Many years ago, back in my early teens, I recollect that I would scour the shelves of my local library to find any work of fiction that would have the word 'Island' in its title. I doubt that I managed to find them all, even though I was not including children's literature which is rich indeed in 'island' books. The appeal of these isolated scraps of land is inescapable. Thousands of us make islands our holiday destination of choice and, come the day we earn our first billion, it seems likely that an island of our own will feature high on our shopping list. I guess an island represents an escape from the real world; maybe a place where time really can stand still.
I wonder how many children received an Annual this Christmas? I suspect that many of us looked forward to receiving an annual in our Christmas stockings judging by the conversations I have with our customers. Given the large range of annuals we have in stock there has always been plenty of choice. From Beano, Dandy, Rupert, Bunty and Blue Peter to perhaps more obscure titles such as Aunt Judy's Christmas Volume, Bubbles Annual, The Child's Companion and Little Folks.
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By Tutatis! - it's The Adventures of Asterix!
My family love this series of books, and we now have three generations of readers of Asterix le Gaulois.
After Asterix's appearance in 'Pilote', the first book 'Asterix the Gaul' was also published in 1959.
First published in 1859.
The author, George Brettingham Sowerby, was a British naturalist, illustrator and conchologist. Born in August 1788, he was the son of James Sowerby, also a British naturalist, illustrator and mineralogist. When James died, his brother & son, James De Carle Sowerby and George B. Sowerby I respectively, continued their father's work on fossil shells, publishing the latter parts of the Mineral Conchology of Great Britain.
Sowerby's Illustrated Index of British Shells came about from the use of Forbes & Hanley's 'Catalogue of the Shells of Great Britain and Ireland'. On the one hand, this tome was a very useful list of names without figures or references which helps the reader to identify the species. On the otherhand, it was a very large and splendid work which meant it was priced out of the range of the everyday Naturalist.
Without doubt, due to its unusual format, this is a book that immediately catches the eye, being 16 inches tall but only seven inches wide! It is written and illustrated by the artist Frederick George Lewin, the son of a sea captain. Lewin was born in Bristol in 1860 and lived and worked in the Bristol suburb of Redland for most of his life. He is one of the best known pen and ink artists Bristol has produced.
Lewin started his career as a journalist for the Western Daily Press but soon decided to focus on becoming a freelance artist. He contributed to many local magazines and newspapers and his work made regular appearances in Punch magazine. As his career developed he made a significant contribution to the wartime humorous postcard genre, producing around 750 postcard designs.
The series comprises some 36 volumes, and includes over 7500 images. The initial volume was published in 1980 and the series went from strength to strength until the last volume was published in 2000. If you are not already familiar with this marvellous collection of volumes, one might best describe it as an indispensable pictorial treasury of life in the capital city of Wales during the 19th and 20th centuries.
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Some books can take you straight back to the time you first read them and this is one of those for me. I first encountered the Drina books as an adult when I read several of the series to my three daughters. I can picture us now snuggled together on the bed as I read a chapter (or two) each evening. I'm not sure who enjoyed the books more – them or me! Although I never wanted to become a ballet dancer I have always enjoyed reading ballet stories, so when we acquired a collection of Drina books I just had to reread them!
I absolutely love this book! I came across it by accident some time ago and I am surprised it is still on our shelves at the time of writing. Or maybe not...
It is nothing special to look at from the outside.... A Naval Melo-drama. I must admit, I had to look up melodrama in the Oxford Dictionary which states:
A sensational dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events intended to appeal to the emotions. Definitely the case!
A play interspersed with songs and orchestral music accompanying the action... It would be very interesting to see this as a play... poor cat.
It is not a long read, one can read it through quickly although it rather spoils the fun if one does not take time to scrutinise the accompanying amusing illustrations which are mostly b/w with a few in colour.
The Vintage Alvis, first published by Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd in 1967, is a mouth-wateringly detailed account of the history of the famous Alvis Car Company during the 1920s and up to 1932.
Although the name Alvis may not be as well known today as Bugatti, Mercedes or Ferrari, the company produced one of the most popular sports cars of all time - the '12/50'. Alvis also developed a number of original concepts and technically advanced supercharged Grand Prix cars, and incorporated all-independent suspension to their sports cars as early as 1928.
Above: The 1926 12/50 T E sports tourer. The father of L.T.C. Rolt bought this car at the 1925 Olympia Show.
"Fairy-Wren" - what a delightful name for these beautiful little birds which are only found in Australasia. "Fairy-Wren" - where did this name come from? The term "wren" was used from the earliest days of the colony because it reminded homesick settlers of the utterly unrelated Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes). Unrelated and utterly dissimilar apart from the cocked tail and the fact that these birds live in bushes! Nevertheless, the term "Wren" stuck.
But "Fairy-Wren"? The word fairy conjures up a sense of being small and delicate, presumably to reduce confusion with other types of wren but the term does not seem to exist prior to the 20 th century. Tom Iredale, the influential ornithologist, conchologist and zoologist, claimed credit for the name in 1939 although the term was first referenced in the Australian National Dictionary in 1928. Whatever the origin, it was the term "Fairy–Wren" which first drew my attention to this beautiful book by one of the world’s leading field ornithologists.
For those who haven't previously had the opportunity to read any 'Orlando – The Marmalade Cat' stories (like me before embarking on writing this article), it shouldn't dissuade you from starting with any title in this series.
In 'Orlando Goes to the Moon', the beginning of the book gives you all the introduction you need to become acquainted with the characters involved. It tells us that Orlando is 'striped and the colour of marmalade, with eyes of a beautiful gooseberry green'. It also introduces 'his dear wife Grace' who is a 'tabby with a little stub nose like a tiny ripe apricot'. They have 'three kittens – tortoiseshell Pansy, Snow-white Blanche and little coal-black Tinkle'.
Although I, and I'm sure most other people, have heard of Rip van Winkle I wonder how many of us know the full story behind the name. The only thing I knew was that he slept for a hundred years, which he didn't, so it seems the only thing I thought I knew was wrong. Rip Van Winkle was written by Washington Irving and first published in 1819 in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. The story is introduced as being a tale found among the papers of Irving's fictional historian Diedrich Knickerbocker, a gentleman who was very interested in the local Dutch history.
Art of the New Naturalistsby Peter Marren, Robert Gillmor and Clifford and Rosemary Ellis. Published 2009
This book explores the artwork of the New Naturalist series of books. If you are unfamiliar with the New Naturalist titles, they are a series of Natural History books. The subjects range from 'Butterflies' which was the first book published in 1945 to 'Slugs and Snails' published in 2016.
The books are much sought after and are collected as much as for their artwork as for their content.
Bentley cars, despite being a subsidiary of Volkswagen, are still British made and are today based in Crewe, England. The Bentley, largely hand built, is a 'British luxury automobile icon' according to Wikipedia.
This book, Bentley Factory Cars 1919-1931, is described as the 'first definitive history of the Bentley golden era, and covers the personalities, the commercial and financial complexities, the engineering and development work – and the primum mobile of the company, racing.'
The book contains a chronological history, also covering events prior to 1919 where an understanding of them is required to appreciate later developments. It concludes at 1931 when Bentley Motors ceased to exist and Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd took over, acting as a subsidiary of Rolls Royce.
I love this book. In winter when it is early evening and the light fades in the late afternoon it is comforting to pass houses with their lights on shining out from the windows. Sometimes you can't help glancing inside as you pass and you catch glimpses of activity within. This is my favourite time of day in winter. People are returning home and planning to stay in. Fires are lit, heating is turned up, lamps are turned on and meals are prepared. This is the time when this book should be read to children as they cosy up on the sofa.
It is a collection of short stories and poems that are beautifully illustrated. The pages seem to capture the coldness of the world outside and the contrasting warmth within our homes so well. I particularly love “A Midwinter Night's Dream” with no text, just wonderful pictures capturing the dream of a young boy before Christmas.
Birds of America was first published as a series during 1827-1838 and is the result of more than 14 years of field observation and drawings by John James Audubon (1785-1851) who was a naturalist, painter and ornithologist.
Audubon's birds were drawn from real models. He would first find and shoot the bird using fine shot and then use wire to position the bird into a natural pose. This is different from the common method of many ornithologists who would prepare and stuff the body into a rigid pose. When working on a large specimen, for example an eagle, he would spend up to four 15 hour days preparing it, studying it and sketching it. The birds were drawn life-size and this is the reason some of the birds appear to be in a contorted pose as he struggled to fit the bird on the page!
The Forest Ring is a charming tale for children, written at the start of the twentieth century, in which a young girl is instrumental in helping the Fairy World and by so-doing also transforms the lives of those in the human world. It is a tale in which the Queen Fairy and her court of helpers rub shoulders with the animals of the forest, including bears, foxes, stags and one very sleepy owl...
The author, William C. de Mille, was a successful playwright, screenwriter and film director. If you think the surname looks a little familiar, you are correct: William was the elder brother of the famous filmmaker Cecil. B. DeMille (who changed the format & capitalisation of the surname). Although he was not quite as famous as his brother, William was one of the most respected directors of the silent movie era and specialised in adapting Broadway plays into silent films.
This lovely 2 volume vellum bound edition came to us through auction recently.
Having done a little research on horn-books and battledores for my article on ABC books a while ago, I was excited and interested to have a look at this original set by Andrew W. Tuer. What would be his definition of a horn-book?
First published in 1896 by Leadenhall Press (of which Tuer was a partner), this set is still seen as an authority on horn-books. It contains much detailed research and many photographs and illustrations of the horn-books and describes how they were used to help many, many generations learn their alphabet and eventually how to read and write.
Since starting work at Stella & Rose's Books I have been privileged to see many special books: from Beatrix Potter 1st editions to signed Blyton books, from rare 1st editions to well remembered childhood favourites – and all points in between! It is still exciting to see something rare and unusual and this book certainly comes into those categories.
This copy of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was published in 1972 by Arcadia Press to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Coleridge's birth. It is one of 110 limited editions (nos 101 – 110 were not for sale) – this copy is number 5, signed by the illustrator (Errol Le Cain), calligrapher (David Howells) and the paper maker (Phillip H. Rowson). It is a large book contained in a slipcase.
So how did Paisley in Renfrewshire become synonymous with a pattern that can trace its ancestry back to ancient Babylonia? Here is a potted history...
One of the main sources of food, shelter and house building was the Date Palm. The Date Palm came to be seen as the 'Tree of Life' and the tightly curled palm frond was a symbol of fertility and much prized by the Babylonians.
From Babylonia this motif was to spread all over the world. In India, particularly Kashmir, an early example of a shawl with this pattern dates back to the 1600s.