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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & collectable books

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

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"Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were - Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, And Peter. They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree."

The above is the introduction to one of the best-loved children's stories of all time -The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. On September 4th, 1893, Miss Potter sat down to write a letter to Noel Moore, the five-year-old son of her ex-governess, all about a naughty rabbit called Peter. Noel was ill in bed and so Miss Potter wrote to him: "My dear Noel, I don't know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits..." The letter was wonderfully illustrated with tiny and exquisite pictures. 

The Tailor of Gloucester By Beatrix Potter

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The second of the twenty-three Peter Rabbit tales, The Tailor of Gloucester, was Beatrix Potter’s personal favourite. In a presentation copy of Warne’s edition Beatrix wrote ‘This is my own favourite amongst my little books’. Along with many of the other Tales, The Tailor originally started life as a picture letter to a child. The child in question was Winifreda Moore (often called Freda or Frida), second daughter of Annie Moore, Beatrix’s former companion and dear friend.

It was while visiting a cousin who lived in Stroud in Gloucestershire that Beatrix first heard the strange story of the Tailor of Gloucester. One evening the tailor, who was very poor, left in his shop a waistcoat, which he was making for the Mayor of Gloucester who was to be married on Christmas day. He had cut it out but not made it up. He fell ill and didn’t go back to the shop for three days and nights – what would become of the poor tailor if the waistcoat was not ready for the Mayor’s marriage?

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

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So starts the biggest adventure that John, Susan, Titty and Roger, better known as The Swallows, had ever experienced! Their exploits are told in the book Swallows and Amazons , a superb story of boats and lakes, exploration and discovery, wholly capturing the magic and innocence of childhood.

The tale starts in the native settlement of Holly Howe, situated near the bustling lakeside town of Rio, where the family are staying on holiday. As the story explains, 'if there had been no island, no sailing boat, and if the lake had not been so large, the children, no doubt, would have been happy enough to paddle about with oars in the bay by the boathouse. But with a lake as big as a small sea, a fourteen-foot dinghy with a brown sail waiting in the boathouse, and the little wooded island waiting for explorers, nothing but a sailing voyage of discovery seemed worth thinking about'!

The Strand Magazine

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The first issue of the Strand Magazine appeared in January 1891 and the last in March 1950. It was created by George Newnes at a time when British magazines were losing out to the interesting and lively magazines like 'Harpers' and 'Scribners'. Newnes had seen success with the launch of 'Tit-Bits' a few years earlier. His idea was for a magazine that had a 'picture on every page', a good mix of fiction and non-fiction, and a price that undercut the opposition. However each issue was to be complete in itself, with none of the cliff-hanger serials, although this changed later.

The Story of Babar The Little Elephant by Jean De Brunhoff

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I remember watching some Babar cartoons on the television when I was young but had never read the books before, so when a copy of "The Story of Babar" came into stock I was so intrigued I decided to have a quick read!

If you know the Babar books then you will appreciate the wonderful colour illustrations that are throughout each book. They may even tell the story better than the words do! Another charming touch is the text which is produced in script so the books look as though they are hand-written.

Some Bird and Mammals of Africa by Hilary Hook, & Illustrated by Axel Amuchastegui

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When embarking on some research for this article, my first port of call was my cousin Michael, who now lives in Rome, but was brought up, like myself, in the West Country not far from our family origins in Wiltshire. What I wanted to specifically find out was a) did our grandfather Leigh Heritage Richmond indeed own a Lion when living in Bath, as was popularly believed by all of us grandchildren, b) did he also ride Ostriches as a boy in South Africa and c) if either of these facts were true, how could I find out more? I wanted to see if he had any insights into our family's not so distant history in Africa and his response pretty much sums up our family and their somewhat loose grip on reality!

Snailsleap Lane

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Snailsleap Lane was written and illustrated by Beshlie in 1977. At the time she and her husband Dominic Reeve, also an author, were living the itinerant life. Beshlie draws on her experiences to describe and depict the life of itinerant traders but she portrays them as various animals andamphibians rather than human beings.

Each chapter is headed by a beautiful colour illustration of the character featured and there are also one or two black and white illustrations within the text. The detail is wonderful, from the clothes on the characters to the insects and the plants surrounding them. I particularly enjoy searching for the numerous beetles, spiders, caterpillars and butterflies which are resting on leaves, crawling along the ground or climbing up stems, I'm still not sure I've seen them all. Having seen how the wild flowers are depicted in their vivid colours, the next time I am weeding my garden I shall be more selective about what I throw out, as they look every bit as good as the garden plants I grow! The endpapers of the books are also superbly illustrated - it's just like looking at a wild verge, a mass of intertwining plants with detailed foliage and colourful flowers and, of course, a few insects to spot.

The Ship That Sailed to Mars by William M. Timlin

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William M. Timlin who wrote and illustrated this book was born April 1892. He showed a great gift for drawing at Morpeth Grammar School and won a scholarship to the Armstrong College of Art in Newcastle. In 1912 he emigrated to South Africa where he remained for the rest of his life

Timlin first concentrated his artistic efforts in the field of landscape, and his pictures in the genre, pastels, oils and etching proved popular when shown in one-man exhibitions. He was soon in regular demand as an illustrator for local magazines and publishing houses, providing work for volumes of plays and poetry, and several travel books. He also showed a flair for writing stories and music.

The Secret Seven - Enid Blyton

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The Secret Seven series of 15 books, by prolific author Enid Blyton, follows the adventures of a strictly secret society made up of 7 children, who like to solve mysteries that they happen upon, or actively go looking for!

The History:

Although many may think, like I did before doing this research, that The Secret Seven - the first title in this series - is the first time we are introduced to the seven, this is not the case. In 1947, At Seaside Cottage a small volume was published by Brockhampton Press and featured the main characters of Peter and Janet, with their golden spaniel, Scamper. A year later in 1948, Secret of the Old Mill was published, in which Peter and Janet, after reading a book called The Secret Society, decide to create a secret society of their own, using the old mill on a hill near their home as a meeting place. They invite five of their friends to join them, and so The Secret Seven are born.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam - Edward Fitzgerald

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Here with a Loaf of Breadbeneath the BoughA Flask of Wine,a Book ofVerse - and ThouBeside me singing in theWilderness -And Wilderness is Paradiseenow.

It is perhaps ironic that while the title of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam evokes images of the Persian East, the translation with which most are familiar is considered to be a great work of English literature in its own right.It may also surprise some that this translation which was to become so popular in Victorian England, and which has spawned a host of subsequent versions by other authors & poets, was met with indifference when first published in 1859.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

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Daniel Foe was born in London in 1660, the son of Presbyterian Dissenters and was educated at a dissenting academy at a time when the government did not look kindly on those who practised their religionoutside the Church of England.

In his adult life he became a successful merchant and though he was able to buy a country estate he was usually heavily in debt. It was during this time that he added the "De" to his name, believing it sounded more gentlemanly or aristocratic. This was also when he became an enthusiastic pamphleteer, publishing many essays generally critical of the political establishment. One such, entitled "The Shortest Way with Dissenters", published in 1702, was a satire directed at the established church and led him to spend three days in the pillory before being sent to Newgate Prison and kept there until he was able to pay his fine. Fortunately for him the Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer negotiated his release in return for certain obligations. Defoe then was able to continue with his writing and established a periodical entitled "A Review of the Affairs of France". Some of his writing at this time is now regarded as the first examples of modern journalism and by 1719 having written hundreds of essays, accounts, poems and other texts he decided to turn his hand to fiction.

Robins by Chris Mead

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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.

I could have chosen 'A Reconnaissance of the Game Birds of Hawaii' or 'A Guide to the Birds of Nepal' or 'Australian Parrots', but I have chosen a book about my favourite garden bird - the Robin.

The Ring Of The Niblung by Richard Wagner, Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

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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).

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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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.

Rich Mixture - A Motorcycle Miscellany by Phil Irving

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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.

The Rescue Flight - Captain W.E. Johns

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"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 Library - Brian Jacques

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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...

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.