There couldn't be anything else for me this month other than a book about birds, we have recently bought a lovely collection of bird books, which I have been industriously putting on display.
Richard Wagner, well-known composer & musician of the 1800's, spent 26 years from the age of 35 until he was 61, writing the text and composing the music for a four-part music-drama, Der Ring des Niebelungen (The Ring of the Niblung) which was first performed in 1876. The work is based on Norse and German mythology and the characters include gods, half-gods, nymphs, dwarves and giants. Humans do not appear on the scene until the second part of the music-drama which is Die Walkure (The Valkyrie).
I suppose that I should begin with a confession. Although familiar with the title and a few half-remembered quotations, until recently my exposure to this great poem had been largely through the Iron Maiden song in which extracts of the text are recited. Though the work of Bruce Dickinson is remarkable in many ways, I felt that it was time to settle down and read the original text in full.
Now, I don't have to tell you that Coleridge was a clever chap and knew a thing or two when it came to penning decent poetry - and this poem is certainly an arresting read.
Philip Edward Irving OBE, C.Eng., M.I.Mech.E., M.S.A.E., born in 1903, was an Australian engineer and author, most famous for the Repco-Brabham Formula One and Vincent motorcycle engines. He also authored the books 'Tuning For Speed' and 'Motorcycle Technicalities' as well as writing a column in Motor Cycling magazine under the pseudonym 'Slide Rule' .
The aptly titled 'Rich Mixture', first published in 1976, comprises a collection of articles written by Irving for the magazines 'Popular Motorcycling' and subsequently 'Australian Motorcycle Action' ; the first installment of these archived articles featuring stories written between 1973 and 1974. Irving 's musings on subjects as diverse as 'Bike Licenses' (and, more specifically, who should be allowed to possess one!) to an entire article devoted simply to 'Valves', are often comical, frequently opinionated and always informative.
"Biggles closed the door and then faced the two junior members of his flight. 'Just what do you two fellows think you're doing here?' he asked quietly. Thirty felt the blood drain from his face. 'Doing here...' he echoed foolishly.
'Yes. Who gave you permission to wear those Uniforms?'"
As with all good writers W.E. Johns has you captured in an instant, just what is going to happen next?
Left: The 'Flying Jacket' wrappper.
The Redwall books, authored by Brian Jacques, are so named after the central fictional location of the stories, Redwall Abbey. The heroes are peace-loving mice, moles, shrews, squirrels, and their friends, who exhibit human characteristics in a medieval setting. They face the dark side of the animal world, represented by rats, weasels, stoats, foxes, and their villain allies, in the day-to-day struggle of good versus evil, life versus death.
The first book, simply entitled Redwall, was published in 1986 by Hutchinson. It is an epic tale which starts with a great feast being held at Redwall Abbey. Matthias, a young male mouse, is helping with the preparations. However, trouble is brewing - Cluny the Scourge, a giant rat with only one eye and a poisoned barb tail is leading a band of 400 rogues toward the Abbey! Matthias persuades the Abbey residents to stay and fight the horde. As they make their preparations for the ensuing battle, Matthias tries to decode the many ancient inscriptions throughout the Abbey believed to have been written by Martin the Warrior himself - only then can the battle be won...
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.
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!
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 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 Cumberland, Westmoreland (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".
"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.
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.
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.
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.
"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!"
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 philosophers, scientists 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.
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.
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 bridges, canals 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!
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.