral.

© The British Library Board.  Pressmark Evan.260.  – Oxford Hall, Ilfracombe.  Miss Annie de Montford, 1881.

© The British Library Board. Pressmark Evan.260. – Oxford Hall, Ilfracombe. Miss Annie de Montford, 1881.

Annie de Montford (1836-1882) was variously billed as “the psychological star”, “the most renowned lady electro-biologist of the age”, and “the most powerful mesmerist in the world – the marvel of the two hemispheres”.  Originally a millworker but carried along by her belief that powers of the mind can enable you to become anything that you want to be, she was part scientist, part variety turn.  The “Midland Examiner” (18th March, 1876) gave an account of her “Two Hours in the World of Wonders” show: volunteers were mesmerised and made to believe they were being chased by wasps, that they had been shipwrecked, that they were circus performers, or soldiers, or members of Parliament, or dentists, etc.  She closed the eyes of members of the audience with sounds and no matter how hard they tried they could not open them again until she released them from her spell.  And she turned a man into a corpse of suspended animation, placing him between two chairs, supported only by his neck and feet – “while in this position a young man stood on his legs without the least emotion on the part of the inanimate and without his knowledge entirely.  His eyes were totally deprived of sight and the limbs rigid marble”.

The fifth and final colourful character is of course Dan Leno (George Wild Galvin, 1860-1904) – quondam clog-dancer, comic singer, pantomime dame and comedian, billed as “the funniest man on earth”.  He is plausibly thought of as the inventor of stand-up.  With the possible exception of the immortal Marie Lloyd, there was no greater music-hall star in late Victorian England.

Alongside the exhibits, there are five video clips of specially commissioned original performance pieces inspired by collection and in part recreating the acts of the pivotal figures.  In addition, the “There Will Be Fun Repertory Company”, organised, like the performance pieces, by entertainer and co-curator Christopher Green, will be giving live Saturday afternoon performances,  and there is a full programme of special events, all in the cause of “bringing the British Library’s collections to life”.

I have nothing against any of this, and will probably be turning up for a performance or two.  Christopher Green is an interesting and thoroughly engaging man and I was still humming his “There Will be Fun” song (“There is Learning – For the Discerning”) – to myself several days after our guided tour.  But I do begin to wonder if this ubiquitous quest to “bring collections to life”, is actually starting to deflect attention away from the material itself.  Nothing needs resurrection if it is not actually dead – and these collections certainly aren’t.

Alfred Concanen, “Modern Advertising: A Railway Station”.  Printed by Stannard & Son.  From Henry Sampson, “A History of Advertising from the Earliest Times” 1874.

Alfred Concanen, “Modern Advertising: A Railway Station”. Printed by Stannard & Son. From Henry Sampson, “A History of Advertising from the Earliest Times” 1874.

I say this because there are whole parallel narratives to this exhibition.  It is a celebration of the performing arts, certainly, but without the noise and the razzamatazz, it is also a perfect feast of Victorian commercial printing (click on the images to enlarge).  It is a tale of the emergence and rapid universality of colour printing.  It is a specific chapter in the history of design.  It is the story of a new breed of specialist theatrical printers.  It is a full report on the birth of modern advertising.  As that doyen of bibliographers, G.  Thomas Tanselle, put it long ago, the exhibits themselves “are there, holding clues to their own history, and we must try to learn all we can from the physical evidence they preserve.  They are, after all, the primary evidence …  physical objects that are themselves pieces of historical evidence”.

There are other lives here – ones not so readily accessible on Wikipedia.  For the historian of print, there are colour printers unknown the historian of colour printing, Robert M.  Burch – a couple unknown even to his successors, Wakeman, Bridson and Gascoigne.  My suspicion is that colour-work for book illustration was lagging well behind the work of these poster-printers.

© The British Library Board.  Pressmark Evan.334.  “The Artist’s Dream” presented at the Egyptian Hall by David Devant in 1893.  Lithographed by Joseph Weiner.

© The British Library Board. Pressmark Evan.334. “The Artist’s Dream” presented at the Egyptian Hall by David Devant in 1893. Lithographed by Joseph Weiner.

There is eye-catching work, for example, by” J.  Weiner Ltd.”, the London offshoot of a long-established international firm, with offices also in Vienna and Paris, and later New York.  A firm awarded first prize in the English Section at the “International Exhibition du Livre”, held in Paris in 1894.  They were represented in London by the young “art printer” Joseph Weiner (1868?-1941), son of Jacob Weiner, the founder.  The firm were advertising contractors too, owning advertising sites, including a monopoly of the iron pillars used for advertising in Vienna.  The firm was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1895 and the prospectus carries a glowing report.  The work is of the highest quality and represented on almost every hoarding.  Their poster for the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway “is itself a work of art, and admitted by those connected with the trade one the most artistic placards ever exhibited”.  One popular poster was turned out in four-and-a-half days from the placing of the order, a feat which “cannot be matched by any other firm in London”.  Their works in Acton Street are conspicuous for cleanliness and order, the machinery maintained in splendid condition (St . James’s Gazette, 8th August 1895).

But there was a darker side.  It came to light in 1898, when Joseph Weiner (not for the first time) was prosecuted under the Factory Act – eight counts of employing women at night after the legal period of employment, and two of employing women before the legal hour.  The eight young women began their shift at 8 o’clock on a Friday morning and worked through until 6.20am the next day.  They then rested until 8 o’clock, when they began their Saturday shift, continuing until 1pm – the normal time to finish on a Saturday.  The facts that the women had volunteered to get out 50,000 copies of something in a hurry to help out an old customer, that they were given rest-breaks and refreshments, that the work was light and they were paid double-time, cut no ice at all with the magistrate, who regarded it as “a very bad case” and imposed a stiff fine (Morning Post,  19th August  1898).

© The British Library Board. Pressmark Evan.191. Crystal Palace, London. “Cinderella”, 1874.

© The British Library Board. Pressmark Evan.191. Crystal Palace, London. “Cinderella”, 1874. Designed and lithographed by Thomas Way.

In another bay there is a lovely and restrained poster, technically highly accomplished, for E.  L.  Blanchard’s production of Cinderella at the Crystal Palace – the Blanchard who turned up in a post here on the blog in a different context only a few weeks ago.  The poster is quite unlike anything else in the exhibition.  It was designed and lithographed by Thomas Way (1837-1915), the man who brought art back into harness with lithography, taught Whistler the technique, prepared his stones and printed his work.  It dates from 1874 – and in terms of technique and design, with its echoes of William Morris and foretaste of art nouveau, it is perhaps twenty years ahead of its time.  Surely worth a caption?

© The British Library Board.  Pressmark Evan.371.  – Sanger’s Grand National Amphitheatre.  The Great Alvantee, 1872.  Lithographed by Theophilus Creber of Plymouth.

© The British Library Board. Pressmark Evan.371. – Sanger’s Grand National Amphitheatre. The Great Alvantee, 1872. Lithographed by Theophilus Creber of Plymouth.

This Sanger poster is by the prosperous Theophilus Creber (1845-1902) of Plymouth, who described himself as a “show printer”.  Brought up in Devonport Workhouse (not as an inmate, his father was the teacher), he was a man in love with his work to the extent that he took his own lease on the old Olympia Theatre in Plymouth and re-opened it in 1887 as a Theatre of Varieties, promising “first class entertainments …  free from anything objectionable in the slightest degree”.  By 1898 he had taken over the Theatre Royal at Eastbourne, spending a fortune on refurbishing it.

The Era, 9th April 1898.

The Era, 9th April 1898.

An account in “The Era” describes the work carried out in elaborate detail (see illustration).  He also owned Fred Ginster’s Circus, which was put up for auction, lock, stock and barrel, later that year – possibly to pay for the refurbishment:  “The Circus Plant is in First-rate Condition, and is now Travelling, and will be up to Day of Sale.  It comprises the following :–  100 Horses and Ponies, Procession Carriages, Living Waggons, Luggage Waggons, Pony Traps, Splendid Sets of Red and Blue Leather Harness, Waggon Harness, &c.; very Large Two-Pole Tent, with Wallings and Seating Complete; Horse Tents, Dressing Tents, Property Tents, Procession Dresses, Shields, Banners, Flags, &c.; Twenty-five of the Best and Cleverest Horses in the Circus Business; Four Black Hungarian Horses, Performing Together, and to do Separate Trick and Menage Acts; Dignity and Impudence, the Big Horse and the Little Pony, which do Three Acts; Ten of the Best Ring Horses in the Business, go to every Act; the Smallest and Prettiest Ponies, Two White Sacred Mules, 17h.  high, &c” (The Era, 17th September 1898).  His business survived until 1932 when it merged with the Salisbury Press.

© Richard D.  Sheaff.  Jubilee invitation card of James Upton of Birmingham.

© Richard D. Sheaff. Jubilee invitation card of James Upton of Birmingham.

Well represented with a number of posters (e.g. the first Sanger poster above) is James Upton (1821-1874), the “famous colour printer” of Birmingham, who also had some colourful moments in his own life.  He was embezzled by his book-keeper to the tune of hundreds of pounds in 1861.  He was eye-witness to a grisly incident headlined “Terrible Fight with Leopards in a Menagerie” by the press in 1869 – it was Upton who alerted the keepers.  He was bankrupted and forced to hand over the running of his business to trustees in 1872, but was back in business, creditors paid in full, and prosperous once more by 1874.

The Stage, 21st June 1889.

The Stage, 21st June 1889.

He died a few months later, the business continuing in his name under his son William Albert Upton (1860-1908) and grandson James Baskerville Upton (1891-1973) in turn.  The firm was still in business (as the Upton Printing Group) recently enough to have printed the sleeve for the Rolling Stones’ “Let it Bleed” album, which represents rather a delightful continuity in the marketing of popular entertainment.  The fiftieth-anniversary invitation card comes from Richard D.  Sheaff’s wonderful website (link in the blog-roll), which I thoroughly recommend to anyone interested in printing ephemera (especially American).

© The British Library Board.  Pressmark Evan.446.  Alfred Concanen, Royal Polytechnic Institution, Westminster.  Professor Pepper’s Ghosts, ca. 1885.

© The British Library Board. Pressmark Evan.446. Alfred Concanen, Royal Polytechnic Institution, Westminster. Professor Pepper’s Ghosts, ca. 1885. Printed by Stannard & Son.

Aside from the posters, flyers, tickets and so on, I spotted some lovely music-covers by the best-known printer of such things, William Thomas Stannard (1815-1895) of Poland Street, son of a London postman.  Trading with Francis Dixon as “Stannard & Dixon” until that partnership was amicably dissolved on 30th June 1868, Stannard was later joined by his son, William Stannard, as “Stannard & Son”, until that partnership too was dissolved on 19th November 1891.  He was employing thirty hands in 1881.  He often worked with the great commercial artist Alfred Concanen (1835-1886) – “The most painstaking of the Pre-Raphaelites must fail beside Concanen!”, averred Sacheverell Sitwell.  Stannard was another colourful printer and something of a master of illusion himself – he turns up in two quite different places on the night of the 1871 census.  He appears to have been maintaining two separate domestic establishments, the family home in St.  Pancras, and another in Battersea with his mistress Selah Sands and her infant daughter.  He is described as deaf on one of these returns, but I suspect he may simply not have been answering questions that night.

© Richard D.  Sheaff.  Trade-card of C.  J.  Culliford & Sons.

© Richard D. Sheaff. Trade-card of C. J. Culliford & Sons.

In 1896 the firm of “C.  J.  Culliford & Sons” advertised itself as the oldest firm of theatrical printers in Great Britain, established in 1837.  To judge from the various examples of their work in the exhibition, they were, to my eye at least, also the best – the colour work clean, crisp and intense (see the “The Mahatmas Outdone” poster above).  Charles John Culliford (1816-1893) also frequently acted as his own artist and designer.  He was born in Bath and I think was probably a younger brother of (James) Edward Culliford, also a draughtsman and lithographer.  Edward Culliford was imprisoned for debt in 1836, 1839 and 1842, and then sentenced to twelve months for forgery in 1848 – but he was also at one time the lessee of the Fitzroy Theatre.  Charles John Culliford was himself imprisoned for debt in 1852 and declared bankrupt in 1862.  Life was clearly precarious in the world of theatrical printing, but on this occasion Culliford successfully applied for discharge almost immediately.

© Museum of London.  Image Number 001945.

© Museum of London. Image Number 001945. Lithographed by Culliford & Sons.

In 1863 he advertised the largest poster ever executed and by 1871 was employing five men and two boys.  Joined in time by his sons Charles Stewart Culliford (1855-1914) and Henry Thomas Culliford (1862-1935), by 1889 he could advertise in “The Stage” that a new twenty-four sheet poster would be the finest of his career.  But for all his effort, skill and perseverance, when he died in 1893 his estate was valued at a meagre £130.11s.11d.  The younger son had by now gone into a separate partnership with Herbert Clement Haycock as “Culliford & Haycock”, but the original business continued (until 1925) and was responsible for one of the earliest cinema posters – a charming 1896 poster advertising John Nevil Maskelyne’s “Animated Photographs” at the Egyptian Hall.  Maskelyne, working with his son of the same name, had patented an improved projector known as the Mutagraph, pictured in the corner of the poster, in that year.

There may have been some opportunities missed in terms of explanatory captions, but this is a glorious exhibition.  Do go and see it.  It’s free.  It’s on until 12th February 2017.  Details here at  But please don’t think that it’s all about the luvvies.  These exhibits don’t need bringing to life, they are shouting for attention.  Get there as soon as you can.

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