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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & collectable books

Victorian (and earlier) Duck Decoys

What is a Duck Decoy? I thought it was a wooden or plastic duck used to entice wildfowl so they can be shot - yes, that's what they are today, but in Victorian times they were something very different. The Duck Decoys that are the subject of Payne-Gallwey’s book were very large traps covering several acres and during a season from December to March they were capable of taking 5,000 or more birds!

The word Decoy derives from the Dutch 'endekooy' or 'Duck Cage' and this provides an excellent idea of how the Decoy worked. The early and simplest Decoys were tunnels or cages into which the ducks were attracted by food and then trapped by dropping a 'door' to close the entrance. By the end of the eighteenth century and in the early nineteenth century, probably the peak of Decoy usage, they were very much larger and sophisticated devices. Most owners at the time kept the details of their Decoys a closely guarded secret and, in some cases, went to great lengths to keep them hidden from the public by, for example, building a huge moat.

(Published 8th Dec 2014) Read full article

Diary of a Victorian Cat illustrated by Susan Herbert

This is a book I have long admired for the delightfully detailed full colour illustrations of anthropomorphic cats. So much so that I have finally bought my own copy and am now endeavoring to add the further eight works to my collection.

Much-loved for her innovative depictions of cats, Susan Herbert's witty subject matter has been an enormous publishing success and has gained her a reputation as the world's most instantly recognizable cat artist.

Born in 1945, Susan Herbert did not undergo any formal artistic training before embarking on a career as an artist. Her first job was working at the box office for the Royal Shakespeare Company and during this time, described by Susan Herbert as filled with 'hideous part-time jobs', she used her spare moments to draw and paint as often as she could.

(Published 8th Dec 2014) Read full article

David Gentleman's Paris

Paris is a special place for me as it was where I spent my honeymoon, Montmartre to be precise, in February. Paris is a beautiful city any time of the year, but for me Paris is a Winter’s Day.

Through his beautiful watercolours David Gentleman has managed to capture the real feel of Paris, its people and buildings, old and new.

He starts his ‘watercolour’ journey on the Seine, in particular the bridges of Paris, remarking: ‘Parisian life flows as easily across it as along it. It is well used and carefully looked after, and it is a source of great beauty.’

(Published 8th Dec 2014) Read full article

Dick King-Smith's Countryside Treasury

Dick King-Smith's Countryside Treasury has something for everyone.Dick King-Smith wrote a number of children's books, many featuring animals but probably the best known is The Sheep-Pig which was adapted into the 1995 film 'Babe'. For this treasury Dick King-Smith selected poetry and prose 'a combination of contemporary and traditional classics to produce a joyful celebration of the countryside past and present'.

The illustrations in this book are byChristian Birmingham and what delightful illustrations they are. He captures the essence of the stories and poems superbly and if I could include every illustration in this article I would because it is so difficult to select my favourite ones.

(Published 8th Dec 2014) Read full article

The Costume of Yorkshire Illustrated by a Series of Forty Engravings by George Walker

George Walker was the son of William Walker, a successful Leeds businessman. He was born in May 1781 at Killingbeck Hall, Seacroft near Leeds.

He was educated in York and then went on to become an artist, initially concentrating on local and rural life.

In 1814, he was commissioned by a local bookseller to produce a series of paintings known as The Costume of Yorkshire. Here we are given glimpses of the occupations, dress and life of the labouring classes in Yorkshire at the time. Just a few of the many featured occupations and ways of life include: 'The Dog Breaker', 'Lowkers', 'The Cranberry Girl', 'Rape Threshing', 'Sea Bathing', 'Whalebone Scrapers', 'Thirty-Third Regiment', 'Woman Spinning', 'Hawking', 'Factory Children' and 'Leech Finders'.

(Published 8th Dec 2014) Read full article

A Complete System of Modern Cookery and Domestic Economy by Alexander Murray M.D.

If you like to pick your own blackberries, make your own pickles or create a meal out of the most basic of ingredients you will love this book!

The ideology of the book is in parts very similar to that of modern cookeryauthors such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nigel Slater. It's all about using plain and simple ingredients and making the most out of what you have - something that was natural to those of the 1800's because many of the exotic imports we have in the supermarkets today just weren't available. It's a way of thinking some of us have chosen to return to and some of us have been forced into by the current economic climate.

(Published 8th Dec 2014) Read full article

Comforting Thoughts & For Today by Mabel Lucie Attwell

I will admit that Mabel Lucie Attwell is my favourite illustrator of children's books. So, it is only natural that I feature another of her books for my 'featured book' article (previously I selected Bunty and the Boo-Boos). There are a couple of little books which we have in stock at the moment that are illustrated by Mabel Lucie Attwell and are in Valentine & Sons “Golden Thoughts” Booklets series. I am sure that these little books get 'lost' among the larger books in our cabinets. They are such delicate little things that we have to put them out of the way of sticky fingers, behind locked glass doors.

"Comforting Thoughts" contains the cutest colour illustrations featuring Attwell's delightful chubby children which accompany the most comforting little verses (written by Attwell) which I can only imagine are meant to (and indeed do) cheer up the depressed soul. For example:

(Published 8th Dec 2014) Read full article


'Once upon a time there was a little girl called Cinderella...'

The enchanting story of Cinderella is weaved through the childhood of generations of children regardless of culture or language. What young girl did not dream of wearing sparkling gowns and dancing with a prince who would instantly fall eternally in love with her and whisk her off to his castle? The ending is perfect... 'And so Cinderella and the prince lived happily ever after.''

Right: Illustration by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone in 'Dean's Gift Book of Fairy Tales'

The tale starts with a young girl whose mother has died. Her father remarries a woman who already has two young daughters. The daughters are bad tempered and jealous of Cinderella's beauty and kind nature. The ugly sisters make Cinderella do all the work in the house and finally she is made to sleep by the hearth, hence the name Cinderella (or Cinders). One day a royal invite comes from the palace for all the ladies of the kingdom to attend a grand ball. Poor Cinderella helps her sisters ready themselves for the ball, but then, when her sisters have left, she cries as if her heart would break. If only she could go to the ball!

(Published 8th Dec 2014) Read full article

Christmas Tales of Flanders

This time of year gives me the opportunity to combine two things that give me a great deal of pleasure: firstly Christmas is on the way and I have for many years collected Christmas Tree ornaments, decorating the tree, or should I say trees, with the delights gathered over what I must confess is becoming a lengthy life and is already occupying too many of my waking hours. And secondly, working as I do for Stella Books permits me to combine my love of the festive season with a delight in illustrated books.

I have chosen as an example a current stock item - Christmas Tales of Flanders. This profusely illustrated volume contains Fables and legendsfrom Flanders and Brabant, tales loved by children of all ages throughoutBelgium.

(Published 8th Dec 2014) Read full article

Cakes and Ale: the golden age of british feasting by Judy Spours

As anybody who knows me will testify, I enjoy my food, both eating and cooking. So it will be no surprise that I have chosen this as my featured book.

The Victorian age saw the rise of the middle classes and their desire for the refined things in life and there were a plethora of people to help them achieve this.

Celebrity chefs are by no means a modern phenomenon; Alexis Soyer, Isabella Beeton and Eliza Acton, all had books published on how to buy and cook food. They also gave advice to the emerging middle classes on household management. Entertaining at home was not just a matter of eating, it was equally important for business and social contacts as well.

(Published 4th Dec 2014) Read full article

Bunty and the boo-boos by Mabel Lucie Attwell

The Boo-Boos? What kind of weird characters does the name Boo-Boos conjure up in your mind? If I didn't know what the Boo-Boos were, I guess I would say that they were some kind of nasty monsters that come out from under the bed at night time! BUT I'd be wrong!

The Boo-Boos are the creation of Mabel Lucie Attwell. They are a cheery, chubby, not at all scary, group of 'do-gooding' elves or pixies, dressed in green suits and led by a crown-wearing king.

I have always been a fan of Attwell but until recently had not actually seen one of the Boo-Boo books in the flesh as they are quite scarce little books. So, while we had a copy in stock, I thought I would take a quick look at "Bunty and the Boo-Boos" (the first in the series of six books) and find out what it is all about. What a strange little story it is but I can imagine it makes a very good bedtime story for little ones.

(Published 4th Dec 2014) Read full article

Brushes and Bayonets by Lucinda Gosling

Whilst pondering which book from our 41,000+ stock I could write about for our 'featured book' article this month, I happened to glance up at the shelf in front of me and there was 'Brushes & Bayonets' by Lucinda Gosling, calling to me.

This is a book of Cartoons, Sketches and Paintings ofWorld War I. Not being particularly interested in World War I (I never was a fan of history), it must have been the 'Cartoons, Sketches and Paintings' part of the title that caught my eye, as well as the dimensions of the book - it is large (9.75" high x 12" across) and heavy (1.5kg).

'It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but during World War I newspaper illustrations were worth far more, not only conveying the news to anxious families at home but also entertaining the troops on the front line and lifting the spirits of a nation at war. This thematic collection of 250 illustrations taken from the archives of the Illustrated London News includes the whole range of magazine and newspaper imagery, from light-hearted strip cartoons and line drawings, through political comment to poignant sketches and paintings. The selection features well-known illustrators, such as Bruce Bairnsfather, W. Heath Robinson and Fortunino Matania, lesser-known artists and also illustrations by men in the trenches. A valuable source for historians (that word again!), many of these illustrations are published for the first time in 90 years, and together they are a unique, bittersweet portrayal of the Great War.' *

(Published 4th Dec 2014) Read full article

The Brookwood Necropolis Railway by John M.Clarke

Like the writer of this book I came across the Necropolis railway quite by accident. A few years ago we took all our Railway books to the Signal Box at Tintern Old Station, to set up a temporary Railway bookshop for a couple of weeks. 

Whilst displaying the books, I came across a chapter in a book about the London Necropolis Railway - before then I had never given it a thought as to what happened to the dead of London.

The London Necropolis railway was established for two main reasons, a growing London population and a lack of burial space. The railway enabled the dead of London to be quickly and efficiently transported to new burial grounds far outside the city, in Surrey.

(Published 4th Dec 2014) Read full article

Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem

If you like mice you'll love Brambly Hedge! Brambly Hedge can be found on the other side of the stream across the field - maybe close to you. Here if you look carefully you may spot a wisp of smoke or see a flight of stairs going up into a tree trunk. For it is in this place that a community of mice has made their home.

The first Brambly Hedge books - Spring Story, Summer Story, Autumn Storyand Winter Story - appeared in 1980. They are written and illustrated by Jill Barklem. Their production followed five years research by Jill. Her love of natural history and interest in rural crafts shines through in the beautiful illustrations and fine details of the stories.

(Published 4th Dec 2014) Read full article


BOP - a cartoon character's punch? BOP - early modern jazz??

No, in fact it's Boy's Own Paper which after its founding in 1879 quickly became known as B.O.P. and has entered into English with the phrase "It's just like a story out of Boy's Own Paper" when incredible tales of heroism and derring-do are being discussed.

Left: The attractive cover of Volume 10 (1887-8)

The B.O.P was issued weekly by the Religious Tract Society to combat the "penny dreadfuls" of the day and was to be "pure and entertaining" reading with a steady stream of recommendations for curing impure thoughts and, much worse for boys, impure actions!

(Published 4th Dec 2014) Read full article

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Have you ever put down an everyday object such as a safety pin then later, despite searching high and low, been unable to find it again? You have? Me too! Is it possible that you have a family of Borrowers living in your house? I'm sure I must have.

The Borrower stories by Mary Norton were first published in 1952 and have been popular ever since. The first book in the series, which won the Carnegie Medal in 1952, is called simply The Borrowers. This book introduces us to the Clock family, made up of father Pod, mother Homily and their daughter Arrietty. They live under the floorboards in a manor house and they enter their home through a gap in the floorboards under the clock in the hall, hence the name - Clock family. (Incidentally, the manor house was based on a house near Leighton Buzzard where Mary Norton lived for part of her childhood.) The family survive by 'borrowing' everyday objects to use as furniture (boxes), utensils (half a pair of nail scissors) and tools (a hatpin). Food and crumbs left by the humans provide their nourishment. Despite many warnings about talking to humans Arrietty speaks to a young boy sent to convalesce with his great aunt and the repercussions force the family to flee from the manor house.

(Published 4th Dec 2014) Read full article

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

'Black Beauty - the Autobiography of a Horse' by Anna Sewell was originally published in 1877 by Jarrolds and was the author's first and only book. It was written between 1871 and 1877 and, due to Anna's ill health, partly written with the help of her mother who transcribed her dictated words or pieces written on small slips of paper.

Greatly influenced by her love of horses due to her heavy use of horse-drawn carriages as a result of a lameness incurred during her teenage years, Anna wanted to bring the cruel treatment of the creatures into the public eye and encourage a more humane treatment of them. She accomplished this by writing the book in the first person from the viewpoint of the horse we know as 'Black Beauty', although throughout the book he also has a variety of different names from his various homes, including "Black Auster" and "Jack". Through Beauty's eyes and experiences, along with accounts from other horses that he meets on the way, Anna creates an empathy with the horses and the treatment that they have to endure. 

(Published 4th Dec 2014) Read full article

Birds of Arabia by Colonel R. Meinertzhagen

Colonel R. Meinertzhagen - Conman, fraudster, soldier, ornithologist?

Or all of the above? Choosing this book is really just an excuse to investigate this intriguing author. Let's start by looking at some aspects of the author's life:

Firstly, what could be more straightforward than the title and author - "Birds of Arabia by Colonel R. Meinertzhagen"? Well, nothing, except that in one sense Meinertzhagen probably didn't write it at all, in that he based it very heavily on the work of the American naturalist George Bates.

Secondly, Meinertzhagen was chairman of the British Ornithologist's Club and owned a large collection of bird specimens. Subsequently it was found that many of these had been stolen from the Natural History Museum and Meinertzhagen had written up false collection details. This is particularly ironic as the dedication in "Birds of Arabia" especially thanks the staff of the Bird Room at the Natural History Museum in London whose help was at all times given most cheerfully. Little did they realise they were also donating their specimens! 

(Published 4th Dec 2014) Read full article

Billy Bunter by Frank Richards

Billy Bunter is the most famous creation by the author Charles Hamilton, written under the pen name Frank Richards. Charles Hamilton used upwards of twenty pen names and is the most prolific author of boy's stories of all time. You will find him in the Guinness book of records and it is estimated that he wrote over 80,000,000 words or the equivalent of 1,000 average length novels. Born in Ealing, Middlesex, England on August 8, 1876, it is thought that he wrote his first story just nine years later, in 1885.

Billy Bunter was brought to fame as part of The Magnet, a boy's magazine which ran between 1908 and 1940 for a total of 1683 issues. Billy Bunter featured in well over a thousand of these magazines, with his part growing as Hamilton realized the comic potential of Billy Bunter.

(Published 4th Dec 2014) Read full article

Bill The Minder by W. Heath Robinson

When you say the name W. Heath Robinson to most people, if they know anything about him they will say he is a book illustrator, and then, most likely, will remember him for his humorous depiction of war machines during the First World War, but there is so much more to the man.

William Heath Robinson comes from a family of illustrators along with his brothers Thomas Heath Robinson and Charles Robinson. They all earned a living from their illustrations, taking after their father, Thomas Robinson, who worked for the Illustrated London News. However William did not initially intend to go into book illustration as his ambition was to become a landscape painter, but the need for an income soon made him choose book illustration as a career. He established himself very quickly and illustrated classic books including; The Arabian Nights, (1899); Tales From Shakespeare (1902);Twelfth Night (1908); Andersen's Fairy Tales (1913); A Midsummer Night's Dream (1914); The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley (1915); and Peacock Pie by Walter de la Mare (1916).

(Published 4th Dec 2014) Read full article