A browse through our special book room
Browse the Special Book Room >
An Aladdin’s cave for Booklovers. I think that is an apt description for the Special Book Room at Stella Books. On entering the shop door one is struck by the spaciousness and openness of the store but wait! To the left is a gate. Why? Can you not venture in? Of course you can. The gate signifies that you are entering a very special place - the area where all our most rare, fragile and valuable items are collected together. But unlike many bookstores most items are in plain sight, beautifully displayed on bookshelves, not locked away in glass cabinets making one afraid to ask to view.
So, let us take a tour through the special book room and see what treasures may be found.
Going through the gate I see, straight ahead, floor to ceiling shelving packed with colourful vintage children’s books. As these are my particular favourites I am going to leave these until last so I turn to first of all to my left. Wow! These are Big Books! Some in their original colourful boxes - The History Of Paris In Painting and The Cabinet of Natural Curiosities; some in custom made clamshell boxes - The Surinam Album and The Temple of Flora, these two also protected by a polystyrene container and outer cardboard box. The tallest measures almost 30 inches! But what beauty lies within. These are magnificently produced books with exquisite colour illustrations of birds, butterflies and flowers.
Next I come to a collection of books on motoring and motor sport. A title that catches my eye is The Edwardian Rolls-Royce, a handsome two volume set contained in a matching slipcase. This is a comprehensive history of the Silver Ghost, packed with photographs these wonderful cars. Even I, knowing nothing about cars, find these fascinating. Still on the transport theme here is a three volume set entitled The Autobiography Of A Stage-Coachman, published in 1861. I can’t resist a peep. Each volume has an illustration at the front and the text is eminently readable, giving a fascinating insight into everyday life in the early 19th century. But, although tempted, I must move on.
In the centre of the room are three sets of back-to-back shelving. The first contains a selection of subjects for our window display; this week it includes children's books, art, natural history, science & technology and maths. Quite a range of topics. Then I notice a small section of antiquarian books with intriguing titles: The Cook’s Oracle, The Cook’s Dictionary, Endless Amusement, Games Of Skill and Conjuring. Again, I resist the temptation to browse through these as there is so much more to see.
I turn around and find I am now in the Field Sports and Natural History section. I spot a book on the Basics And Applications Of Dendrochronology. It’s a good job the main title is Tree Rings as that gives me a clue as to what it is about! First published in 1983 the preface states that “the last remaining gaps in a 7000 year-old chronology can now be closed - nearly every oak growing in gravel or settlements in western and Central Europe can now be dated accurately”. That is amazing - all from the growth rings of the tree! The aim of the book is to “present a wide and in part complex science in simple form”. From my cursory glance through the pages this goal appears to have been achieved. Even I can understand it! Looking further we have more books on trees, plus books about bees, birds, wild flowers, dogs, angling, some ancient, some modern but all valuable not only in monetary terms but content too.
Around the corner are the History and Topographical books. Histories of the numerous counties of England, most are beautifully bound in leather, many have engravings and maps. As our two shops are in Wales we naturally have a large collection of books about Wales, (1030 to be exact at time of writing), several of which are here in the Special Book Room.
The last of the centre shelves hold more natural history and topographical books including a fabulous collection of the beautifully produced New Naturalist series. I love these informative books with their brightly coloured illustrated dust wrappers.
And finally. I come to my favourites - the children’s and illustrated books. Shelves and shelves of delightfully illustrated, brightly coloured covers. Here are all my childhood favourites - Enid Blyton, Babar the little elephant, Rupert Bear, fairy tales with spooky illustrations by Arthur Rackham alongside Bill Badger and Monty Woodpig, the politically incorrect Golliwogg books plus lots I have never seen before but would love to own. A real treasure trove of nostalgia. But wait, we are not done yet. We do have glass cabinets in our Special Book Room. The books housed in here must be very special indeed. And they are! Rare and collectible items. Such as one of the privately printed editions of Beatrix Potter’s Tailor of Gloucester. Only 500 copies of this little book were published in 1902 and here is one of the survivors! A treasure indeed
I hope you have enjoyed this brief tour of our Special Book Room. There is so much more than I have been able to mention that I hope that one day you may be able to visit our shop here in on the banks of the River Wye and browse among these very Special Books for yourself.
Contributed by Chris