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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & collectable books

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit

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We recently purchased a beautifully bound copy of “The Railway Children” by E. Nesbit which created within me the desire to get to know the story a little bit better. I have seen the film on television but I don't think I ever read the book as a child.... so now is my chance - although I will be reading a paperback copy, not a highly collectable one!

Originally serialised in The London Magazine during 1905 the book was first published in 1906.

Rail Gun by John Batchelor & Ian Hogg

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When hearing the phrase 'Rail Gun' or 'Railway Gun' many will initially think of the mighty German weapons designed by Krupp during World War I and World War II.

However, the first recorded use of railway guns was in the American Civil War, specifically the campaign against the town of Richmond. Fitted on a heavily reinforced flatcar, there was no means of traversing the weapon and aiming was achieved by moving the whole assembly along a short section of curved track. Nor was there any means of controlling recoil, and after firing the crews would rush in to apply brakes!

A Picturesque Description of the River Wye From the Source to its Junction with the Severn

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Digital photography this is not! Superbly illustrated this is!

Today we're accustomed to sharply accurate colour photos illustrating our guide books but let's look back at three books, spanning 200 years, each with very different artistic impressions of the Wye Valley.

Left: Fielding's stylised view of Tintern Abbey.

The centrepiece of our brief review is The River Wye by T.H. Fielding, published in 1841, containing 12 superb colour plates. The earlier book is Picturesque Views on The Wye by Samuel Ireland published in 1797 and, much more recently, The Wye Valley by Edmund Mason, published in 1987 and illustrated by John Wilford. All three books reflect each artist's interpretation of the scene before them, influenced by the tastes of their times.

A Picturesque Tour of the English Lakes illustrated by T.H. Fielding and J. Walton

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A book with this title could have been written at any time from the late 1700s to the present day. Before the end of the eighteenth century someone visiting the English Lake District would have been considered an Explorer, an explorer of a barren, impassable land of no use or interest, but by the end of the eighteenth century the visitor was now a Tourist.

So when was our book written? Picturesque has an "Olde Worlde" ring to it and indeed it was in 1821 that Ackermann published "A Picturesque Tour of The English Lakes Containing a Description of the Most Romantic Scenery of CumberlandWestmoreland (sic) and Lancashire with Accounts of Antient (sic) and Modern Manners and Customs and Elucidation of the History and Antiquities of the Part of the Country Etc".

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

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"All children, except one, grow up".

This is the opening to a children's classic that needs no introductions. For over a century, the adventures of the immortal Peter Pan have been told and re-told to different generations of enthralled children. For many their first visit to the theatre has been to see Peter Pan come to life on stage.

Ibsen's Peer Gynt illustrated by Arthur Rackham

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What does it mean to be true to yourself? 

The question lies at the heart of Ibsen's five act play, Peer Gynt, which was first published in 1867. The poem follows the life of the eponymous hero, from a young man in the first act to his (apparent) death at the end of the fifth act. Peer is a wastrel - a bragger, brawler and womaniser who lives a life of avoidance - yet he is still loved by a mother who is shamed by his actions.

Padddington Bear by Michael Bond

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Imagine, a little bear, wearing a 'funny kind of hat', sitting on an old leather suitcase that contains his favourite food - marmalade, with a tag around his neck saying 'Please look after this bear - thank-you'. There is only one bear that matches the above description - Paddington Bear!

Through the pages of the first novel bearing Paddington's name A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond, we discover his history.

Paddington, originally named Pastuso, comes from darkest Peru. He has been sent to England by his Aunt Lucy, who although looking after the orphaned bear since he was a few weeks old, has now had to go into the Home for Retired Bears in Lima. After stowing away in a lifeboat and eating marmalade, ('Bears like Marmalade'), the little bear eventually ends up at Paddington Station in London.

Our Old Nursery Rhymes Illustrated by H. Willebeek Le Mair

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Published originally by Augener in 1911, this collection of 30 favourite children’s rhymes features original tunes harmonized by Alfred Moffat and is beautifully illustrated in the muted tones of Dutch artist Henriette Willebeek Le Mair (1889-1966). Each rhyme is depicted on the left hand side page, either in an oval or double-oval, bordered with flowers or foliage, all in full colour. On the right hand side page, the text of the rhyme is shown with its musical score and subsequent verses, again bordered with flowers and leaves, in an oval shape. I can imagine the many children who may have owned this book being entertained by, and singing along to, the piano music.

Our Friend Jennings by Anthony Buckeridge

"Free on Approval. Fifty rare foreign stamps given away with each of our genuine Colonial and Empire issues. Send for free lists and sheets on approval."

When S. & S. Boddington. Ltd composed their advertisement, they could have no idea of the chain of events it would unleash - not least the apparent discovery of a Penny Black stamp in the unlikely location of Bromwich major's locker!

Right: The Penny Black stamp was... red!

Of course, a seasoned stamp-collector may have understood that the offer of free stamps was intended for those who made purchases of more valuable items from the pages of the firm's catalogue. But would-be philatelists Jennings and Darbishire were new to the game, and they could hardly believe their good fortune. "A kindly couple, these Boddingtons, to give so freely to all in need!"

The Origin of Humankind by Richard Leakey

It's amazing what you can deduce from a load of fossilised old bones.

Richard Leakey has made a career out of it. As a paleo-anthropologist (one who studies ancient humans as found in fossil hominid evidence such as petrifracted bones and footprints) he speculates on many of the social developments that have accompanied Humankind's biological evolution.

Where did we come from? Where are we going? What is the purpose of life? These are the fundamental questions that have puzzled philosophersscientists and probably, in one way or another, every human being that has ever lived. Leakey goes some way at least in answering part of the first question.

Orlando The Marmalade Cat - A Camping Holiday

Following her marriage in 1926 and the subsequent birth of her children,Kathleen Hale began to invent stories to relate to the children which were all about her marmalade cat, Orlando. In 1938 her first book of Orlando's adventures, Orlando the Marmalade Cat - A Camping Holiday, was published by Country Life and it became an immediate success. The story introduces the reader to Orlando and also to his family, wife Grace and the kittens Blanche, Pansy & Tinkle and is loosely based around Kathleen Hale's own family camping trips to Norfolk.

When Orlando approaches his 'Master' with a request to take the family on a camping trip his 'Master' is concerned. If he grants the holiday to Orlando and his family, the mice will have a field day but, despite his reluctance, he agrees to let them go. Orlando, Grace and the kittens happily pack up the car and head out for their first ever 'real' holiday. 

The New Naturalists

Four things that you might seek when purchasing a book:

- to read and learn - to read and enjoy - to look at and admire - to be rare, scarce and valuable

Look no further than the New Naturalist series of books.

Above: some of the stylised dustjackets designed by Clifford & Rosemary Ellis.

They were aimed at the “intelligent layman” and were factually and scientifically correct, unlike some of the earlier twentieth century Natural History books which were sometimes heavily anthropomorphic or overly simplistic. For the most part they were written and are written by authors whose writing, although technically correct, is also “readable”. A set of New Naturalists in their dust jackets is as beautiful to behold as a work of art with the early stylised jackets of the Ellises and the later ones of Gillmor. Many titles are now very scarce and highly sought after.

A NARRATIVE OF THE BUILDING AND A DESCRIPTION OF CONSTRUCTION OF THE EDYSTONE LIGHTHOUSE WITH STONE By John Smeaton

The treacherous Eddystone Rocks are situated 14 km off Rame Head in the South West of England and have always presented a terrifying hazard to shipping entering and leaving the major harbour of Plymouth in Devon. There have been four lighthouses built on the Eddystone, the first in 1698 and the current one in 1882; but it is John Smeaton's design and the innovative construction techniques that he used to build the third lighthouse that form the basis for all modern “rock” lighthouses.

John Smeaton (1724-1792) was a gifted civil engineer who designed bridgescanals and harbours as well as lighthouses. In order to build the Eddystone lighthouse (note Smeaton in his book refers to the Edystone) he pioneered the use of Hydraulic Lime, a mortar that will set under water. He also developed a technique to secure the granite blocks using dovetail joints and marble dowels. Indeed so strong were his construction techniques that when the Victorian engineers came to remove his tower they were forced to leave the base which still stands to this day!

Nature's Savage Cats - A Pop-Up Exploration

Which wild cat sprints four times faster than an Olympic champion?This wild cat can catch an entire flock of birds in one second – but what is its name?Which can eat as much as 31kg of meat in one night?The Romans prized a specific big cat and used them to pull chariots – but which one?Which big cat has been used for centuries as a symbol of strength and power?

These are just a few questions that are answered in 'Nature's Savage Cats – A Pop-up Exploration', a book which looks at some of the most successful predators in the animal kingdom.

The Natural History of Selborne by Gilbert White

How could the combination of a sleepy Hampshire village and a country vicar with no scientific training produce the best known general Natural History book of all time?

The book is written as a series of letters. The first nine letters are a fraud in that they were never posted and were written after the "real" letters, many of the "facts" are wrong and yet the book has never been out of print since its first publication in 1789. Indeed it has turned sleepy Selborne into a major tourist venue. So why has "The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne in the County of Southampton" been such an outstanding success?

The Mouldy by William Mayne, illustrated by Nicola Bayley

My husband and I collect illustrated children's books. Anything that takes our fancy really, but we do have a few books in our collection which are illustrated by Nicola Bayley. Nicola is perhaps best-known for her stunning illustrations of cats and indeed her particular favourite is 'The Patchwork Cat' by William Mayne. However, the book that caught my attention was another by William Mayne called 'The Mouldy'.

Mother Goose

"Old Mother Goose When she wanted to wander Would fly through the air On a very fine gander"

Thus begins the tale of Mother Goose and her son Jack who buys a goose which lays a golden egg. Jack sells the goose to a dishonest merchant, Mother Goose turns Jack into Harlequin and his ladyfriend into Columbine, The egg is thrown into the sea and a fish brings it back. The merchant threatens to kill the goose but Mother Goose catches it and climbing onto its back flies up to the moon!

Top left: Cover illustration by Blanche Fisher Wright

Movable Books An Illustrated History by Peter Haining

Ingenious, quirky, beautiful – some of the adjectives to describe the numerous pop-up and movable books available to our children (and adults too) today. It's difficult for us to imagine a time without them but four hundred years ago there were virtually no books for children at all, never mind thenovelty books that are so familiar to us now.

Peter Haining's wonderful and informative book begins with a brief history of children's books leading up to the mid-18th century when Robert Sayer, a inventive bookseller, produced The Harlequinade. This was the first printed item for young children which could be described as a movable book, having turn-up pages with interchangeable pictures.

Mineralogia Cornubiensis A Treatise On Minerals, Mines and Mining by William Pryce

Tin mining in Cornwall is believed to date from as early as 2150 BC and there is a written account from the first century BC (Diodorus Siculus). The demand for tin in this period had grown as tin together with copper produced Bronze. The Romans certainly used Cornish tin but Roman influence was very limited in West Cornwall so whether they actually mined it there or simply purchased it from local miners is open to debate.

Most tin in this period was produced from alluvial deposits and true lode mining did not commence until the Middle Ages. Up until the early eighteenth century tin was the only metal mined in Cornwall and the smelting of copper or brass making was probably unknown. That rapidly changed as huge copper deposits were found and copper mining became the largest mining operation in Cornwall and this continued until the end of the nineteenth century. Despite this fact Cornwall is best known for its tin mines. Cornish copper deposits were the largest in Europe and the then civilized world. Because of the coal needed to smelt copper, very little copper smelting as opposed to mining took place in Cornwall, instead the ore was shipped to Swansea for smelting.

Meeting Hill – BB's Fairy Book

As children, my sister and I spent hours playing in the small steep sided valley, or dingle as we always called it, alongside our house. Our dingle consisted of a few small wooded areas, an old cider apple orchard and a meandering stream. We would spend hours picking wild flowers, playing hide and seek, making dens out of fern, paddling in the stream, making stepping stones across it and catching bullyheads in it. Luckily we very rarely saw anyone in our dingle as I'm not sure how we would have coped with the encounters experienced by the two children in this book.

Peter and Johanna are the two children and they were young friends of Denys Watkins-Pitchford who often wrote and illustrated using the pseudonym BB. This book contains some well-known folk and fairy tales told within a story about the adventures of Peter and Johanna. The story begins with the author and the children walking down to the Glydebrook stream near the children's home to look for a kingfisher's nest. Luckily for them the young birds had just left their nest and were sat in a row on a branch awaiting their mother's return with food. After watching the kingfishers for a while they all enjoyed themselves messing about by the stream and relaxing in the warm evening air. Peter asked BB to tell them part of the story he had written some years earlier which was the Little Grey Men, he obliged and this becomes the first story within the story.