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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & collectable books

W.E. Johns Space Books

I feel it is important to set any science fiction book into the context of the time the book was written. In this instance, the set of 10 books in the Space Series were written before Man had gone to the moon, although plans, I assume, were in motion. The series was published between 1955 & 1963.

W.E Johns is famous for his Biggles books, of which there are around 100. He did try his hand at other genres including a couple of romance novels, gardening magazines and books. However, it will always be his children's books for which he is remembered including Worrals,  Gimlet, and Steeley. Some of my personal favourites are his Space or Science Fiction novels. As with all W.E. Johns’ books, they are good easy reading yet fast paced novels. Unlike some of the Biggles books which can become a bit formulaic, at the end of each Space series book there are unanswered questions which draw you straight into the next book - not so much a cliff-hanger, as in modern television, but more intrigue.

(Published 14th Jan 2016) Read full article

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne

Exploration. Curiosity. Mystery. All of these ideas are often central to a good adventure narrative, and all of them are very much plain in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea: the tale of a scientist, his manservant and a witty whaler, all three of them captured by a mysteriously glowing vessel beneath the deep and taken forth into a whole new world by the mysterious and captivating Captain Nemo.

20,000 Leagues is considered to be one of Verne's best-known books, along with A Journey To The Centre Of The Earth and Around The World In 80 Days, but since 1979, Verne has been the second most widely-translated author in the world, in between Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare, and he's often named as one of the primary fathers of modern science fiction – Verne has in his writing an incredible penchant for describing a foreign aspect of the world in a way that pulls the reader indescribably.

(Published 11th Dec 2015) Read full article

33 - The Observer's Book of Lichens by K.A. Kershaw & K.L. Alvin

To describe the contents of this book in just a few words I can't do better than to quote from the front flap of the black and white version of the dustwrapper:

"The Study of lichens is a fascinating subject and in this book the authors have sought to provide an introductory volume for the layman, teacher and student, as well as a handy reference book to the subject. The book fully covers the structure and reproduction of lichens together with the methods of collecting and examining. Also included are explanations of technical terms to help the reader. These terms have been gathered into a glossary for easier reference and there is a key to the identification of the genera.

(Published 24th Nov 2015) Read full article

The Observer's Book of Glass - No. 62

The Observer's Book of Glass is No. 62 in the series. Written by Mary and Geoffrey Payton, it was first published in 1976, primarily for those with the collecting bug - but is also an easy reference book.

An introductory chapter is included with this book and chronicles the early development of glass. It briefly looks at the influences of differing time periods from ancient Egypt through to 'Roman Glass' and concludes by looking at more modern glass makers, such as Tiffany or Bristol Blue.

Above: the Warne edition (left) and the Bloomsbury edition (right)

For ease of reference, this book has an A-Z of glass, accompanied by 95 half-tone illustrations and eight pages of colour photographs - showing some exquisite examples of glass types and styles.

(Published 24th Nov 2015) Read full article

17 The Observer's Book of Common Insects & Spiders by E.F. Linssen & L. Hugh Newman

Being an excellent reference guide to the Insects and Spiders of Britain this book has stood the test of time and been published many times. For a summary of the contents of the book see image left of the wrapper flap from the 1971-75 version of the Wrapper.

There has been 7 Different dust wrappers for this book, whilst the book was published by Warne, who finished publishing the observer's in 1983. You can see some of the different designs below.

To give you a flavour of the content see the images below.

Prices for this observer's vary greatly according to condition and edition for example a reasonable copy of a 1st edition with a dust wrapper will go for something over 20 pounds, whilst the edition with the cyanamids wrapper will cost you between 50-80 pounds. Most other editions will be around or just under the 10 pound mark. (Prices correct 2007)

(Published 23rd Nov 2015) Read full article

13 - The Observer's of "British" Architecture by John Penoyre and Michael Ryan

From the blurb on the front panel of the 1st edition dust wrapper, we get a flavour of what this book tries to cover: "This pocket guide, with its comprehensive Visual Index, contains 270 different illustrations, 125 of which are in colour. It describes the development of English architecture from Saxon times until the present day, and is designed to provide the observer with an adequate background of the development of building, planning and technique through the centuries."

From some of the images you can see how the book is well illustrated with simple colour and b/w illustrations with addition of annotation when it was consider necessary. The book takes us through a journey through history starting with the Buildings of the Medieval Period, including the Pre-Conquest or Saxon period, it ends with the Buildings of the Industrial Era with a chapter each on the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century.

(Published 18th Nov 2015) Read full article

The Observer's Book of Aircraft No. 11

This is one of the most successful of the Observer's Books and probably the title with the most editions for a collector. The book started life entitled 'The Observer Book of Airplanes' written by Joseph Lawrence and was issued with this title in 1942, 1943 & 1945. Interestingly this book was not issued as an Observers Series number until 1949. The 1949 edition saw a number of changes, the most notable being the change in the title from Airplanes to Aircraft. It was allocated the number 11 in the Observer's Series and the authors became William Green and Gerald Pollinger.

From 1955 until 1992 annual editions were published, each having their own cover design. As with the other Observer books, this title went through many forms. The editions between 1979 & 1982 were issued in pictorial boards, not with the usual dust jacket. Between 1983 & 1992 the book was published as a paperback in the New Observer's Series, with a new number N1. The final edition was the only one not to be published by Frederick Warne, being issued by Bloomsbury, returning to a hardback pictorial board format with yet another title change to "The Observer's Book of Airliners."

(Published 18th Nov 2015) Read full article

2 - The Observer's Book of Wild Flowers by W.J. Stokoe

The original edition of this book was issued with 220 illustrations in both colour and black and white - you can see typical pages illustrated below - which were reproduced in small size from Sowerby's English Botany. Also some of the text from the book was extracted from the popular standard work Wayside and Woodland Blossoms. A good summary of the purpose of this book is provided by the preface to the 1st edition "This little book is intended for the pocket to enable the observer in his wanderings through field and woodland, to study the wonderful variety of wild flowers around him. It is not intended to take the place of the more complete works on the subject, but it is hoped that it will awaken and intensify the interest sufficiently, to all those seers after the beauties of nature..." Each flower, of which there is typically one per page, has its own botanical descriptions and notes of flowering period, habitat and distribution. 1,475,000 copies sold between 1937-1981.

(Published 16th Nov 2015) Read full article

Child Whispers by Enid Blyton: A Look at Two Different Dustwrappers

The first edition of Child Whispers was published in 1922 and was issued in orange cardwraps. For the new edition/first edition thus published the following year, the format was changed to a brown, octavo sized hardback with a dustwrapper. Only one other title was published in this same format, namely the first edition of Real Fairies, also in the same year.

As collectors of early Enid Blyton titles will know, copies of these hardback books without a dustwrapper do occasionally turn up on the open market, whereas a copy with a dustwrapper is rarely offered for sale. For this reason it is probably not widely known that there are two different versions of the Child Whispers dustwrapper and that the differences are only found on the rear panel.

(Published 15th Nov 2015) Read full article

Real Fairies

Real Fairies is a collection of 33 poems with all but one written specifically for the book. The exception is a poem entitled "Pretending" which was first published in the Punch magazine. There are no illustrations inside the book although the colour wrapper from the first editions and the later card cover black-and-white illustrations are by Phyllis Chase.

The publisher J. Saville & Co. Ltd only published 5 of Blyton's books, all between 1922 & 1924. This includes her first ever book Child Whispers. The other books published by J. Savile & Co. are Responsive Singing Games in 1923, Songs of Gladness, Ten Songs from Child Whispers in 1924. I think perhaps the publisher missed a trick here or did Blyton change her publisher as she had a tendency to do! We will just have to do more research unless somebody can give us the answer, if so please contact us.

(Published 15th Nov 2015) Read full article

Caravanning and Camping by A.H.M. Ward

Those of you who know us personally will remember that three years ago my husband Cliff and I sold our house, gave away most of our possessions, bought a truck and fifth wheel trailer and became nomads! We have since toured through France, Spain and Portugal and loved every minute of it, which is why this particular book caught my eye – Caravanning and Camping – but in 1933! I wondered how much has changed in the last 80 years since the book was published.

The concept of caravanning as a leisure pastime was unheard of until the Scottish author Gordon Stables, having admired the gipsy wagons in his neighbourhood, embarked on a life as a self-styled Gentleman Gipsy. The two-ton 'Land-Yacht Wanderer', a Pullman carriage drawn by two horses, was designed by Stables and built by the Bristol Waggon company. In 1885 Stables set off on his journeys of 1300 miles taking him around England and finally to Inverness in Scotland. But that's a subject for another article – back to our book of Caravanning and Camping in 1933.

(Published 1st Nov 2015) Read full article

A Day In Fairy Land

This exquisite book has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. A treasured possession of my late mother from her own childhood, I remember it so vividly: the sheer overwhelming scale of it when you're three years old, the crackle of the spine, oh! the smell of the paper. For many years I remember it being stored in the bottom of my parents' wardrobe, protected from sunlight and daily knocks.

Despite the fact that I had grown up with this book, I knew very little about it apart from the suspicion that it dated from either the late forties or early fifties, and seemed to be quite rare. Certainly, I had never seen another copy until I started work at Stella Books and saw a copy in our Special Book Room. It was then that I discovered that it is quite hard to find original copies that retain their dustjackets, and that the book is much sought by collectors.

(Published 7th Oct 2015) Read full article

The Books of Kenneth Grahame

Being specialists in children's books, Kenneth Grahame is most well known to us as the author of The Wind in the Willows - with its many editions, illustrated; abridged; old and modern. However, what of Grahame's other works?

We recently acquired a collection of books into stock by Kenneth Grahame, so it was time for me to learn a little more about his other works as well.

Grahame started out by writing essays which were published in magazines such as St. James Gazette, the National Observer and the Yellow Book. A selection of these essays featured a family of orphaned children and their guardians.

(Published 28th Aug 2015) Read full article

Ian Allan - ABC series of locomotive listing books

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I first encountered Ian Allan in 1961. I should make it clear that I never actually met the man himself, indeed at that time I doubt I realised there was an Ian Allan. No, my encounter was through his ABC series of locomotive listing books, the first of which was published in 1942.

(Published 10th Aug 2015) Read full article

The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo

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Michael Morpurgo has written over 100 books, many of them based on actual events. He weaves the events into his stories, mixing in facts with fiction to create memorable tales. So, for example, 'Running Wild' tells of a boy who survives the Indonesian Tsunami and 'Out of the Ashes' is the story of a family struggling to survive the foot and mouth crisis. Several of his books deal with aspects of war in a way that get across the facts and just what is was like to live through - 'War Horse' being perhaps the most well known of these. 'The Mozart Question' features the Second World War and one particular horrific aspect of it – the concentration camp. But it also shows how music helped some people to survive these atrocities.

(Published 30th Jun 2015) Read full article

Visionaire No. 17 – Gold

"The alternative small run publication has often dazzled, always relentlessly focused on changing the way we look at the printed page. Looking haughtily over its shoulder to fleur's flair, Visionaire rolls up its sleeves, cups its hands to its mouth, flexes it muscles and whispers, "The eyes have it."

- David Bowie

This particular issue of the highly collectible, multi-format, luxury art and fashion publication based in New York City, with its heavily embellished, gilded and incredibly ornate cover, was inevitably going to appeal to the magpie in me! I have an unashamed love of all things 'baroque' and when this issue came into the office amongst other art books purchased at a recent auction, I was immediately drawn to its luminous gold exterior and intrigued to learn what treasures it might reveal upon closer inspection of the contents. Beneath the hologrammed, embossed, and foil-stamped sun motif hides a shallow box of curiosities, each more intriguing than the last and each with its own unique take on the theme of 'gold', including: Seven pages of Philip Taaffe’s gold stars foil stamped onto vellum, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin’s fashion photographs featuring gold-foil stamping to four-color prints Origami USA, who folded a gold-paper goldfish for each issue and, my personal favourite, Todd Oldham's contribution of an actual gilded-metal halo!

(Published 15th May 2015) Read full article

Kingfishers and Related Birds Alcedinidae (2 volumes)

This work is published in three parts, each part consisting of two volumes. Our featured book is Part One and is complete with the two volumes. Anyone familiar with Lansdowne Editions will know them for their sheer size and wonderful illustrations. This is not a book that you can curl up with on a cold winter's evening in front of the fire, you can, however, sit at a table and peruse the volumes in front of a nice warm fire! (Of course, the fire does not have to be there in order for you to enjoy these elephantine volumes – one alone weighing 5.8kg!!).

This is the Collector's Issue and only issue of the first edition of Kingfishers and Related Birds. Limited to 1000 copies and signed by the author: Joseph M. Forshaw, an Australian ornithologist with particular expertise in parrots, and by the illustrator: William T. Cooper a renowned Australian nature artist, this is copy 791. Included with the books is also a signed limited edition plate reproduced from the second volume.

(Published 30th Apr 2015) Read full article

Face to Face: Three Centuries of Artists' Self-Portraiture by Xanthe Brooke

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This catalogue was produced to accompany an exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool at the end of 1994. The exhibition focused on self portraits from the Walker Gallery itself but included many paintings from around the British Isles.  

Self-portraiture was a popular method of painting, it was also cheap and you could always rely on the sitter! The popularity of the Self-Portrait went hand in hand with the technology of developing non distorting mirrors, flat mirrors, thus enabling an artist to view themselves better. It was the 17th century that saw the real boom in self-portraiture and one of the most prolific artists of self-portraiture, Rembrandt van Rijn (below centre as young man, right as old man).  

(Published 7th Apr 2015) Read full article

The Cloak by Leon Garfield

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The story, which starts in London on a snowy New Year's Day, is about two friends who are apprentices to pawnbrokers. Amos Coot, a sixteen year old in the fourth year of his apprenticeship, works for Mr. Thompson – Personal Banking on Moderate Terms. Jeremiah Snipe is apprentice to Mr Long – Loans arranged for Modest Security.

The two friends have been left in charge of their respective shops by their employers who have gone away to the country for the festive period. Both apprentices have been trained by ruthless employers. In Mr Thompson's words ' A pawner is a man in difficulties and a man in difficulties is a man in despair. Despair makes a man untrustworthy, it turns him into a liar, a swindler, a cheat'. He maintains that they always tell you they will return to redeem their item - that it is only a loan they are having. 'But like tomorrow, they never come' he adds 'So you watch out!'

(Published 5th Mar 2015) Read full article

Our Darlings

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Our Darlings "The Best Monthly Magazine For Young Folks"

We recently purchased a collection of annuals from auction. In among them were a few copies of “Our Darlings”. These annuals really stood out to me as they are attractive books with pictorial front covers and illustrated by well known artists of the time (the editions we purchased were from the early 1900's).

Above: Example of front cover, and Leigh Kidman illustration

Arists included Ernest Aris, Louis Wain, E.S. Hardy, Harry B. Neilson, Leigh Kidman, Jaques Browne, Chris Temple, although most illustrations are uncredited (no signature present).

(Published 28th Feb 2015) Read full article