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September 2005



New Academic Term

If you are looking at your University booklist for next term’s text books, or putting together your bibliography of research materials for your dissertation, then look no further than our specialist academic sellers:

You can browse or search their combined stock via the advanced search tab above or find their individual contact details from their members’ pages.


Bonhams 1: T. S. Eliot letters

In the sale of Books, Maps, Photographs and Manuscripts at Bonhams in September will be included an exceptional collection of private letters and presentation copies from T. S. Eliot to the Faber publishing family. Bonhams will auction the private and largely unpublished correspondence with inscribed first editions of the poet's work on Tuesday 20 September at their New Bond Street rooms.

As well as over 80 letters to Enid Faber, the collection features a series of nearly 50 letters from Eliot to his godson Thomas Erle Faber (1927-2004), son of his publisher and colleague Geoffrey Faber (1889-1961). Having no children of his own, the poet indulged the young Tom Faber with delightfully entertaining illustrated letters and amusing poems throughout his lifetime. It is this series of letters (estimate £25,000-30,000), which gave birth to his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. 

Bonhams 2: 'Literary and other portraits'

A major sale of portraits will take place on 3rd October when the Roy Davids collection is offered for sale. Comprising portraits of writers, artists and musicians the sale by Bonhams will be at their rooms at New Bond Street, London.

It is the most extensive private collection of historical portraits to come to auction in recent years and will form the first ever sale entirely devoted to portraits at an international auction house. Compiled by the noted manuscript expert and collector Roy Davids, formerly head of Printed Books and Manuscripts at Sotheby’s, it contains almost 300 portraits of writers, artists, musicians and philosophers. 

Highlights include a pen and ink sketch of a young Ted Hughes by Sylvia Plath (above: circa 1957), a portrait of one of the most influential poets of the 20th century T. S. Eliot (left: Sir Gerald Kelly, 1961/2) and a half length bronze bust of George Bernard Shaw (Prince Paul Troubetskoy, 1908) and many others including Shakespeare, Spenser, Byron, Dickens, Hardy, Milne, Larkin, Heaney, Walpole, Johnson, Wells, Wilde, Churchill, Disraeli, Morris, Moore, Reynolds, West, Whistler, Matisse, Lowry, Chopin, Debussy, Shostakovich, Verdi and Wagner.


Told to the Children - Edwardian Nursery Reading
by Charlotte Robinson of Amwell Book Company

The starting point for this rather lackadaisical collection begun in the late 70’s, was re-discovering one of the titles I had read as a small child. ‘Stories from Chaucer’ fascinated me then, particularly its rather soulful and dreamy illustrations by W. Heath Robinson. What is perhaps more surprising is that this small volume published in England, sometime between 1905 and 1915 had survived the breaking up and sale of my Mother’s home in Perth, Western Australia when she was 15, and her many subsequent moves there and ultimately to Bath, England, Bermuda, Portsmouth and Bath again before I could have been old enough to read it. Sadly it did not emerge unscathed from the Pickford’s store where the majority of our possessions went up in flames in 1960.

So having greeted an old friend I began to collect the series, called ‘Told to the Children’ and also ‘Shown to the Children’ published by T C & E C Jack of Edinburgh and London. I confess to having done no research on the series beyond gratefully receiving a carefully hand written list of known titles from a friendly customer. The books were quite common and cheap. They are still cheap but much less common. I have always found it useful to have a few wants of unappreciated trifles whose purchase can be used as a sort of polite gesture in otherwise barren bookshops.

The books are undated but since I have 29 out of the between 36 to 40 titles published, there are some clues. The first group of nine titles appear to have been published in 1905, and in New York by E P Dutton. The format for the series was established, the books are 5 5/8 x 4 ¾ inches, bound in cloth with a simple art nouveau decoration in gilt to the binding, with a rectangular onlaid plate to the upper board. Each volume has 8 coloured plates, a range of illustrators were used, including W Heath Robinson, Byam Shaw, F D Bedford, A S Forrest and most frequently Katherine Cameron. The books seemed to have been issued with dustwrappers as well as in a cheaper version with no gilt and paper covered boards.

The series editor was Louey Chisholm, and each book was written by a well known children’s writer of the period, such as H E Marshall, Amy Steedman or Mary Macgregor. The books were designed for young children, initially perhaps for reading aloud and included a mixture of legends, such as King Arthur, Robin Hood, Greek myths, fairy tales and a few religious titles. A few précis of famous books were included, such as ‘The Water Babies’, and almost the only American title, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’.

The series must have been a success, by 1908 at least another 14 titles were in print and within ten years, 36 titles. The fullest list I have only includes the 36 titles but I have a copy of ‘More Stories from Shakespeare’, dated 1917, not on that list. I have speculated a total of about 40.

The charming art nouveau design for the binding was in use until at least 1929. It changed, probably in the 30’s for a much more prosaic design, of decorated cloth. I have only one example because I have always looked for the original gilt version. It is noticeable that the plates for the illustrations had never been reset, Katherine Cameron’s plates for ‘Stories of King Arthur’s Knights’ had deteriorated substantially between the 1905 edition and those in the revised binding.

The series provides an interesting record of what a young middle class child might have been expected to read in the early years of the century. Children today have a wider range of material but a surprising number of titles would not look out of place in a primary school library.

I am in the process of producing a list of titles with as much detail as I can find and I will be happy to email this to anyone who would like it. I would also be interested in further information on the subject - contact: Charlotte Robinson


Zouch Books goes 'Bricks and Mortar'

ibooknet member and, until now, internet only bookseller Zouch Books will open their new bookshop in Melbourne, Derbyshire, on 6th September. They will be open between 10.30am and 4.30pm daily (except Monday and Thursday), including weekends and Bank Holidays.

Situated in the Melbourne Hall Visitors Centre they can be found at Unit 7 (click for map) or contacted by email or phone: 07854 881845.


Big Gay Read

Launched by Chloe Poems at Manchester Pride, the annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender festival traditionally held over the August Bank Holiday weekend, the Big Gay Read is a national campaign to discover the nations favourite Lesbian and Gay novel.

Inspired by the BBC's Big Read it is a joint project between Manchester, Salford and Blackpool libraries, Commonword (a creative writing and publishing organisation in the North West) and Time to Read (the North West Libraries Reader Development Partnership) and organisers hope it will introduce readers to a wider range of novels.

Footnote: Lawyers for DC Comics, owners of the Batman and Robin comic strips and publishers of a number of magazines in the genre have issued a 'cease and desist' order to Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts gallery in New York, ordering that Mark Chamberlain's provocative homoerotic representations of the 'dynamic duo' be taken down, or face the legal consequences. They have also demanded that she "hand over all unsold work and invoices for the sold work".


Next Month: The feature for October 2005 will be by The Old Bookshelf


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