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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & Collectable Books

Observer Books

These delightful pocket sized books have become both a collector's delight and a torture for those whose aim it is to collect every variation of every edition. Prices for books in this informative series vary from the hundreds of pounds for a 1st edition of The Observer's Book of Birds, with a wrapper, to a few pence for some titles published in the Observer's heyday of the 1970's.

So where did it all start? Frederick Warne had a history of publishing both children's books and natural history books. Of particular note are the Beatrix Potter tales which blend the two areas together with their charming stories and illustrations. In 1895 Edward Step had Wayside and Woodland Blossoms published which was his first book and the first in the Wayside and Woodland series. These books were designed for the observant wayfarer. They were the forerunners of the present day field guides with the revolutionary features of being short, concise, well illustrated in colour, accurate and pocket sized, all of which made them ideal for the beginner. Edward Step's books were so successful that some of the text was reused verbatim in some of the early Observer titles.

(Published 28th Oct 2014) Read full article

The Magic of Numbers

We use them everyday - to build things, buy things, gamble and grow. Yet we use numbers without thinking about how peculiar they are.

We first learnt to count by saying: '3 apples and 2 apples makes 5 apples' and we could check this by actually taking physical apples and grouping them.

And then we advanced to: '3 apples plus 2 apples equals 5 apples'.

But can you remember at what point you made the huge leap and forgot about apples and instead said: 3+2 = 5?

It happens so subtly we can't remember, but it is a truly remarkable leap of faith - that what's true for apples is true for anything we want to count and is still true when we're not associating the figures 2 and 3 with any entity. We just slipped from apples to abstract without noticing!

(Published 28th Oct 2014) Read full article


I read somewhere that the things that you are passionate about as a child, stay with you for life. They say it is similar to buying a computer: when young, the things you become passionate about go onto your hard drive, as you age and your tastes alter it is similar to buying software, but the hard disk info remains.

With me this is oh so true - images, aromas, sounds take me immediately back to an earlier time, the music, for example, of my early teens may not be great music, but oh does it affect me still! I only have to hear the opening bars of Daydream Believer by the Monkees, and I am back, 12 years of age, and all that it implies. I re-read books that I loved as a youngster, it is I accept a strange mix, Jennings is in there, as growing up on a council estate the tales of public school life fascinated me. How I longed for tuck boxes and dormitory life, tales of Nelson's time with Alexander Kent, the Bolitho novels' tales of sailing the seven seas held me in their sway, but there were also tales of The Man from Uncle mixed up with Gerald Durrell's weird family and love of animals.

(Published 27th Oct 2014) Read full article

New Naturalist Books




Look at a collection of New Naturalists in their beautiful dust wrappers; touch the green buckram bindings, the top quality paper. Savour the visual and tactile sensations.Sensual and alluring - absolutely!

The New Naturalist Library is a series of about one hundred books first issued in Great Britain by William Collins in 1945 and continuing into the 1990's with it's peak in the 50's and 60's. The series covers every aspect of British Natural History from Moles to Measles. Clifford and Rosemary Ellis painted most of the dustwrappers. The series is worth acquiring simply for these works of art. From the subtlety of the Swallowtails for Butterflies (the first title published in 1945) to the dramatic and terrifying mole for the monograph The Mole.

(Published 27th Oct 2014) Read full article

Musings on Trains

That age old adage 'let the train take the strain' is arguably no longer relevant in today's modern society of people rushing here and rushing there in their little metal boxes and getting stressed out when they meet other people in their little metal boxes.

I used to travel to work in Cardiff on the train - a journey of 40 minutes. As I started work at the crack of dawn, the morning train (the first of the day) would be deserted. However, the train on my return journey was during rush hour and would be packed with rarely a seat to be found. Often I would have to sit or stand in the little cubbyhole by the door all the way home. I'm not sure if that is 'letting the train take the strain'! At that time, I would pine for my little Fiesta metal box - but then I could be stuck in traffic on the M4 motorway so I couldn't really win.

(Published 27th Oct 2014) Read full article

Musings, Holidays and Deadlines

Working as a Saturday 'boy' in a book shop would not be everyone's cup of tea but I quite enjoy it. Working with just one colleague you have someone to talk to when you feel lonely, but you are not hassled by all the complications which seem to arise when all the other staff members are present.

Left: River Wye looking towards Tintern Abbey.

And it gives you the chance to talk to all those booklovers who now have time to wander round the shop over the weekend, not being constrained by lunch hours etc. (although, like me, they still appear to have some problems with waiting partners). You can sympathise with those that have arrived without their glasses or their lists (sometimes both) because that sometimes happens to me (very often my wife says as, yet again, she has to bring my glasses in for me).

(Published 27th Oct 2014) Read full article

Movable Books

While pop-up books and moveable books of today are mostly created with children in mind, before 1700 AD books aimed specifically at children were simply not produced. Those few children who were lucky enough to be able to read had to content themselves with the material found in their parents' library.

In the early seventeenth century the development of the printing processes made the production of small, inexpensive books possible. The 'chapbook' thus came into being. Typically these were booklets of eight or twelve pages, often poorly illustrated and badly printed. 

(Published 27th Oct 2014) Read full article


Even those who get dizzy at the top of a step-ladder cannot fail to be enthralled by the exploits of Mountaineers even if the force that drives people to what look like near suicidal situations can never be understood by sane human beings. Surely only spiders can stick to overhanging and vertical cliffs?

So when was mountaineering invented?

For most British people the mid-nineteenth century saw the prosaically named Albert Smith climb Mont Blanc in 1851 and Edward Whymper climb The Matterhorn in 1865 and perhaps more importantly both wrote books about their exploits. The Alps received much attention during this period and many gentlemen travelled further afield so that climbing books such as books about the Himalayas by William Conway appeared as early as 1894. In this Victorian period the molehills of Great Britain did not receive much attention or at least much documented attention.

(Published 23rd Oct 2014) Read full article

Memories of Childhood

The books we read as children have a special place in our memories. Those we loved remain with us throughout our lives. Often as adults we return to these books - sometimes just to read them again ourselves, perhaps to learn something about who we once were. Other times maybe we want to just share the experience and joy with our own children, grandchildren or other children.

I myself come from a family which had no books at all in the home. By chance at the age of about six or seven I stumbled upon the local public library. I had been wandering around the local street market aimlessly not quite knowing what to do with myself. I got a warm welcome from the library staff and three library tickets - the old fashioned type where they took a slip out of the book and retained it with the ticket until you returned the book. Ah! I feel a whiff of nostalgia for those pre-electronic days when libraries were for books not computers and where people were expected to read quietly and talk in whispers. I have been an avid reader ever since.

(Published 23rd Oct 2014) Read full article

Now Is The Month of Maying!

There is often a moment of panic when I'm reminded it is my turn to write Theme of the Month for the website and this time was no exception. However, the title of a Madrigal being learned by my local choir keeps going round in my head and it became the title of this article.

The madrigal (a part song for several voices, usually unaccompanied and often from the Renaissance period for those who were wondering) was written by Thomas Morley and published in 1595. It is sung by the choir of Magdalen College, Oxford during their 1st May morning celebrations. Here large crowds gather early - about 6am (or indeed have been up all night at the May balls) - to hear the choir sing from the top of the tower at the college before the revelries continue. So I thought I'd investigate more about the month of May.

(Published 23rd Oct 2014) Read full article


Imagine the world without ships, or floating craft of any kind. The empires that would not have been born, the innocence of mankind for each other with our many and varied trades, cultures and creeds. The lands that would have been left solely to our fellow creatures when the continents slipped (some might call that utopia in this age of conservation awareness).

Left: A Viking Ship

Here at Stella Books we have an extensive range of maritime books from ancient times to modern-day heroes and heroines together with books on canals, old ships photographs, sailing manuals and children's adventure stories (watery ones of course).

(Published 23rd Oct 2014) Read full article


Although I now live in the Forest of Dean and work in the beautiful Wye Valley, for many years I lived and worked in London.

So in spite of my lovely surroundings, I still love London; I love its history, museums, architecture (some more than others), art galleries, theatres, restaurants - its complete zest for life!

So it is no surprise that one of my favourite sections in the shop is the one on London. As is right and proper, all manner of books have been written about London, so from this section I am just going to highlight a few of my favourites.

(Published 23rd Oct 2014) Read full article

Ladybird Books Illustrators

You can't beat a Ladybird book!! A comment made in Rose's Books recently and one with which many people would agree. Well written, well illustrated, with just enough information to help any child who is learning to read or doing a school project (and not just in pre-computer days!)

Nearly everyone who visits Rose's Books walks past our fabulous collection of Ladybird books. Memories of these books come flooding back. But what I think people remember most is the illustrations - although there are a few people who can practically recite Tootles the Taxi or Ginger's Adventures! One customer bought a copy of British Birds And Their Nests from the 536 series because he found the illustrations really useful when bird watching.

(Published 23rd Oct 2014) Read full article

Ladybird Books

To view our current stock of ladybird books click here


"Once upon a time there was a little girl called Cinderella. Her mother was dead, and she lived with her father and two elder sisters…"

Do you remember sitting up in bed as a little tot determined not to fall asleep as you listened to your favourite story being read to you? Maybe it started with the words 'Mrs. Bunnikin was darning, with a stocking in her hand; In came Bunnikin, her youngest, said "A picnic would be grand!"'.

(Published 23rd Oct 2014) Read full article

Arthur Mee & King's England

View our current stock of King's England


"A remarkable event has been going on, quietly and unguessed at for many years in our countryside. There has been nothing like it before: it is the first census of the ancient and beautiful and curious historic possessions of England since the motor car came to make it possible..."

Such were the words of Arthur Mee (1875-1943), successful journalist, children's writer and patriot, as he described the production of The King's England - 'A New Domesday of 10,000 towns and villages'. Monumental in scale, this project led to the publication of 40 county books including an introductory volume 'Enchanted Land'. Originally published by Hodder & Stoughton in the 1930s these popular guidebooks have undergone revision and in 1989 The King's England Press was founded in order to reprint the series.

(Published 23rd Oct 2014) Read full article


Italy current stock



Through books your passions can be realized and explored, a love affair can be born and continued with delicious exhilarating and everlasting effect. The expectations are tantalizing. Books that lead the simple hearted reader to obscure corners to enjoy unnoticed landscapes and the secret vibrations of their beauty.

'A Good Book is the best of Friends, the same today and forever'

'A Good Book is the purest essence of a human soul'

'I love to lose myself in other men's minds, when I am not walking or traveling, I am reading. I cannot sit and think, Books think for me' Charles Lamb

(Published 22nd Oct 2014) Read full article

Independent Hay-on-Wye

Many of you know that Hay-On-Wye is famous for its multiplicity of bookshops but did you know that we have our own King who lives in the castle in Hay? The story begins long ago (in 1977 actually) when the booktown founder, Richard Booth, decided that action must be taken to revitalise Hay, ensure the livelihood of its inhabitants and restore the town to its former prosperity. Independence seemed to be the only solution.

The Declaration of Independence was made in December 1977 and the town celebrated with a party and fireworks.When King Richard, resplendent in his royal robes with crown, orb and sceptre, made from an old ball-cock and copper piping, was afterwards asked whether he was serious, his reply was:"Of course not - but it's more serious than real politics..!"

(Published 22nd Oct 2014) Read full article

Hobbies Meet Work - Work Meets Hobbies

As a rule I prefer to try and keep work and home life separate but as they say 'life is not that simple!'

When I first started working for Stella Books, some 15 years ago (seems like yesterday), I was employed to process the orders in the fast developing internet side of the business. Well, after a couple of years I developed a fondness for Biggles books when I was looking for something to read one afternoon. As is my way when I like an author, I wanted to read all of the books written by W.E. Johns, and so I started to buy the odd cheap reading copy and this somehow spiraled into a full-blown collecting habit (see my previous article!).

(Published 22nd Oct 2014) Read full article

The History of Rose's Books

Set in the rural market town of Hay-On-Wye, Rose's Books is the perfect example of the quaint and attractive family-run book store that Hay-On-Wye is renowned for.

Standing tall near the famous clock tower of the town, Rose's Books looks like it might have stood forever, watching time come and go. In truth, the building was constructed in 1611. Please join me on a brief journey through time to discover the history of our book store, Rose's Books.

When the building was constructed during the 17th century, Hay-On-Wye was a lively centre of local trade. It is likely that the property was originally used as a family home. Built on Broad Street, or Wye Bridge Street, as the road was then known, it was a fantastic location for any family to reside. With a cellar, and three main floors to the house it had ample room and the view from the top floor showed not only the barges travelling the River Wye but the hills, mountains and villages beyond.

(Published 22nd Oct 2014) Read full article


 Current stock of books about Herbs

Herbs have played an important part in the history of Man, from very early ages to the present day. They have had a variety of uses throughout the world, from condiments to charms against witch craft. Herbs have been used in floral decorations at weddings and funerals and to adorn the heads of victorious sports persons. An exact time of when herbs were first collected or planted is unknown but a papyrus dating back to 1500BC reveals that Egyptian doctors regularly prescribed herbal medicines to their patients.

(Published 22nd Oct 2014) Read full article