Many people are familiar with Maurice Sendak as a children's author and illustrator. This book is written by his father Philip Sendak with illustrations by Maurice. Nearly every story by Maurice Sendak seems to be influenced by his own childhood and the sadness and fragility he felt as a child. He often writes about a child in danger and there is often a “dark” quality to the stories. The Sendak home was not a happy one. Philip was traumatised by events in his life and by discovering that his extended family left behind in Poland had all died in the Holocaust. Sarah suffered from depression. Their misery and “craziness” filtered down to Sendak and he believed that this led him to become an artist and influenced the type of artist he was.
This book is full of vibrant illustrations and tells the story of the first paperbacks, their authors and illustrators.
We are told that 'early novels were mainly printed in hardback and although beautifully printed they were an expensive luxury at 3/6d.'
At the same time as publishers were looking to see how they could improve sales, we see the advent of Free Schools and libraries and a more literate working class, who like everybody else liked to read as a form of escapism.
This signed limited edition copy, illustrated by Edward Roper F.R.G.S. and published in 1894, called to me on two levels as I wandered the aisles of our Special Book Room. The first way it caught my eye was simply that my daughter works in The Peak District and as soon as I opened it I was captivated by the language used.
In the preface the author writes:
My turn to write this article for our newsletter was fast approaching and the usual mild panic was setting in as I tried to decide which book to choose. Then we acquired a collection of folk and fairy tales and this book was amongst them.
First published by William Smith in1846, this title contains 60 hand-coloured lithographed plates. In the introduction to this work, the author/illustrator herself tells us about the book, she states:
'The present work has been undertaken in consequence of its being suggested to me that a selection of British Wild Flowers, in one volume, on the same plan as my Ladies' Flower Garden, would be useful to those who neither have time nor opportunity to consult the larger works on the subject.'
Perusing our rare books shelves, I came across an obscure spiral-bound title: The Enid Blyton Handkerchief Book. This piqued my curiousity as it is a title I have never come across elsewhere during my many years of working as a bookseller.
Do you remember the small cotton handkerchiefs we had as a child pre-1980s? This is a book full of such handkerchiefs! Oh and before you say 'bleurgh', they are clean! The handkerchiefs are stuck to each page with an overlaying clear film sheet on which text is printed. The text provides a description or short story about each character.
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If, like me, you are fascinated by the wizardry of magicians, conjurors and illusionists then this little book will be of interest to you. It is actually a collection, bound together, comprising three copies of The Wizard’s Annual dating from 1913 through to 1916 and two additional small volumes – Moments Of Mystery and Miscellaneous Magic written by Percy Naldrett.
While the latter consist of the explanation of numerous magic tricks, the annuals are also packed with articles, snippets of information, tips for ventriloquists and anecdotes from the experiences of seasoned magicians, the editor having aimed to produce “a readable book, not a dry one”. These do make for fascinating reading and give an insight into the world of magic as it was over 100 years ago.
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.