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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & collectable books

Mabel Lucie Attwell

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As many of you will know, from reading our articles, Maria's favourite children's book illustrator is Mabel Lucie Attwell (see articles on Comforting Thoughts & For Today and Bunty and the Boo Boos). However, on checking, it appears that we have yet to research an article of her history... so here goes!

Snowdon

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‘Twas a dark day when I decided to join my hubby along with Chris, Cliff & Sammy the dog on a trip to North Wales. Now don’t get me wrong, I love North Wales, it is so picturesque. The problem is, I like my hills flat, especially if I have to walk them!

My hubby, Chris, makes the trip to North Wales and the Snowdonia National Park three times a year and walks/climbs/scrambles the various peaks. I usually elect to stay home. This time, however, I needed a break from the kitchen sink and so I decided I would join him. No promises of climbing any hills though!

Autumn Thoughts

What does Autumn mean to you?

To me, it means that Winter is on its way... out come the jumpers and thick tights, shorts and summer tops go away into the loft to be discovered anew next Summer.

Down come the hanging baskets of flowers which have been making the outside of Stella Books look pretty and welcoming all Summer long. Rose's Books' glorious array of petunias is also long gone. My flower tubs at home are looking bedraggled and need emptying for the Winter months. The last mow of grass of the season is also done (I hope!).

Here in the UK, the start of the first and longest term of the school year starts. The children go back to school after the long school summer holiday. If only they knew how quickly the school years will pass them by!

New Uses for Old Passions

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I am, as my better half will confirm, a lost cause when it comes to collecting. If I acquire two of anything, by whatever means, it can become the start of a new passion.

I am a completer, for example in music, if I like one piece of music by an artist, I am liable to buy everything they have ever recorded, like it or not, I really must get out more I think.

Anyway when it comes to books my collecting began many years ago as an offshoot of a love of films. It started with studio collections, there were a series of books on the likes of Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Columbia Pictures, United Artists et al, containing a full list of the films made by the studio with details of stars, directors, awards etc.

Swords

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“Never give a sword to a man who can't dance” - Confucius

The sword has been referred to by many as the “Queen of the Weapons” and certainly not without merit. Throughout the ages, the sword possessed beauty in the many forms it took and in the art with which it was adorned. It took skill and a sophisticated knowledge to make a sword and also, it took a lot of skill, knowledge, practice and co-ordination to wield that sword efficiently.

We have quite a collection of swords at home, I am not entirely sure why or how we have acquired most of these to be honest, but at the last count we have a Roman Gladius, two fencing swords, one Tai Chi sword, one wooden practice sword, a metal replica Mediaeval sword and an assortment of foam rubber and plastic 'toy' swords! Most we have on display in some way or another as they do have a certain aesthetic appeal and the toy swords usually get an airing in the summer when my husband and I get it into our heads that it would be fun to stage a theatrical sword fight... and then quite quickly regret it when one of us gets mortally wounded! A recent tidy up and subsequent re-discovery of many of our swords wedged behind bookcases and crammed into umbrella stands; combined with a slightly worrying recent addiction to the TV series 'Game of Thrones', prompted me to investigate further the fascinating history of this 'Queen of Weapons'.

Robert Burns

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Burns.The very name sets ablaze fierce emotions and reaches the deepest depth of feeling in all Scots. The very name reeks of and is Scotland.

Yet Burns was more. Like Da Vinci, Shakespeare, and Beethoven, Burns rises above limited nationalism to stride the stage of the world. His genius had a universal vision; his humanity embraced the common person world-wide; it goes beyond poetry to understand that the humble ambitions of a mouse are nearer to the grandest ambitions of Man than Man could ever realise.

And all this began in ‘an auld clay biggin’ in Alloway upon the 25th of January, 1759 when the first son of William Burnes (or Burness) and Agnes Broun was born. Raised in poverty as the eldest of seven, Burns substituted words for playthings; early on he was dazzled and fascinated by them as he learned to toss them about and watch them sparkle, form alluring pictures, and -- sometimes -- flare dangerously. The formal education that he had was little and provided by another remarkable man, John Murdoch, who nurtured Burns’ instinctive grasp of English. Another mark of the poet’s intelligence was his greedy devouring of books -- he loved Shakespeare. Later he would learn French and study geometry and surveying. His intellect soared above the conditions it found him in.

Garden Visitors

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Dull… I hear you say. But wait – these visitors to our garden in Portugal are certainly not dull to look at and most are fascinating to learn about. Join me in a trip around the garden in late summer and autumn.

My husband Cliff and I have been living here in our little country cottage for three months now and have not ceased to be fascinated by the variety of wildlife we see here. When we first arrived at the end of the summer we were amazed at the clouds of butterflies which flew up from the straggly plant bearing pink flowers just by the house. We have since found out that the plant is oregano - both beautiful and useful. The oregano was superseded by the bushes of thyme with their delicate purple flowers. Bees, butterflies and other insects love them.

a journey of discovery

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I finished reading a book a few weeks ago that had such a profound effect upon me that I am still recovering from its influence now! Perhaps you would say this is not such a strange thing for avid readers to experience from time to time, however, what is a little different in this case, is that this particular book was actually written for early teen readers. I know this may prompt some sarcastic commentary on my mental age but, in my early 30s, the achingly beautiful 'Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe' simply blew me away. A somewhat introspective coming-of-age story about two Mexican-American boys growing up in El Paso, Texas, in 1987, the story brings up questions of identity, both in terms of sexuality and culture, the nature of trust and loyalty and explores teenage experimentation with drugs and drinking. The book's real focus though is friendship and how the perspective and love of a good friend can make you look at yourself differently and motivate you to change for the better.

The Wye Valley Railway

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Having lived in the village of Tintern all my life (since the mid 70s) one of the main things that I wish I had been able to see is steam trains chuffing their way along into Tintern Station. This would have been a spectacular sight as from the south the railway line exits a short tunnel then runs straight on to a bridge across the River Wye before a short run into Tintern Station.

Tintern Station is located at the end of the village about ½ mile from the north edge and about 1 mile by road from Tintern Abbey - although only ½ mile by railway line, as the road follows the river's broad horseshoe bend whilst the railway was constructed to follow a relatively straight line. The station is the only station on the Wye Valley line open to the public, it is operated as a Tourist Attraction by Monmouthshire County Council, and they regularly hold events there. It includes a permanent display charting the history of the railway with so much more information than I could give you in this short article, so well worth a visit if you are in the area.

The Magnificent Wye Valley

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It is good indeed to have a haven to retreat to in these troubled times, and the beautiful Wye Valley is just that, not only for myself, and the other families lucky enough to live here, but the many visitors who come to appreciate its many qualities and splendour. It is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with rolling hills, many lovely stone-built houses and a wealth of history. The River Wye is reputed to be Britain's most beautiful river and also one of the cleanest, and its important plant and animal life has made it a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It has been appreciated for centuries, and a "Wye Tour" was considered a must for those wishing to seek out Europe's most picturesque settings.

Wishing For Spring

After the snow in January - I looked out into my garden last week and noticed some Snowdrops and thought, although it's still winter, spring is soon going to be on its way – and I can't wait!!

It's a long-standing joke here at Stella Books that I feel the cold - and come in with many jumper layers in the winter (and sometimes even in the summer!), with blankets to go over my knees and occasionally even heat packs! So I look forward to the warmer days and longer hours of daylight that spring (and summer beyond) bring.

One of my favourite things about the spring time is seeing all the baby animals - spring lambs, baby goats, little cows, piglets - really anything small and cute! At least once during the spring/summer time I have to visit a local farm or petting zoo to see all the new animals. What's better than some fresh air, spring sunshine and adorable baby animals to make you smile, after being cooped up for the winter?!

An Early History of Wine: from its origins to the Classical Period

"Noah, a man of the soil, was the first to plant a vineyard." Genesis 9.20-21

Many have noticed the striking coincidence that Mount Ararat, where the Ark came to rest, is located where the cultivation of grapevines is believed to have originated - Transcaucasia, south of the Black Sea. However, even if one accepts the Biblical origins of viticulture, it is not necessary to plant a vineyard in order to produce wine. It is likely that early communities discovered the apparently miraculous transformation of grapes into wine when they first collected the fruit of wild vines: the berries will naturally, and quickly, ferment due to the presence of air-borne yeast on the grape skins. One wonders how these communities explained how grape juice acquired the intoxicating properties which seem to have caught poor Noah unawares - "When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent."

William Brown

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He is one of the strongest and most vividly drawn characters in all fiction.She was a private person not overly well known.

He stands comparison with Mr. Micawber, Long John Silver, Falstaff, Sherlock Holmes and Tom Sawyer – in fact, he is more rounded a character than any of them.She stands comparison with Maupassant, Somerset Maugham, O’ Henry and Mark Twain --- and, although her range may not be as broad, she is funnier than any of them.

Wild Flower Books

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Whether you are a keen botanist or simply entranced by their natural beauty, wild flowers are a source of both interest and pleasure.

From the Snowdrop signalling the imminent arrival of Spring and its Primroses, through the showy carpets of Bluebells and Wild Garlic to the vertical splendour of the Foxglove and Willow Herbs, wild flowers mark the passing of the year.

Left: Carpets of Bluebells gladden the heart...

First let's look at books that fulfil the need for basic identification.

Why Do We Read?

In 2008 the Year of Reading, it is worth asking ourselves - Why do we read? At the most banal level it's because we can and we want to. Like Mallory's mountain - 'because it's there'. If I look at my own reading, I see just how much of my day is taken up in one way or another with reading. I read at least one newspaper a day usually before I leave for work. (I also like to complete a daily crossword but don't always achieve that!) At work there is barely a task which doesn't necessitate some element of reading.

I also always have more than one book 'on the go' at a time. My butterfly mind constantly hops from one interest to another. At the point of writing I have a stack of six books beside the bed - I'll spare you the details - all in varying stages of being read. A simple rule is that I only read one novel at a time but will nonetheless be simultaneously reading drama, poetry, invariably something political and usually a popular science book. (I can't do the 'serious' science - the detail is beyond me. As Peter Cook said of being a judge - 'I didn't have the Latin!')

Walt Disney

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Thinking back to early childhood – one of the things most people remember with a great fondness, is the first ever Walt Disney film that they saw at the cinema. For me, it was Jungle Book – I remember waiting for the lights to dim, the hushed whispers as the curtains opened, watching in anticipation and wonder as the story of Mowgli and friends unfolded before my eyes. But, be it one of the animated classics such as Jungle Book, Snow White or Lady and the Tramp or a live-action Disney picture, such as Mary Poppins or The Swiss Family Robinson, you were always taken to a magical place of make-believe, adventure and romance.

Up, Up & Away: Alberto Santos-Dumont, pioneer of airship design

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At the end of the nineteenth century a small, dapper young man took to the skies above Paris in a hired gas balloon. He ensured that he was adequately provisioned for his first ascent - with a lunch of roast beef, chicken, ice-cream, cakes, champagne, coffee and chartreuse! The flight made a huge impression on him and that night he enthralled sophisticated Parisians with descriptions of his adventure - "no dining room is so marvellous in its decoration". The man's name was Alberto Santos-Dumont and his development of steered airships or dirigibles was to win him the title 'father of aviation'.

Travelling on the Underground

I spent many of my younger days travelling to and from London both for work and pleasure.

I knew how to get to different stations, I knew where the interchanges were and which were the busier stations (although at Rush Hour everywhere was busy) all without consulting that iconic Tube Map – it was practically second nature!

When you were in an unfamiliar area of London after a night out, the sight of the Underground sign and the light emanating from within was like greeting an old friend.

Commuting in the morning and early evening was completely different, packed trains, nose to nose standing, straphanging, the excitement of getting a seat - a sea of people emerging from below, blinking in the light!

Trade Directories

What is a Trade Directory? If, like me, you happen to have been born after 1970, then you may not have come across them before. Simply put, they are the old fashioned equivalent of the Telephone Directories and Yellow Pages rolled into one book.

The earliest known directory of London merchants was published in 1677 and is kept in the Guildhall Library in London. However it was not until 1781 that the first national directory was published. It was the industrial revolution and the growth of the British Empire that boosted the publication of directories. Before the second world war the directories were typically split by counties, apart from those for the larger industrial cities. After the second world war they had grown so much in size it was necessary to split the directories into large towns or city volumes, for example, Kelly's Directory of Rochester Chatham, Gillingham , Strood, Rainham and Neighborhoodwould originally have been part of Kelly's Directory of Kent, Surrey & Sussex. A number of companies published these directories including Pigot, White, Slater and Baines, but from now on we are going to focus on those which are arguably the most famous, the Kelly's Directories.

Top Ten Childrens Books

Earlier this year I read an article in a newspaper which listed the top ten children's books of the past 150 years. This list was based on a poll of 2,652 adults and, I assume, carried out in the UK. Some titles which featured in the top ten I wholeheartedly agreed with, some I didn't and some were titles I hadn't read so couldn't express an opinion. Top of the poll was Winnie-the-Pooh, a worthy winner in my opinion as the mix of characters and personalities have wide spread appeal - who could resist a character as adorable as Winnie-the-Pooh, or Piglet, or Eeyore?