Peter Harrington Bookseller Blog

Shackleton’s South: is my copy a first edition?

Ernest Shackleton embarked on four journeys to the Antarctic in his lifetime, and his aptly-named Endurance expedition was his third and perhaps most challenging. South (1919) is the first printing of his account of the expedition, which may have failed in its mission, but has since been remembered as a feat of great fortitude, survival, and leadership.

 

The Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1917

Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition was the last great undertaking of the heroic age of Antarctic exploration. He embarked in 1914 on the Endurance to make the first traverse of the Antarctic continent: a journey of some 1,800 miles from sea to sea. In 1915 the Endurance was sunk by pack ice, leaving Shackleton and his 27 crew members in smaller boats that were ill equipped for the rough Weddell Sea. They sailed to Elephant Island, where they made an encampment from two upturned boats. Shortly thereafter, Shackleton, Worsley, and Tom Crean made a gruelling trip for help, which they found at a whaling station on the north side of South Georgia. Subsequently, four separate attempts were made to rescue the remaining crew members on the desolate Elephant Island. By the time they were rescued, the men had survived for five and a half months on a diet of seals and penguins. Shackleton’s expedition succeeded in creating a polar epic of bravery and leadership. An astonishing scientific discovery was made on 5 March 2022, when the Endurance was discovered in the Weddell Sea. It was found intact, just four miles south of the last location recorded in 1915.

 

South – The Story

South is a polar classic told in Shackleton’s distinctive style. He notes in the preface: “I think that though failure in the actual accomplishment must be recorded, there are chapters in this book of high adventure, strenuous days, lonely nights, unique experiences, and, above all, records of unflinching determination, supreme loyalty, and generous self-sacrifice”. Shackleton is sure that it “will be of interested to readers who now turn gladly from the red horror of war and the train of the last five years to read, perhaps with more understanding minds, the tale of the White Warfare of the South”.

   

 

Is your copy a first edition, first impression?

The account quickly became popular, and it was published in 14 editions and 46 impressions. The first edition was published by William Heinemann and issued in four impressions. The following six points are a collector’s guide to identifying a first edition, first impression and to assess condition.

What does it look like?

The binding is in a dark blue cloth with the spine lettered in silver. The front cover is decorated with a silver vignette of the Endurance, based on the photograph “The Long, Long Night” by Frank Hurley. The back cover has the blind stamp of Heinemann. The edges of the book block are trimmed, and the top edge has a faint blue colour.

 

 

Which impression is it?

The publisher is listed as William Heinemann on the title page. Later impressions are noted as such on the verso of the title page; this page will be blank in first impressions.

 

 

 

What is the paper quality like?

First impressions are printed on poor-quality paper which is prone to toning. Later impressions are printed on improved paper and will appear whiter.

 

 

 

 

Do you have the right collation?

The first impression must have the collation “2 pp., xxii, 376 pp.” and an errata slip tipped onto p. 1. The second and third impressions have a similar collation though without the errata slip, as the errors have been corrected. The fourth impression is also without the errata slip, though with two additional pages in the preliminaries (pp. xxiii-xxiv) plus an addendum on the last index page. All impressions have a colour frontispiece, 87 half-tone plates, and a colour folding map at the end. The frontispiece has a tissue guard with the text “In the Pride of her Youth”, while the half-tones are identified by their well-defined dot structure. Check that your map is not a later photocopy, as maps are sometimes removed from books and sold separately.

 

 

What is the condition like?

Shackleton’s book, produced while the effects of the First World War were still a reality, is rarely encountered in collectible condition. The poorly crafted binding is likely to split at the joints and the silver printing is prone to oxidizing. A fine copy is without any of these flaws.

 

 

 

Does it have a dust jacket?

A dust jacket for this title is a nice to have, not a need to have. They are incredibly scarce, so if one is present, it is tinted in light blue and the text and image of the Endurance are printed in black. We have also encountered one example in a cream colour with the lettering and image printed in blue.

Written by Cecilie Gasseholm, Travel Specialist

BROWSE TRAVEL

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Derek Walcott

One of the satisfactions of putting together a catalogue is the opportunity to tell a story – arranging books and paper, these chance scatterings of time, into a narrative that captures some of the passion, struggle, or triumph in the lives of their authors or readers. This Poetry catalogue is no exception.

Derek Walcott

One of the poetic careers I’ve always been moved and impressed by is that of Derek Walcott. Walcott was born in 1930 in the Caribbean on the island of St Lucia, the son of a civil servant who loved to paint, and a teacher at the local Methodist school who cherished poetry. From this relatively humble, though evidently nurtured, beginning, he would become one of the world’s most respected poets, and with the publication of Omeros in 1990, a bold transposition of Homer’s Odyssey to a Caribbean idiom, he would go on to be awarded the Nobel Prize, becoming the first Caribbean Nobel laureate.

In a Green Night

Walcott’s first big break came in 1962 when Tom Maschler of Jonathan Cape (who incidentally had a knack for bringing in talented voices from outside the British literary world, several of whom would go on to be Nobel Laurates, including Pablo Neruda and Gabriel García Márquez) published his poetry collection In a Green Night. In the catalogue we have a scarce proof copy of this collection, which stands as the middle point in the story being told.

 

 

25 Poems

Finding anything from Walcott before this date is hard, though the precocious young poet had in fact published many poetry collections and plays throughout his late-teens and twenties. These were all printed locally on various islands of the Caribbean: Trinidad, Barbardos, and Jamaica, usually in very small numbers, and often self-funded, with his devoted mother reportedly working two jobs to help raise money for the printing of her son’s poems. Consequently, surviving copies of these are rare, and the rarest of these is his debut collection, 25 Poems, published in 1949. The trio of Walcotts in our Poetry catalogue starts its narrative here – but it’s not just the survival of the copy that’s significant (there are only a mere handful recorded in libraries around the world), but the rare and rather moving inscription in the hand of the young poet: “To Roy Fuller, compliments of Derek Walcott, gratefully”.

 

Fuller and Walcott

Roy Fuller was a British writer who, like Walcott, had carried a love of poetry through an underprivileged upbringing. By the time of the book’s inscription Fuller was an established poet. He appeared on the BBC’s 1949 radio programme Caribbean Voices, and made special notice and praise of Walcott’s poetry. His praise, moreover, was analytical, respecting the poet on equal terms and without condescension. Walcott then sent this copy, “gratefully”, to this main whose praise must have felt like one of the first beckonings from literary world outside the Caribbean, setting him on the road that would lead to his Nobel laureateship.

Letters from Walcott to Giroux

The final point in our story comes with a new discovery, which I made recently while digging through a trove of material from the archive of American publisher Robert Giroux – a collection of three unpublished letters from Walcott to Giroux. Giroux had been a major figure at Harcourt, Brace, & Co., before moving in 1955 as a leading editor at FSG (Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux), where he shepherded the careers of many great American writers such as Elizabeth Bishop, Jack Keroauc, and Flannery O’Connor. Walcott was one of his poets – it was under Giroux’s wing that Walcott’s career really took off, leading eventually to the publication of Omeros and the Nobel prize that followed. The letters are written from Trinidad in the mid-60s, marking the early stages of their friendship and collaboration leading up to the publication of Another Life, and are full of evident enthusiasm and excitement.

Written by Sammy Jay, Senior Literature Specialist BROWSE POETRY CATALOGUE

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Charles Darwin: The Scientist and the Man

It goes without saying that On the Origin of Species is one of the most significant books in history and a desirable addition to many collectors’ libraries. Yet the emphasis on Charles Darwin’s evolutionary writings – although richly deserved – often overshadows the breadth of his other interests and influences. Most Darwin enthusiasts know about his time as an explorer on the HMS Beagle, but what of his obsession with barnacles and his enthusiasm for backgammon? Amongst these diverse interests emerges a dynamic portrait of not only a scientist but a fascinating man.

“No pursuit at Cambridge was followed with nearly so much eagerness or gave me so much pleasure as collecting beetles” – Darwin and collecting

Darwin collected seals, pebbles, and minerals as a child and compiled a huge array of specimens and plants throughout his life, but there was one collection in particular that brought him the most joy: his beetle boxes. “It was the mere passion for collecting, for I did not dissect them and rarely compared their external characters with published descriptions”. As a student, he frequently got into debates with the aptly named Charles “Beetles” Babington about who would acquire new species first. His zeal for collecting is demonstrated through an anecdote in his autobiography: “I saw two rare beetles and seized one in each hand; then I saw a third and new kind, which I could not bear to lose, so I popped the one which I held in my right hand into my mouth. Alas it ejected some intensely acrid fluid, which burnt my tongue so that I was forced to spit the beetle out, which was lost, as well as the third one”.

“When 9 or 10, I distinctly recollect the desire I had of being able to know something about every pebble in front of the hall door” – Darwin and geology

After his time as a traveller on the Beagle, Darwin’s interests turned to geology, a subject that was of paramount importance to the development of his evolutionary theories. The geologist Charles Lyell was the formative influence on Darwin; he religiously studied Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830-3) on the Beagle and later asserted that his theories “came half out of Lyell’s brains”. By the mid-19th century, geologists had moved from speculation to scientific evidence due to Lyell’s insistence on the principle of uniformity. In contrast, although evolution-adjacent theories had been floated by thinkers such as Lamarck, evolutionary biologists remained firmly in the realm of scientific speculation. It was the geologists, spearheaded by Lyell, and their insistence that evolutionary theory needed to prove a mechanism before all else to be accepted, that inspired Darwin’s succinct, evidence-based case for evolution that he laid out in the Origin.

“Then where does he do his barnacles?” – Darwin and palaeontology

Darwin spent eight years (1846-54) studying Cirripedia (barnacles), both living and fossilized, on which he published four monographs. These provide insight into his scientific method and are accomplished taxonomic works that provide a catalogue of all free-living cirripedes known at the time. Darwin’s enthusiasm for his barnacle project is charmingly summed up in a story by his neighbour John Lubbock: “One of Mr Darwin’s children is said to have asked, in regard to a neighbour, ‘Then where does he do his barnacles?’ as though not merely his father, but all other men, must be occupied on that group”.

“In all views plants form the chief embellishment” – Darwin and botany

After biology, Darwin’s most influential exploit was botany. The protégé of the botanist John Stevens Henslow whilst at Cambridge, Darwin published on a variety of botanical topics ranging from carnivorous plants to plant movement. His 1862 book on orchid fertilization provided data that strengthened his evolutionary arguments by demonstrating the process of botanical natural selection. He showed that self-fertilisation was largely undesirable to organisms, thereby providing the variation which was essential to Darwin’s theory and proving that the ideas expounded in the Origin were not just theoretical but could be experimentally verified in the plant world.

“Glorified friend!” – Darwin and his correspondence 

Darwin suffered from poor health for most of his life; after he returned from the voyage of the Beagle at the age of 27, he never left England again. He therefore developed a colossal international correspondence network with some of the greatest minds of the age. He relied upon this network to remain up to date with discoveries and to receive botanical and biological samples. He was a friend of the co-discoverer of natural selection, Alfred Russell Wallace, and was particularly close to Joseph Dalton Hooker, a friendship demonstrated by over 1,200 surviving letters.

Hooker was invaluable for his part in keeping Darwin, now sequestered at Down House, up to date with geological advances. During Hooker’s trip to the Himalayas, he wrote frequently to Darwin, responding to his questions and sending details that supplemented Darwin’s theories. Darwin trusted Hooker so much that he left instructions that if his health were to prevent him from publishing his theory of evolution, Hooker was the one to which he entrusted the task.

Darwin also had a large correspondence with the Wedgwoods, of porcelain fame: he was the grandson of Josiah Wedgwood – the renowned entrepreneur – and married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood. Members of the family corresponded with Darwin about the publication of his first book, the Journal and Remarks, and were invited to read the manuscript notebook of his travels upon which the work was based. In particular, Fanny and Hensleigh Wedgwood were asked to provide feedback, describing it as a “very interesting journal”.

“I have won, hurrah hurrah!” – Darwin and entertainment

Due to his health, Darwin spent a lot of evenings at home, where one of his favourite hobbies was playing backgammon with Emma. They played two games every night which he kept detailed notes on, writing in 1876 to Asa Gray that “she poor creature has won only 2490 games, whilst I have won, hurrah hurrah, 2795 games!”.

“Darwinism” – Darwin the originator

Since his death, Darwin’s theories have been applied to a multitude of subjects. The term “Darwinism” refers to many different things – in fact, it predates Charles Darwin, having been originally used to describe the theories of his grandfather Erasmus Darwin, and was first applied to Charles by his “bulldog”, Thomas Henry Huxley, in 1860. It soon expanded to include not only Darwin’s ideas but the whole field of evolutionary thought, including that of Herbert Spencer and August Weismann. Gregor Mendel’s discovery of the mechanism of heredity led to “neo-Darwinism”, which evolved into what Julian Huxley termed “the eclipse of Darwinism” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this period, scientists did not consider the mechanism of natural selection entirely scientifically sound despite their acceptance of evolution, a problem that was solved by Huxley’s coining of “modern synthesis” (a combination of Darwinian theory and Mendelian genetics) in 1942.

It was a long road for Darwin and a longer road still for the world to accept Darwinism. This was a path that Darwin foresaw, writing apprehensively to Hooker in 1844 that his theory that species were not immutable was “like confessing a murder”. Yet, he never doubted the veracity of his views, an opinion he expounded to his publisher John Murray in 1859 while preparing to publish the Origin: “I fear all Reviews of my present Book, will be very unfavourable; but I now feel confident my views will ultimately prevail”.

Written by Alice Gregson, Cataloguer and Bookseller

BROWSE SCIENCES BROWSE CHARLES DARWIN

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Friends with Benefits

Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (1928) is one of the most memorable cases of the benefits of a muse in modern literature – dedicated to Vita Sackville-West, whose androgynous personality inspired the title character, the book was described by Sackville-West’s son, Nigel Nicolson, as “the longest love letter in history”. Woolf and Sackville-West’s decades long relationship, with its passionate forays into romance and underpinning friendship, undoubtedly came with creative benefits to both women. In this blog we are delving into other examples of literary “friends with benefits”: looking at creatively fruitful relationships both platonic and romantic in nature.

 

Vita and Virginia

Woolf and Sackville-West first met at the end of 1922, when Vita was 30 and Woolf was 40. Their relationship has been the topic of much scrutiny, including in the 2018 biopic Vita & Virginia. It began against the backdrop of two open and creatively beneficial marriages: Vita and Harold Nicholson both carried out numerous extra-marital affairs, mostly with people of their own gender, while remaining devoted to one another, their children, and their famous garden at Sissinghurst. This shared creative project was the basis for one of Sackville-West’s most beloved works, her 1946 poem The Garden. Virginia and Leonard’s relationship was one of much mutual devotion, though a chaste one. The creative output of Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s marriage came in a different form: he was her first reader, and their Hogarth Press brought a plethora of literary greats into the world.

 

 

Seducers in Ecuador

It was Sackville-West who initiated the dedication of their works to one another, four years before Orlando was published in her honour. Woolf invited Sackville-West to submit a novel to the Hogarth Press, the result being Seducers in Ecuador, published on 30 October 1924, with a dedication to Woolf. Woolf praised Sackville-West’s novel as “the sort of thing I should like to write myself”, and in a letter to the author described how much she liked “its texture – the sense of all the fine things you have dropped in to it, so that it is full of beauty in itself when nothing is happening … I am very glad that we are going to publish it, and extremely proud and indeed touched, with my childlike dazzled affection for you, that you should dedicate it to me” (15 September 1924). The two women began their affair the next year.

 

 

  Katherine Mansfield

Woolf would write in her diary while producing the work, however, that it was not Sackville-West’s mind that first appealed to her, but her capacity as a woman: “She is stag like or race horse like … and has no very sharp brain. But as a body hers is perfection” (5 July 1924). In contrast, in the months after first meeting her fellow Bloomsbury novelist Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) she wrote: “to no one else can I talk in the same disembodied way about writing; without altering my thought more than I alter it in writing here”; and noted that she got “the queerest sense of an echo coming back to me from mind the second after I’ve spoken” (2 June 1917). Their important, complicated literary friendship and rivalry never delved into the romantic but was undoubtedly creatively beneficial. It was based around their shared desire to discuss their art, Woolf later describing their conversations as “priceless”. She asked Mansfield to submit a work to be published by the Hogarth Press, and the result, Prelude, was the first novel commissioned. Critics have made much of their relationship: describing them as foils to one another, producing strikingly similar work, and nursing a shared anxiety about being the lesser artist.

 

Sylvia Townsend Warner

Another of Woolf’s literary friends was Sylvia Townsend Warner, an English novelist, poet, and musicologist, who shared similar mutually beneficial, if emotionally turbulent, creative relationships.

Warner lived as a married couple with her partner, the poet Valentine Ackland, for 38 years, remaining faithful to Ackland despite the latter’s various affairs. Their relationship is visible in their creative output: in their collection of 109 love poems, Whether a Dove or Seagull (1933), their individual boundary pushing publications (Warner notably espoused “unconventional moral fables” in her collection of fairy tales Kingdoms of Elfin in 1977), and in their posthumously published love letters, I’ll Stand By You (1998).

Ackland’s work primarily took the form of poetry, although with her political critique she contributed articles to magazines such as Country Standard, Left Review, and The Countryman. Warner, the more successful and prolific author, was supportive of Ackland’s writing, often putting it before her own, and she used her friendships with many key authors and literary figures of the time to help get Ackland into print.

 

Nancy Cunard

One such friendship was with the author and activist Nancy Cunard. Indeed, it had been one of Cunard’s articles in the Daily Worker which prompted the couple, both signed-up members of the Communist party, to travel to Barcelona to volunteer as first-aid workers for the Red Cross in late September 1936. By 1944 the pair had returned to their home in Dorset, and Cunard visited them there to escape the second London Blitz of that year. She too benefited creatively from their friendship, writing Man-Ship-Tank-Gun-Plane while with them; a modernist poem evoking the terror of experiencing war raids. 

These literary relationships represent just a handful of those to explore: discover more tales of unusual writing duos with our blog post on Michael Field, or the world of Renée Vivien, Sappho’s first lesbian translator who would go on to set up a school on the island of Lesbos with her lover, and renowned literary host, Natalie Clifford Barney.

 

Written by Suzanna Beaupré, Rare Book Specialist  BROWSE LITERATURE

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Bookplates

One of the pleasures of cataloguing books is coming across bookplates. These are often interesting, delightful, sometimes infuriating, and occasionally alarming. They are a source of fascination and have been written about extensively, so we thought it might be a good idea to share some examples from the shelves here at Peter Harrington. “Familiar signs of ownership”

So, what is a bookplate? Book historian David Pearson explains: “the use of engraved or printed paper labels, carrying an owner’s identity, to mark the possession or gift of a book, is almost as old as printing itself, and it is one of the most familiar signs of ownership seen by students of provenance”.

Chronology of Styles

One of our earlier examples is that of the quarrelsome bishop of Bangor, John Evans (c.1652-1724), who was foolish enough to pick a fight with Jonathan Swift. His handsomely curlicued plate, a fine example of what is known as the Early Armorial style, appears in a special copy of the Earl of Clarendon’s Survey (1676), a fierce critique of Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan. The plate displays the symbols of his office (the mitre, crozier, and key) and bears a very close resemblance to that of another bishop, Henry Compton of London. This is illustrated in David Pearson’s Provenance Research in Book History, where he identifies the engraver of Compton’s plate as William Jackson, “who actively solicited clients for bookplates and who thereby became a major influence in popularising their usage”.

Chronology of Styles

One of our earlier examples is that of the quarrelsome bishop of Bangor, John Evans (c.1652-1724), who was foolish enough to pick a fight with Jonathan Swift. His handsomely curlicued plate, a fine example of what is known as the Early Armorial style, appears in a special copy of the Earl of Clarendon’s Survey (1676), a fierce critique of Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan. The plate displays the symbols of his office (the mitre, crozier, and key) and bears a very close resemblance to that of another bishop, Henry Compton of London. This is illustrated in David Pearson’s Provenance Research in Book History, where he identifies the engraver of Compton’s plate as William Jackson, “who actively solicited clients for bookplates and who thereby became a major influence in popularising their usage”.

The next fashion to emerge in Britain is the rather confusingly named Jacobean style, introduced a little before 1700 and popular until around 1745. A nice example of this is that of Henry Home, Lord Kames (1695-1782), whose plate appears in a collection of works by the Scottish philosopher Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun. Here we have vigorously scrolled mantling surrounding his coat of arms, below which is placed a scallop-shell, a common feature of such plates.

The next fashion to emerge in Britain is the rather confusingly named Jacobean style, introduced a little before 1700 and popular until around 1745. A nice example of this is that of Henry Home, Lord Kames (1695-1782), whose plate appears in a collection of works by the Scottish philosopher Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun. Here we have vigorously scrolled mantling surrounding his coat of arms, below which is placed a scallop-shell, a common feature of such plates.

Next is Chippendale, the style that succeeded the Jacobean, named after the famous cabinet-maker, and fashionable between roughly 1740 and 1780. This example belonged to Sir Edward Winnington (1749-1805), of Stanford Court, Worcestershire; a pretty plate, alive with rococo flourishes and a hint of chinoiserie (very much en vogue) and is pasted into his handsomely bound Cambridge-printed Bible of 1768.

Next is Chippendale, the style that succeeded the Jacobean, named after the famous cabinet-maker, and fashionable between roughly 1740 and 1780. This example belonged to Sir Edward Winnington (1749-1805), of Stanford Court, Worcestershire; a pretty plate, alive with rococo flourishes and a hint of chinoiserie (very much en vogue) and is pasted into his handsomely bound Cambridge-printed Bible of 1768.

Now we come to a personal favourite, the eye-catching military bookplate of Charles William Vane, third marquess of Londonderry (1778–1854): pendant to his arms are his many military awards, and for good measure there are supporters in the shape of prancing hussars; at the top there are two crests flanking his coronet and below a flowing banderole bearing his motto. A brave but not particularly brilliant soldier – Sir John Moore described him as “a very silly fellow” – Vane served with variable distinction throughout the Peninsular War. The plate reveals something of the character of the man, whose dashing and dandified portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence is at the National Portrait Gallery. “Silly” he may have been, but Vane was a discerning collector; his plate appears here in The Antient and Present State of the County of Down (Dublin, 1744) by the Irish antiquary Charles Smith.

Now we come to a personal favourite, the eye-catching military bookplate of Charles William Vane, third marquess of Londonderry (1778–1854): pendant to his arms are his many military awards, and for good measure there are supporters in the shape of prancing hussars; at the top there are two crests flanking his coronet and below a flowing banderole bearing his motto. A brave but not particularly brilliant soldier – Sir John Moore described him as “a very silly fellow” – Vane served with variable distinction throughout the Peninsular War. The plate reveals something of the character of the man, whose dashing and dandified portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence is at the National Portrait Gallery. “Silly” he may have been, but Vane was a discerning collector; his plate appears here in The Antient and Present State of the County of Down (Dublin, 1744) by the Irish antiquary Charles Smith.

Women Collectors

A trio of women collectors can here stand-in their sister-bibliophiles. Preeminent among them is Frances Mary Richardson Currer (1785-1861). Her simple but unusually shaped armorial plate can be seen in a lovely copy of a fine edition of the works of Caesar (1790), a testimony to her taste and discernment.

Women Collectors

A trio of women collectors can here stand-in their sister-bibliophiles. Preeminent among them is Frances Mary Richardson Currer (1785-1861). Her simple but unusually shaped armorial plate can be seen in a lovely copy of a fine edition of the works of Caesar (1790), a testimony to her taste and discernment.

A rather delightful plate (designed by one L. Bradshaw) enlivens the front pastedown of Dorothy Bussy’s novel Olivia (1948). This belongs to Muriel Orr-Ewing (1900-1994), who, after years of travel and three marriages, in 1940 set up a finishing school in London called The Grove. She was a founding president of the British Association of Women Executives and dabbled in filmmaking.

A rather delightful plate (designed by one L. Bradshaw) enlivens the front pastedown of Dorothy Bussy’s novel Olivia (1948). This belongs to Muriel Orr-Ewing (1900-1994), who, after years of travel and three marriages, in 1940 set up a finishing school in London called The Grove. She was a founding president of the British Association of Women Executives and dabbled in filmmaking.

In her first edition of Frank Baker’s Miss Hargreaves (1940), Kathleen Joan Dawson has pencilled in the space at the foot of her Walter Crane-inspired bookplate that it was “a gift from the author”. Hopefully his comic fantasy lightened the war years, and she would surely be cheered to know that the book has been carefully looked after and remains in very good condition.

In her first edition of Frank Baker’s Miss Hargreaves (1940), Kathleen Joan Dawson has pencilled in the space at the foot of her Walter Crane-inspired bookplate that it was “a gift from the author”. Hopefully his comic fantasy lightened the war years, and she would surely be cheered to know that the book has been carefully looked after and remains in very good condition.

Stepping into the limelight among celebrity bookplates is that of Noël Coward, an unsurprisingly elegant affair that combines the masks of comedy and tragedy into a single persona. It adorns a first edition of Thunderball (1961), jokingly inscribed to “The Master” by Ian Fleming.

Stepping into the limelight among celebrity bookplates is that of Noël Coward, an unsurprisingly elegant affair that combines the masks of comedy and tragedy into a single persona. It adorns a first edition of Thunderball (1961), jokingly inscribed to “The Master” by Ian Fleming.

Open this first edition of Alice Through the Looking-Glass (1872) and you are confronted by an alarming memento mori in the form of a skull through which a worm wriggles. The owner’s initials “PMF” are tattooed on the forehead. Despite our best endeavours, he or she remains elusive.

Open this first edition of Alice Through the Looking-Glass (1872) and you are confronted by an alarming memento mori in the form of a skull through which a worm wriggles. The owner’s initials “PMF” are tattooed on the forehead. Despite our best endeavours, he or she remains elusive.

Multiple Ownership and Upstaging

Sometimes bookplates show us ownership by more than one person. A copy of the signed limited edition of Jean Genet’s The Balcony (1958) bears the bookplates of two eminent collectors: Robert A. Wilson, proprietor of the famous Phoenix Bookshop in Greenwich Village, and Donald G. Drapkin, whose collection was sold through Christie’s in 2005.

Multiple Ownership and Upstaging

Sometimes bookplates show us ownership by more than one person. A copy of the signed limited edition of Jean Genet’s The Balcony (1958) bears the bookplates of two eminent collectors: Robert A. Wilson, proprietor of the famous Phoenix Bookshop in Greenwich Village, and Donald G. Drapkin, whose collection was sold through Christie’s in 2005.

Here owners share equal billing on the front pastedown. However, sometimes one owner may upstage another. A nice exemplar turns up in a first edition of Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891): occupying the front free endpaper is the unremarkable armorial bookplate of American collector E. Hubert Litchfield. Facing him is William Henry Radcliffe Saunders, army officer and member of the Bookplate Society, who in 1904 commissioned a zinger of a bookplate from the distinguished Scottish engraver-designer Graham Johnston. Here the dense foliate mantling embraces his coat of arms and crest, a wonderful betusked elephant head. By comparison, poor Litchfield looks rather timid.

Here owners share equal billing on the front pastedown. However, sometimes one owner may upstage another. A nice exemplar turns up in a first edition of Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1891): occupying the front free endpaper is the unremarkable armorial bookplate of American collector E. Hubert Litchfield. Facing him is William Henry Radcliffe Saunders, army officer and member of the Bookplate Society, who in 1904 commissioned a zinger of a bookplate from the distinguished Scottish engraver-designer Graham Johnston. Here the dense foliate mantling embraces his coat of arms and crest, a wonderful betusked elephant head. By comparison, poor Litchfield looks rather timid. A more brutal way of upstaging is to place one bookplate on top of another, not unlike stepping in front of someone as the camera shutter closes. A good example of this can be seen in William Dodd’s The Beauties of Shakespeare (1757), where two members of the aristocratic Needham family jostle for attention: the nineteenth-century plate of the first Earl of Kilmorey obscuring all but the crest of a lively plate from the preceding century, probably that of the ninth viscount. A more brutal way of upstaging is to place one bookplate on top of another, not unlike stepping in front of someone as the camera shutter closes. A good example of this can be seen in William Dodd’s The Beauties of Shakespeare (1757), where two members of the aristocratic Needham family jostle for attention: the nineteenth-century plate of the first Earl of Kilmorey obscuring all but the crest of a lively plate from the preceding century, probably that of the ninth viscount. Melancholic Remains

And then there are those books from which the bookplate has been torn, roughly erased, or simply annihilated, leaving but a ghost; as if the current owner could not bear the presence of a predecessor. But sometimes enough of a trace is left to give a clue: luckily Victor Duchâtaux (1823-1905), a lawyer and member of the municipal council at Reims, is unaware of the fate that befell his bookplate, the heart of which has been wrenched out. The book in which it clings on, a first edition of Jean Bodin’s De la demonomania des sorciers (Paris, 1580), the most influential witch-hunting guide of the sixteenth-century and a Renaissance best-seller, must have once taken pride of place in his library. He is almost gone but not quite forgotten.

Melancholic Remains

And then there are those books from which the bookplate has been torn, roughly erased, or simply annihilated, leaving but a ghost; as if the current owner could not bear the presence of a predecessor. But sometimes enough of a trace is left to give a clue: luckily Victor Duchâtaux (1823-1905), a lawyer and member of the municipal council at Reims, is unaware of the fate that befell his bookplate, the heart of which has been wrenched out. The book in which it clings on, a first edition of Jean Bodin’s De la demonomania des sorciers (Paris, 1580), the most influential witch-hunting guide of the sixteenth-century and a Renaissance best-seller, must have once taken pride of place in his library. He is almost gone but not quite forgotten.

Written by Duncan McCoshan, specialist BROWSE ALL BOOKS

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Nigel Bents

From his own design work crafting “epic ephemera” to twenty years’ worth of memories at Peter Harrington, the head of our design team, Nigel Bents, has lots of stories to tell.

Nigel, you are one of the longstanding team members at Peter Harrington; how did you start working here?

I was asked to do a catalogue by Peter Harrington, Pom’s dad, twenty years ago – there were no pictures in it apart from the cover. After its completion, I began working as a freelance designer for the company; and a year later, I’d completed a grand total of five whole catalogues. The work fitted in nicely with my main job of running the first year BA graphics at Chelsea College of Art. Not having to worry about 80-odd students and simply moving type and book pictures around on a page in a quiet carpeted room at 100 Fulham Road became a sort of therapy, much like doing a  sudoku. Through all this time, despite teaching term-time 4 days per week, senior specialist Adam Douglas has always maintained that teaching was simply my ‘hobby’ and that Peter Harrington catalogues were the real job.

How do you feel looking back at your earliest memories here?

This is probably answered best by my son George’s Father’s Day Card from long ago!! The catalogues took a long time to do in those far-off days; I thought they looked great at the time but now I can see clearly that they look utterly hideous. Like when that cool photo of you as a 17 year-old doesn’t look so cool a few years later.

How do you feel looking back at your earliest memories here?

This is probably answered best by my son George’s Father’s Day Card from long ago!! The catalogues took a long time to do in those far-off days; I thought they looked great at the time but now I can see clearly that they look utterly hideous. Like when that cool photo of you as a 17 year-old doesn’t look so cool a few years later.

How have things changed since you started working?

In those early days I would often spend all night formatting text, working 24-hour shifts. Pablo would get on his moped at Fulham Road and drop off a floppy disk/CD/Hard Drive down the road at college that Ruth, our photographer, had produced, so that I could get on with it after my teaching day was done. Those days and nights were long and hard. Nowadays, or course, it’s better. The software does so much more, and the cataloging team are each allocated specific aspects of preparation so that it runs pretty smoothly. We have an IT department too. In those far off days I would get Chelsea College’s IT department to fix problems!

 

How have things changed since you started working?

In those early days I would often spend all night formatting text, working 24-hour shifts. Pablo would get on his moped at Fulham Road and drop off a floppy disk/CD/Hard Drive down the road at college that Ruth, our photographer, had produced, so that I could get on with it after my teaching day was done. Those days and nights were long and hard. Nowadays, or course, it’s better. The software does so much more, and the cataloging team are each allocated specific aspects of preparation so that it runs pretty smoothly. We have an IT department too. In those far off days I would get Chelsea College’s IT department to fix problems!

Your funniest memory at Peter Harrington (if you can narrow it down to one!)?

I was working, at home, one night, finishing the Christmas catalogue – it’s the one catalogue that you can’t move the print deadline on. I was so tired that I left the laptop on the sofa, next to the dog, as I went up to bed at about 4:00 am. I came down a few hours later, all ready for the final push to discover that we’d been burgled – and they’d taken my laptop! I have no idea how we did send it to print, but the dog got a very hard time at her annual performance review. These days I’m re-assured by shop manager Joe Jameson’s adage that ‘there is no such thing as a rare book emergency’.

 

Your funniest memory at Peter Harrington (if you can narrow it down to one!)?

I was working, at home, one night, finishing the Christmas catalogue – it’s the one catalogue that you can’t move the print deadline on. I was so tired that I left the laptop on the sofa, next to the dog, as I went up to bed at about 4:00 am. I came down a few hours later, all ready for the final push to discover that we’d been burgled – and they’d taken my laptop! I have no idea how we did send it to print, but the dog got a very hard time at her annual performance review. These days I’m re-assured by shop manager Joe Jameson’s adage that ‘there is no such thing as a rare book emergency’.

Who do you work with and how does the team work now?

It’s quite amazing that there are three of us designing now, and we’ve all been to Chelsea College! I share the print design workload with Abbie, who was a student of mine, and Sophie too, who works at Dover Street doing mostly on-line design with the marketing team. We all have different tastes so it’s great to see that reflected in design selections as we constantly try to refresh and broaden how we show our mostly antique imagery. Nowadays we have a wide range of specialists who each have their own take on how they’d like their collated material to appear. Working on these diverse collections – whether Poetry, Climate Change, Jazz, Occult – gives us a constantly varied range of visual matter and the opportunity to share their worlds and passions! Theodora flawlessly supervises our catalogue production – which has risen to a startling 18 scheduled this year in some form or other. It’s a pleasant experience in our small attic room at Fulham Road, and with many staff that have been here as long as I have, there are far less sleepless nights these days.

 

Who do you work with and how does the team work now?

It’s quite amazing that there are three of us designing now, and we’ve all been to Chelsea College! I share the print design workload with Abbie, who was a student of mine, and Sophie too, who works at Dover Street doing mostly on-line design with the marketing team. We all have different tastes so it’s great to see that reflected in design selections as we constantly try to refresh and broaden how we show our mostly antique imagery. Nowadays we have a wide range of specialists who each have their own take on how they’d like their collated material to appear. Working on these diverse collections – whether Poetry, Climate Change, Jazz, Occult – gives us a constantly varied range of visual matter and the opportunity to share their worlds and passions! Theodora flawlessly supervises our catalogue production – which has risen to a startling 18 scheduled this year in some form or other. It’s a pleasant experience in our small attic room at Fulham Road, and with many staff that have been here as long as I have, there are far less sleepless nights these days.

What are you passionate about?

I love letterpress and print, and recently completed ‘the Letterpress Manifesto’ – my love letter to print. And now that I have finished teaching, I’ve been delighted to continue to run some letterpress classes, taking Peter Harrington bookshop staff to the New North Press in Hoxton, where I formally took my students. After all, seeing as that’s how most of the books on our shelves were printed, everyone needs to know how it feels to hold type in their hands!

 

What are you passionate about?

I love letterpress and print, and recently completed ‘the Letterpress Manifesto’ – my love letter to print. And now that I have finished teaching, I’ve been delighted to continue to run some letterpress classes, taking Peter Harrington bookshop staff to the New North Press in Hoxton, where I formally took my students. After all, seeing as that’s how most of the books on our shelves were printed, everyone needs to know how it feels to hold type in their hands!

What design work do you do outside Peter Harrington?

I like to produce epic ephemera; meaningless flotsam and jetsam that I post to people. The American artist Ray Johnson with his ‘New York School of Correspondence’ started off what would later become known as mail art, which is how I can happily while away the hours if I’m not at the letterpress. Who needs to write a book when you can send a decent postcard?

 

What design work do you do outside Peter Harrington?

I like to produce epic ephemera; meaningless flotsam and jetsam that I post to people. The American artist Ray Johnson with his ‘New York School of Correspondence’ started off what would later become known as mail art, which is how I can happily while away the hours if I’m not at the letterpress. Who needs to write a book when you can send a decent postcard?

You must come across so many items that catch your eye, are there any you would have liked to keep for yourself?

I used to collect stuff – postcards… trashy paperbacks… midcentury ceramics; but nowadays I’m more inclined to pass things on. It’s a worrying balance between being a collector and a hoarder; between being an obsessive and a health hazard.

 

You must come across so many items that catch your eye, are there any you would have liked to keep for yourself?

I used to collect stuff – postcards… trashy paperbacks… midcentury ceramics; but nowadays I’m more inclined to pass things on. It’s a worrying balance between being a collector and a hoarder; between being an obsessive and a health hazard.

How do you find inspiration?

Wandering around museums and galleries is always useful – I rather like PD James’s assertion that all you need for inspiration is time and a pile of junk.

 

How do you find inspiration?

Wandering around museums and galleries is always useful – I rather like PD James’s assertion that all you need for inspiration is time and a pile of junk.

Which designers do you admire?

I am a disciple of Abram Games with his ethos of ‘Maximum Meaning, Minimum Means’ – he was primarily a poster artist though; I’m not sure he did many book covers. That 1950s postwar period is a diverse mix of austerity and binge, of black & white and colour, of tradition and rock’n’roll. I often seek enlightenment from the creativity of that era. Ley Kenyon who illustrated the cover of People of the City, had forged documents as a captured airman in Stalag Luft III prison camp for the real ‘Great Escape.’ He subsequently taught the Duke of Edinburgh how to scuba dive in the pool at Buckingham Palace. And then taught at Chelsea Art School! Now there’s a CV to aspire to! Victor Reinganum’s cover image for the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie which we used on a Spring catalogue one year is a real joy too. Yep those Illustrated book covers from the 1930s-1960s are a glorious mix of lettering and image; I’ve included quite a few in my selection which is essentially a cross-section of what happens in my brain at any given moment.

Which designers do you admire?

I am a disciple of Abram Games with his ethos of ‘Maximum Meaning, Minimum Means’ – he was primarily a poster artist though; I’m not sure he did many book covers. That 1950s postwar period is a diverse mix of austerity and binge, of black & white and colour, of tradition and rock’n’roll. I often seek enlightenment from the creativity of that era. Ley Kenyon who illustrated the cover of People of the City, had forged documents as a captured airman in Stalag Luft III prison camp for the real ‘Great Escape.’ He subsequently taught the Duke of Edinburgh how to scuba dive in the pool at Buckingham Palace. And then taught at Chelsea Art School! Now there’s a CV to aspire to! Victor Reinganum’s cover image for the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie which we used on a Spring catalogue one year is a real joy too. Yep those Illustrated book covers from the 1930s-1960s are a glorious mix of lettering and image; I’ve included quite a few in my selection which is essentially a cross-section of what happens in my brain at any given moment.

Interview by Winifred Hewitt-Wright

READ MORE INTERVIEWS BROWSE OUR CATALOGUES

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The Communist Manifesto

The year 1848 was famously a year of revolutions. In February that year, a new political party issued its manifesto. Its famous opening line claimed their nascent movement was a spectre haunting all of Europe. The pamphlet was written in high-flown German but published by an obscure printer at an unfamiliar address in the crowded, impoverished East End of London.

The Pamphlet that Changed the World

Any casual reader picking up this 23-page manifesto could be forgiven for failing to recognize the name of this new political party. The party was to take no part in the astonishing revolutions that swept Europe that spring. While the monarchy was overthrown in France and replaced by a republic, the old leaders in several major German and Italian states and in Austria succumbed to pressure to grant liberal constitutions, and the Italian and German states seemed on the verge of unification, this hitherto-unknown band of would-be revolutionaries remained quiet in London.

And yet, long after the political upheavals of 1848 had subsided, this little pamphlet was to have enormous consequences on the world’s political stage, providing the intellectual firepower behind successful revolutions in Russia, China, Africa, eastern Europe, south-east Asia, and the Caribbean, as well as countless unsuccessful attempts elsewhere. This was, of course, the booklet we now know as the Communist Manifesto.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

In the early 19th century, the word “communist” had come to be used to describe those who supposedly took their political inspiration from the left wing of the Jacobin Club of the French Revolution. One such group of Germans, headed by Karl Schapper, formed a secret society known as the League of the Just (Bund der Gerechten) and took part in a May 1839 rebellion in Paris. After the failure of that uprising, the organization moved to London. Meanwhile, in Brussels, Karl Marx and his close friend and co-thinker Friedrich Engels were part of a small political circle of radical German émigrés called the Communist Correspondence Committee. These groups and others eventually formed a fractious temporary union in the Communist League, which held a London congress in June 1847. At the group’s second congress, held from 27 November to 13 December 1847 at Great Windmill Street in Soho, just off Shaftesbury Avenue, London, Marx and Engels agreed to compose a manifesto for the new organization.

A Truly Rare Book

Writing fast and under pressure from the congress committee, Marx completed the task by the end of February 1848. But on its first publication, perhaps the best-known and certainly the most widely translated pamphlet of the 19th century went almost unnoticed. The first edition was issued in dark green printed paper wrappers, printed on poor quality paper, its text proofread only cursorily and littered with misprints and accidentals. As it was intended to be distributed widely, it had a surprisingly large print run, at least 2,000 copies, and was printed three times in quick succession. Nevertheless, it is now astonishingly rare. Most copies were thrown away or perhaps destroyed for fear of the authorities.

A Truly Rare Book

Writing fast and under pressure from the congress committee, Marx completed the task by the end of February 1848. But on its first publication, perhaps the best-known and certainly the most widely translated pamphlet of the 19th century went almost unnoticed. The first edition was issued in dark green printed paper wrappers, printed on poor quality paper, its text proofread only cursorily and littered with misprints and accidentals. As it was intended to be distributed widely, it had a surprisingly large print run, at least 2,000 copies, and was printed three times in quick succession. Nevertheless, it is now astonishingly rare. Most copies were thrown away or perhaps destroyed for fear of the authorities.

Mysterious Publication

As befits a clandestine operation, the first printing of the Communist Manifesto is clouded in mystery. As there are fewer than 30 copies extant of the first edition of this ramshackle little pamphlet, most with minor variants between them, the scholars have been busy for years debating the bibliographical details, a task complicated by the faulty or self-serving memories of those involved. Marx himself, for example, was always keen to emphasize that the Manifesto was published just before the French Revolution of 1848, which began on 22 February. It wasn’t. Although the publication date of the first edition is printed on the title page as February 1848, printing of the pamphlet did not begin until 1 March and continued for a week, with interruptions. Meanwhile, on 3 March, serialization of the original version of the text began in the Deutsche Londoner Zeitung. The publisher’s address given on the title page may be misleading; some claim it was printed in Warren Street, at that newspaper’s offices.

Mysterious Publication

As befits a clandestine operation, the first printing of the Communist Manifesto is clouded in mystery. As there are fewer than 30 copies extant of the first edition of this ramshackle little pamphlet, most with minor variants between them, the scholars have been busy for years debating the bibliographical details, a task complicated by the faulty or self-serving memories of those involved. Marx himself, for example, was always keen to emphasize that the Manifesto was published just before the French Revolution of 1848, which began on 22 February. It wasn’t. Although the publication date of the first edition is printed on the title page as February 1848, printing of the pamphlet did not begin until 1 March and continued for a week, with interruptions. Meanwhile, on 3 March, serialization of the original version of the text began in the Deutsche Londoner Zeitung. The publisher’s address given on the title page may be misleading; some claim it was printed in Warren Street, at that newspaper’s offices.

Rare in Commerce and Institutionally

In 1848, existing British copyright law stipulated that a single copy of every book published must be sent for deposit in the Library of the British Museum, at a cost to the publisher of two shillings per entry in the register kept at Stationers’ Hall and one shilling for a certificate to prove registry. Even the major publishers found this obligation irritating, and it was hardly likely that an obscure gang of German agitators would comply. But it is a further sign of the pamphlet’s rarity that the British Library, which did not receive a copy on first publication, has never since managed to acquire a copy. The same is true of many other of the great world libraries, most of which have no copy in their archives.

Rare in Commerce and Institutionally

In 1848, existing British copyright law stipulated that a single copy of every book published must be sent for deposit in the Library of the British Museum, at a cost to the publisher of two shillings per entry in the register kept at Stationers’ Hall and one shilling for a certificate to prove registry. Even the major publishers found this obligation irritating, and it was hardly likely that an obscure gang of German agitators would comply. But it is a further sign of the pamphlet’s rarity that the British Library, which did not receive a copy on first publication, has never since managed to acquire a copy. The same is true of many other of the great world libraries, most of which have no copy in their archives.

In April 1848, Marx and Engels found time to correct the text for printing and punctuation mistakes. This revised 30-page version was the basis for future editions of the Manifesto. The original 23-page version had already passed into history.

Written by Adam Douglas, Senior Specialist

BROWSE CATALOGUE 200 BROWSE ALL KARL MARX

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“There’s always Pooh”: A. A. Milne, E. H. Shepard and Winnie-the-Pooh

Whether you like your Winnie-the-Pooh in the original A. A. Milne books or in a Walt Disney cartoon, or both, there’s no escaping the most famous teddy bear in the world. With the made-for-television cartoon series, The New Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, first broadcast in 1988, Pooh became a more popular character than Mickey Mouse for Disney. At Peter Harrington, the original books are exceptionally popular, and we have the privilege of offering some significant Milne or Shepard material.

Bears at the Beginning

Pooh’s story has two bear beginnings. During the First World War, a Canadian soldier brought a female bear cub with him to England from Winnipeg. Winnie eventually lived in London Zoo from 1914 until her death in 1934. It was there that Christopher Milne, the author’s son, made an ursine acquaintance. The other bear was a teddy bear bought for Christopher on his first birthday. Real and toy bears combined in A. A. Milne’s imagination and, crucially, E. H. Shepard’s artwork. The first of Milne’s verses for children, ‘Vespers’, was published in 1923. When Shepard came to illustrate it, there’s a familiar teddy bear at the foot of Christopher Robin’s bed.

When We Were Very Young

Published on 6 November 1924, the first book, When We Were Very Young, is a collection of verses including ‘Buckingham Palace’, ‘The King’s Breakfast’, ‘Halfway Down’, and ‘Vespers’. Many of these are familiar from their musical settings: famously Ann Stephens’s rendition of ‘Buckingham Palace’, and ‘Halfway Down the Stairs’ sung by Robin the Frog (Kermit’s nephew). Shepard’s illustration for ‘Halfway Down’ has Pooh bear at the top of the stairs and the original dust jacket for the book features him on the front panel. There was a standard trade edition and a signed limited edition (100 copies) published by Methuen in the UK. In the US, the Milne books were published by Dutton.

Winnie-the-Pooh

The stories started when, in December 1925, Milne was asked to contribute a tale to the Christmas Eve issue of The Evening News. The story of Pooh climbing a tree to steal honey from some bees was also broadcast on the radio on Christmas Day. Winnie-the-Pooh had arrived, and a full book of adventures was published on 14 October 1926 by Methuen in the UK. It is an indication of the publisher’s faith in the new book that it was first published in three different versions: the standard trade edition, the signed limited edition (350 copies), and the signed extra limited edition (20 copies).

Now We Are Six

For the third book in the series, Now We Are Six, Milne returned to verse. Publication date was 13 October 1927. Winnie-the-Pooh was now firmly established, and Shepard included him in many of his illustrations. When Christopher Robin meets a charcoal-burner, for example, there are three illustrations and Pooh is present in all. There is also the five stanza poem, ‘Us Two’, which commences “Wherever I am, there’s always Pooh, | There’s always Pooh and Me”. Shepard concludes this poem with another illustration of that famous staircase complete with bear. Once again, the English publishers issued a standard trade edition, a signed limited edition (200 copies), and a signed extra limited edition (20 copies).

The House at Pooh Corner

Despite the assurance in ‘Us Two’ that “two can stick together”, it’s the second story book and fourth volume in the series, The House at Pooh Corner, in which Christopher Robin and Pooh “come to an enchanted place, and we leave them there”. It’s one of the saddest episodes in children’s literature when we confront the truth that in growing up the child will spend less time with his beloved bear. Before this conclusion, however, there are the tales which feature a new character: Tigger. It’s a surprise that one of the most popular inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood is such a late appearance. He bounces off the page, however, and becomes one of Milne’s most beloved characters. By now the publishers knew they had a hit on their hands and on 11 October 1928, in addition to the standard trade edition, a signed limited edition (back to 350 copies), and a signed extra limited edition (20 copies) were published.

Deluxe Bindings

It’s worth noting that Methuen also sold a deluxe binding of the trade issue of all the books (although the deluxe binding of When We Were Very Young only appears from the seventh impression). In contrast with a cloth binding dust jacket published at 7/6, the deluxe bindings in calf came with a thin tissue jacket in a box at 10/6.

A Winning Collaboration

It is true that Milne’s texts are inexorably linked to Shepard’s illustrations. E. H. Shepard was a well-respected artist working for Punch when he was asked to illustrate Milne’s work. His standard practice was to create a preliminary drawing in pencil. Having revised this, Shepard would then cover the reverse of the sheet with pencil shading. Placed on top of a sheet of artist’s board, he would then copy the drawing by tracing the appropriate lines of the composition. With a faint pencil outline, Shepard would then draw the finished illustration in black ink. The preliminary pencil sketches were retained by Shepard and throughout his life he would occasionally produce new drawings from them. The preliminaries are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The original ink drawings, once used by the publishers, were returned to Shepard and sold through a series of exhibitions at The Sporting Galleries in Covent Garden. It is because of these exhibitions that it is still possible to acquire Shepard’s original drawings, as published in the four Pooh books.

An Excellent Reference Collection

One of the finest private collections of Milne and Shepard material was handled by Peter Harrington in 2011. Pat McInally (b. 1953), the distinguished former American football player and children’s book collector, assembled a magnificent collection over two decades. Our catalogue is still available as a wonderful source of reference of Milne and Shepard’s work, including a limited edition signed by Pat.

Written by Dr Phil Errington, Senior Specialist

BROWSE A. A. MILNE BROWSE CHILDREN'S

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The Winston S. Churchill Collection of Steve Forbes

Written by John Ryan, bookseller and cataloguer

This remarkable collection of original material on Winston S. Churchill from the personal collection of Malcolm Stevenson Forbes Jr. (Steve Forbes) represents one of the most significant collections handled by Peter Harrington in more than 50 years as booksellers, and is considered one of the finest such collections in private hands.

Churchill is an icon. He is on the £5 note, his statue is in London’s Parliament Square, he is one of history’s most universally recognizable historical figures. He is also a mythological figure who has had fierce critics and fiercer defenders. The Winston S. Churchill Collection of Steve Forbes allows us to delve deeply into this extraordinary man. It takes us to the heart of his moment of decision. It illuminates his private life away from the spotlight. In every item, the real Churchill reaches out from the legend. 

Steve Forbes, The Leading Churchill Collector 

This collection is a testament to what a private collector can achieve through combining multi-decade perseverance with the ability to grasp every opportunity to acquire exceptional material. 

Forbes is the third-generation chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Magazine, America’s premier business publication. Like Churchill, his life has straddled the spheres of politics and publishing. He ran for US President in 1996 and 2000. For decades he has had a prominent role in America’s politics and remains a keenly sought voice on national political and economic questions. 

Forbes follows his father as a major collector in many fields – it is difficult to find an area which the Forbes family has not collected. Churchill has always been a key interest, ever since as a child, Forbes first heard of the statesman from his father, who had fought and been wounded in the Second World War. In the 1980s Forbes established himself as the leading Churchill collector. As he has written, “The man wrote so many memos, letters, articles and books that my quest easily became a lifetime passion. Things always led to more things!”. Forbes was keenly aware of the market and had his direct pick of the best material: with his phenomenal reputation much was offered straight to him, bypassing all other collectors and public sale. 

The collection has its trophies. Churchill’s desk and one of his paintings sit alongside a breathtaking collection of inscribed books. These showpieces are the gems, worthy of museums and showcases. But the real strength of the collection is not the pinnacles but the sheer comprehensiveness which underpins it – literally thousands of letters, documents, ephemera, objects, and books, representing as complete a collection as could reasonably be hoped in one lifetime. Forbes’s drive, enthusiasm, and knowledge ensures the collection is more than the sum of its parts, and every item is enhanced by its “Forbes” provenance. 

There comes a time when every collection must find its final home or be dispersed for the next generation. Forbes has said that as his family does not share his passion, it is best for the material to go to new collectors, allowing others to share in the pursuit which has enthralled him for decades.

As one of the world’s leading dealers in Churchill’s material, we at Peter Harrington are privileged to be presented with the opportunity to find a new home for this exceptional collection. Items will be sold individually to new and established collectors and to museums and archives, where they will continue to educate and inspire. 

A Collection of Breadth and Depth 

The collection covers the breadth of Churchill’s long career, and illustrates his many roles: as adventurer, soldier, politician, wartime leader, and writer. 

Churchill as Adventurer 

In his autobiography My Early Life, Churchill appealed to the young of all ages: “I cannot but return my sincere thanks to the high gods for the gift of existence … Come on now all you young men, all over the world … Twenty to twenty-five! These are the years!”. By the time he was 27 Churchill had lived more than most people ever do: he had travelled to Cuba to observe their revolution, joined the Malakand Field Force to suppress a rebellion in Northwest India, fought with Kitchener against the Mahdi in the Sudan, and went to South Africa to serve in the Boer War, whereupon he was captured and made a daring escape from a prisoner-of-war camp. 

A relic of these years of adventure is an extraordinary presentation copy of the young Churchill’s novel Savrola, inscribed “To Major General Ian Hamilton from Winston S. Churchill Ladysmith Mar. 1. 1900”. The preceding day Churchill and his mentor, the military commander Ian Hamilton, had finally relieved the city of Ladysmith, ending a 118-day siege by Boer forces: Churchill called it “one of the most happy memories of my life” (My Early Life). That night he and Hamilton uncorked champagne and dined together, and the following day this book was presented, a wonderful link between the young Churchill and the military leader he so admired.  

Churchill the Soldier 

Churchill was not just under fire as a young man. In 1916 he was in the trenches of the Western Front. To many this seemed a tremendous fall – Churchill had risen to one of the leading decision-makers of Britain’s First World War government, but the perceived failure of the Gallipoli Campaign forced his removal from power. Most men in his position would have retired to the backbenches. Instead, the 41-year-old Churchill headed to the trenches to fight with the common soldiers. In an extraordinary series of letters, written “in the field”, Churchill narrates his experience of German shelling, writing he is “under fire every day”, and detailing the action he was seeing. In the Second World War, Churchill never made military decisions lightly: he knew the reality of war.

Churchill the Politician 

Churchill recovered from Gallipoli, and for the next four decades he was one of Britain’s leading political voices, even in the 1930s when his warnings against appeasement was delivered from the political wilderness. Many items in the collection illustrate Churchill’s skills as a politician. Churchill was a profoundly honourable man, but he also recognized politics as a game, and was by no means averse to scheming. A wonderfully resonant item perfectly encapsulates this: in 1922, perhaps as a joke, perhaps very seriously, he inscribed a copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince to the newspaper tycoon Lord Beaverbrook.

The Prince, of course, is the definitive manual of political machination, outlining how to win the support of the masses, safeguard your position, and achieve your end whatever the means. Lord Beaverbrook, whom Churchill later appointed as his wartime Minister of Aircraft Production, was very much at the forefront of British politics, and a behind-the-scenes puller of strings. He was able to make or break a political career – he greatly helped to advance Churchill’s – and is certainly in many ways a Machiavellian figure. But many would argue so was Churchill, who, in the long run, seemed to achieve most of the political goals he set his mind to.

Churchill the Wartime Leader 

Churchill’s career climaxed in his leadership of the Allied powers against the Nazi threat – at one stage, standing alone against them. Countless items from the collection represent this role. One is particularly evocative. Churchill inscribed his book about the First World War “To Admiral Charles Forbes from Winston S. Churchill Scapa Flow March 9. 1940”. That day, Churchill was in the flagship of Admiral Forbes (no relation to Steve Forbes), marking the occasion of Scapa Flow being brought back into use as the nation’s core naval base. Churchill recounted in his memoirs that a false air raid siren led them all to believe they were being attacked, but all reacted with resolution and clear-headedness. 

Such a book transports the holder back, to a specific ship, in a specific place, on a specific day. The past becomes far more real with such objects than in the pages of a history book.

Churchill the Writer 

In a speech in the House of Commons in 1948, Churchill stated “I consider that it will be found much better by all parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history myself”. This is the source of the oft repeated misquote “History will be kind to me, and I intend to write it”. Certainly, that aptly summarizes Churchill’s two magisterial books on the First World War and then on the Second: part history, part memoir, part a scholarly treatment of events, part a vindication of his conduct.  

Perhaps the star item of the collection is Churchill’s own heavily annotated proof copies of his memoir The Second World War, which he gave to his key literary collaborator Bill Deakin to assist in the final pre-publication revision of the text. This is accompanied by a mass of documents and correspondence illustrating Churchill’s writing of the history. Churchill was always a man who made his primary living as a writer, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953. The proofs and associated documentation illustrate Churchill as a wordsmith, crafting books of phenomenal literary power, and constituting what is almost certainly the most important account of the war.  

Churchill the Man 

If a single object could be chosen to show Churchill as a man beyond the wartime titan, it would be one of his original paintings. In the winter of 1935/36, Churchill travelled to Morocco, and for many happy days indulged in one of his life’s great pleasures: simple amateur painting. His watercolours may not reach the heights of the highest level of art, but nonetheless show technical proficiency, strong awareness of light and shade, and certainly strong enthusiasm, all on clear display in this painting of a gorge in the eastern Atlas Mountains. 

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Treasures That Found a New Home This Year


As custodians of unique and rare treasures, nothing makes us more proud than finding them the right home. We look fondly at many examples, but these memorable sales in 2023 made us especially proud. 

SHAKESPEARE, William. First Folio, 1623.

The year was the occasion for worldwide celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the first publication of the Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies of William Shakespeare, commonly known as the First Folio. As the book was published in an edition of probably 750 copies in November 1623 and more than 230 copies survive, some cynics argue it is not truly rare. But most of these copies are now off the collectors’ market, carefully guarded in institutional holdings, and those few that come to market are typically sold at auction. And few could deny that the First Folio is one of the most iconic books in English or indeed world literature. 

So, it was a rare treat for us as booksellers to be able to offer for sale a copy of the First Folio, which we publicized in a slim catalogue issued in time for Shakespeare’s birthday, together with all three of the succeeding 17th-century Shakespeare folios and the 1640 Poems.  

The copy of the First Folio we offered was a splendid copy bound in English panelled calf, from the library of Lord Hesketh at Easton Neston. Like virtually all surviving copies, it has imperfections: in this case, four of the eight preliminary leaves are skilfully supplied in facsimile. In all other respects, it is a remarkably fine copy. Having the book in our possession gave us a first-hand education in the finer points of the make-up and production of this ever-fascinating volume.

FLEMING, Ian. Collection of original James Bond screenplays, film scripts, and storyboards, 1623.

Another item we sold this year centred on the transition from page to screen of the 16 James Bond books written by Ian Fleming. The collection of 119 items we sold in 2023 was a comprehensive assembly of film scripts, screenplays, manuscripts, storyboards, costume designs, publicity material, and production notes, tracing the story of Bond on film from Dr No in 1962 through to Spectre in 2014. 

Besides the unparalleled series of items relating to the canonical EON Productions film series, the collection includes significant material from other film studios, including the spoof Casino Royale, Never Say Never Again, and Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang

Some highlights include Wolf Mankowitz and Richard Maibaum’s earliest draft screenplay for the first Bond film, Dr. No (1962); extensive material and correspondence concerning the controversial creation of the film Thunderball (1965); an unused film treatment written by Fleming himself entitled James Bond of the Secret Service; and much more. 

FITZGERALD, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby, 1925.

Sometimes a modern book is just a book, but when it’s F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby in the original dust jacket, it’s quite a book. The copy we sold this year had been through our hands before, and it’s a humdinger, from the collection of the late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, a friend of the firm and a true gentleman, much missed by us all. The spectacular Gatsby jacket dates from 1925, the hinge point when dust jackets got interesting, moving away from plain paper or simple one-colour tints to truly creative full-colour graphic creations. The dust jacket is the only known work in this format of the Cuban American artist Francis Cugat. In a famous incident, Fitzgerald caught sight of Cugat’s design in its early stages and wrote some elements of it into his story, a surely unique example of the dust jacket design influencing the composition of a novel. 

EPPS, William. Cricket, 1799.

Among his many other interests, Charlie Watts was fond of cricket, and he would have appreciated another of our sales this year. William Epps was a keen cricketer in Kent at the end of the 1700s. Like many cricket enthusiasts, Epps relished statistics. Cricket scores from 1790 onwards were recorded in annals compiled by Samuel Britcher, the MCC’s first official scorer. Epps travelled around England collecting earlier scorecards to compile a work to fill the gaps Britcher had left behind, which was published in 1799 with the self-explanatory title, Cricket; A Collection of All the Grand Matches of Cricket played in England within Twenty Years, viz. from 1771 to 1791, never before published. Without Epps’s efforts, these matches would surely have remained forgotten forever. 

Self-printed in his hometown of Troy Town, Rochester, Epp’s book is a legendary rarity among cricket collectors, and this copy was from the library of the famed cricket commentator, John Arlott. When we advertised the book for sale, we noted the British Library did not have a copy. One of our clients decided this was an omission he wished to remedy, and so he donated the money to buy the book from us on behalf of the British Library. 

NEWTON, Isaac. Opticks, 1717.

At least in our experience, such an unexpectedly generous donation is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and the collector who unearthed Isaac Newton’s own copy of the second edition of his Opticks, which we also sold this year, felt much the same. 

The story of Isaac Newton’s library is complicated because he died without leaving a will. His possessions were sold, including his books, which were purchased en bloc for £300 by the warden of the Fleet Prison as a gift for his son, an Oxfordshire rector. The books stayed in the rectory and became the possession of Dr James Musgrave, before being removed to Barnsley Park, Gloucestershire, the home of his son, Sir James Musgrave, Bart, where the books were re-catalogued and some re-classified with Barnsley shelf marks. They remained in the Musgrave family for generations, before a large portion was sold off in 1920. So, the key to finding a book from Newton’s library is to find one with James Musgrave’s bookplate covering that of the Fleet Prison warden’s son. 

We cannot claim the credit for uncovering Newton’s copy of his Opticks in its second edition, but we relished selling it this year. We noticed it had the earlier state title page, dated 1717 (not 1718, as most copies have), and the first leaf of the first preface is a cancel, to correct a note about the source of part of the contents. This leaf alone was not edged in gilt, and we speculated Newton had the corrected leaf sent to him after the book had been bound. The binding was contemporary dark blue morocco gilt, smart enough to be intended for a presentation that was never made, or perhaps simply for Newton to keep himself.

Books from Newton’s library turn up from time to time, though Newton rarely annotated them, simply turning down page-corners to mark interesting passages. But a book of his own composition from his own library is a rare bird indeed.

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Dickens and the Christmas Tradition

On 19 December 1843, a small book appeared in shops that altered the public perception of Christmas forever. Written in a burst of ferocious energy a few weeks earlier, A Christmas Carol was a handsomely bound little volume with four hand-coloured illustrations by John Leech.

Charles Dickens plunged his pretty gift book into the intensely competitive Christmas market, jostling on the bookshop shelves with such attractive annuals as The Keepsake, alluringly bound in scarlet dress silk, protected from customers’ dusty fingers by an elaborately printed card sleeve.

To make his own book distinctive, Dickens chose a deep pink vertical-ribbed cloth, with an elaborate gilt wreath on the front cover. He originally asked for the half-title and title page to be printed in Christmas colours of red and green, and the endpapers coloured green to match, but the green ink looked bilious, and the colour rubbed off the endpapers, so he compromised on red and blue printing and yellow endpapers. Reasonably priced at five shillings, the book was too expensive to produce and earned Dickens only moderate profits. Furious arguments with his publishers, Chapman and Hall, over these awkward facts led to a rupture in his relationship with them.

The Original Christmas Best-Seller

From the first, A Christmas Carol proved a sensational success. The story of miserly Scrooge’s conversion to benevolence by supernatural means and the saving of the poor, physically disabled child, Tiny Tim, was hailed almost universally. When Dickens ventured out from private entertainments onto the public stage, it was A Christmas Carol he read from. His first public reading took place in December 1853 in Birmingham, at the new Industrial and Literary Institute, where Dickens insisted “working people” be admitted free, to sit among the “middling classes” and hear him read the Christmas story intended to open readers’ hearts towards those struggling to survive on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder. From then to the end of his life, extracts from A Christmas Carol stayed in his performing repertoire.

Novel Traditions

Most people agree Dickens’ book played a huge part in the invention of modern Christmas celebrations, and it is noticeable that A Christmas Carol describes many of the familiar features of our modern Christmas. The Ghost of Christmas Present looks very like Santa Claus in Leech’s illustration, though his fur-trimmed coat is green rather than the canonical red established by American artists from Thomas Nast onwards (and not, contrary to urban myth, by the Coca Cola Company). The Cratchits make their affordable Christmas dinner of roast goose with apple sauce, mashed potatoes, and gravy, followed by Christmas pudding flamed with brandy, and chestnuts roasted by an open fire. In his redeemed state, Scrooge buys them a turkey so large it needs a cab to deliver it. But there is no Christmas tree of the sort that Prince Albert would soon make popular, and only passing references to Christmas gifts and toys.

Dickens could not keep up the hectic schedule of an annual Christmas story. He managed five more books over the next six years, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, only taking one year off in 1847 to concentrate on Dombey and Son. For most Dickens enthusiasts, a complete set of his Christmas books is a highly desirable centrepiece to any collection of his first editions. But a set in fine original condition, as published, never appears perfectly uniform, because the other four books were bound in a more conventional deep red cloth, though still with gilt decorations on the front covers. Dickens persuaded his printers, Bradbury and Evans, to become his new publishers, and kept costs down by eschewing hand-coloured illustrations, while the price remained at five shillings.

Ghostly Storytelling during Wintry Nights

The subtitle of A Christmas Carol is “A Ghost Story of Christmas”, and Dickens never lost his enthusiasm for a tale of spirits and spooks suitable for telling round the fireside on dark winter nights. He kept the tradition alive in the Christmas numbers of his literary magazines, Household Words and All the Year Round, which ran from 1850 onwards, writing a few himself, of which the best known is probably “No. 1 Branch Line, The Signalman”, and farming out the composition of others to members of his literary circle.

Dickens did not invent every facet of the modern Christmas, but he cemented several elements of it in the public imagination. With concerns about social inequality returning to dominate public debate, just as they did in Victorian England, A Christmas Carol still has a powerful charge today.

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Charles Dickens and the Christmas Tradition

No writer has contributed more to the modern celebration of Christmas than Charles Dickens. The telling of the story of A Christmas Carol has been an annual tradition ever since December 1853 when Dickens began to give public readings around Christmas time, performing it 128 times until 1870, the year of his death.  It has been read and retold every year since its publication, and has also been adapted for stage, film, and television; it is as much a part of the holiday season as Father Christmas and the Nativity.

During the Victorian era, when Dickens was writing his books, Christmas was experiencing a revival which saw the holiday become a family-centred festival with an emphasis on family gatherings and a sense of goodwill, especially to the less fortunate. It also saw the resurgence of older traditions such as carol singing and feasting. In publishing A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens sought to deepen these values and established a holiday based on generosity and charity. In this sense he populated his Christmas stories with many of the popular Christmas traditions of his day while establishing a few of his own along the way. Most noticeably the use of the phrase, Merry Christmas, was popularized through its prominent use in A Christmas Carol.

Gift Giving, Gatherings, and Jolly Green Men

Gift giving is an important theme within A Christmas Carol. A significant detail of Ebenezer Scrooge’s miserly character can be seen in his initial refusal to participate in gifting of any kind. Toward the end of the story a key indicator of Scrooge’s change of heart is represented by his sudden burst of generosity shown by his handing out of gifts to many of those he had previously dismissed or wronged.

Festive gatherings with friends and family hold a prominent place within the book. We see several such occassions throughout the course of the story and Dickens never fails to emphasise the importance of the sense of togetherness that lies at the heart of the holiday. In the staves that involve the visits from the spirits of Christmas Past and Present we see several scenes of Christmas dinners and parties, full of festive food and drink, where everyone expressees their gratitude for the company of their loved ones. It’s in these moments, such as the Christmas dinner at Bob Crachett’s house that we see the lines first spoken by him: “A merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!” and Tiny Tim’s famous reframe, “God bless us every one”.

This sense of good cheer and joviality finds one of its greatest representations in The Ghost of Christmas Present. John Leech’s famous illustration from the novel shows a jolly, portly man wreathed in holly and dressed in a loose furred gown, imbibing the festive food and drink that surrounds him.

Although his robe is green, this figure holds many similarities to the traditional figure of Father Christmas and many of our modern representations of Santa Claus take as much inspiration from this image as they do from Clement Clarke Moore’s The Night Before Christmas. The holly wreath that the spirit wears for a crown draws from older Christmas traditions where the crimson berries of the holly represented the blood of Christ and the evergreen a metaphor for life after death. 

Dickens’s Christmas books are also connected to many festive traditions which were very popular during the Victorian era but have since receded somewhat in modern times. Telling ghost stories around Christmas time has been a long-standing tradition well before Dickens dreamt up Ebenezer Scrooge and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. His other Christmas books, The Chimes and The Haunted Man also involve characters who learn an important lesson from spectral entities. In these dealings with ghosts Dickens was working within a rich yuletide tradition that would have familiar to his contemporaries.

While A Christmas Carol most prominently and effectively expresses the ideals that Dickens wished to extol regarding the Christmas holiday, he would go on to explore these themes further in his four other Christmas books, emphasising once again the virtues of goodwill, togetherness, and generosity. The enduring sense of these ideals and their central importance to the spirit of the modern Christmas tradition just go to show the monumental talent that Dickens exhibited in his writing.

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A Noble Visage: The Famous Droeshout Portrait of William Shakespeare

The engraving that graces the frontispiece of the first Four Folios is one of the most recognizable portraits in human history. It holds a profound relevance bordering on an almost religious quality. It is also one of the few depictions of Shakespeare that scholars have widely agreed legitimately shows what Shakespeare looked like, but the question remains, where does this image come from and what makes it such a reliable source for depicting Shakespeare’s appearance?

The Chandos Portrait: A Potential Inspiration for the Engraving

The Droeshout engraving holds many similarities with an earlier portrait of Shakespeare known as the Chandos Portrait. Painted during Shakespeare’s lifetime sometime between 1600 and 1610, the Chandos Portrait is one of the two most famous portraits that are believed to depict Shakespeare. It is named after the 3rd Duke of Chandos who was a former owner of the painting which now sits in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Although it is not possible to determine with certainty who painted the portrait, the most likely candidate is an English painter, John Taylor, a respected member of the Painter-Stainers’ Company who was described in a note written in 1719 by George Vertue as Shakespeare’s “intimate friend’. Due to the similarities between the oil painting and engraving, it has been strongly suggested that the Chandos Portrait served as a reference for the later engraving which was created after Shakespeare’s death.

The Droeshout Portrait in all Four Folios

The Droeshout Portrait is depicted on the frontispiece of all Four Folios and is printed alongside a poem To The Reader by Shakespeare’s friend Ben Jonson in which he praises the accuracy of the engraving’s likeness stating that the engraver has managed to “outdo the life” and has “hit his face” accurately, failing only in managing to depict Shakespeare’s wit for which the reader will have to read the plays collected together in the folio.

In contrast to the Chandos Portrait which depicts Shakespeare as a distinctly bohemian figure with an earring dangling from his ear, much more the image of a Elizabethan playwright and poet, the Droeshout portrait squeezes him into formal court costume, which has the effect of making Shakespeare look somewhat stiff and unnatural. That has led some people to question the authenticity of the Droeshout Portrait however Jonson knew the playwright well and vouched for the portrait’s resemblance to his good friend. 

There are distinct versions of the portrait, or what is known as “states”, printed from the same plate by Droeshout himself. There are only four examples of the first state making it exceptionally rare. It is very likely that the first state was used as a test printing by the engraver so that he could see whether any alterations needed to be made to the engraving. For most copies of the First Folio, and for all copies of the subsequent folios it was the second state which was used. This had some changes from the first state including heavier shadows and minor differences in the jawline and moustache.

As a whole, the portraits in each of the first Four Folios appear to be the same with the exception of the Fourth Folio where the portrait has been placed on the opposite side above Ben Jonson’s poem across from the frontispiece. While to some the portrait appears smaller than it looks in the other Folios, this is simply not true, as the same engraving plate was used for all four of the Folios. It is simply an optical illusion caused by the re-location of the portrait from where it was originally placed in the other Folios.

The Other Portraits of Shakespeare

There are many other portraits claiming to be depictions of Shakespeare that were created either during his life, or within living memory. Many of these are claimed to have been painted from life, The Chandos Portrait being the most legitimate. The two depictions that have been unambiguously stated to represent Shakespeare are both posthumous. One of these is the Droeshout Portrait and the other is the bust in Shakespeare’s funerary monument at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Of the other 15 or so portraits that claim to be of Shakespeare either the sitter is unidentified, or the depiction is debatable. For instance, the Soest Portrait, which was painted 20 years after Shakespeare’s death is said to have been painted from a man who looked like Shakespeare and not Shakespeare himself. The Chesterfield Portrait, another posthumous depiction of Shakespeare is generally assumed to be based on the Chandos Portrait, which indicates that the Chandos was accepted as being representative of Shakespeare within living memory of the Bard.

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Anna Middleton

The latest in our The Booksellers series sees our cataloguer Anna Middleton discusses her interest in counterculture and sci-fi rare books, working at book fairs and what’s currently on her cataloguing desk. 

How did you get started as a rare bookseller?

I started off right here, at Peter Harrington Rare Books. I was reading English at Oxford when the rare book trade first appeared on my radar, courtesy of the Bodleian’s Special Collections. A little while later, I found myself in London, and decided to see if it was the career for me. That was four years ago.

What subjects do you focus on in your work as a bookseller and cataloguer at Peter Harrington?

I almost exclusively catalogue modern literature and counterculture. My preferred materials to work with are manuscripts, letters, and association copies of books from the 20th century – the pen-in-hand moments that offer snapshots of human relationships and the work of writers outside of their finalized first editions. I enjoy contextualizing works and exploding myths of individual, isolated genius. Writers sometimes have veils of mystique drawn around them, so it’s refreshing to handle letters where they’re begging their publisher for an advance, or drafting poems with an eye to featuring in a magazine they know will gain them dinner-party clout. I value the things that make the people we venerate human again.

You have a specific interest in counterculture. How does that translate to your work as a bookseller?

It’s a broad term, but we can say that it includes anything pushed out of our normal canon of value, the histories that exist between the gaps, particularly in the rare book trade. Things like a first edition of an Origin of Species or a Harry Potter are already well-known, so don’t need much explaining. I find it satisfying to dig into a little-known text and communicate not just why it’s important, but also to suggest why it hasn’t been considered as such before. Sometimes it’s the contents of these works that have seen them shunned – books about grassroots political movements, alternative societies, sexuality, drugs, discrimination. Sometimes it’s the form they appear in – periodicals, pamphlets, posters, handbills. There are collectors and institutions who are interested in questioning why we hold certain things dear above others, and it’s a pleasure to be part of that conversation.

Can you talk a little about your work with rare science fiction books?

Similarly to counterculture works, science fiction was rejected by “serious” literary audiences for a long time, but now we’re constantly having to replenish stocks of many of my favourite authors: Ursula le Guin, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson. It’s a literary genre that seems to be going from strength to strength and is increasingly prescient – the concepts explored in books like Snow Crash and I, Robot are barely a hairsbreadth from our own reality, for better or worse.

Is there an item you’ve catalogued that you found particularly interesting?

Perhaps the pinnacle of association copies I’ve handled was a first edition of Lathe of Heaven, inscribed by Ursula K. Le Guin to Philip K. Dick with a symbol from the I Ching, connoting joy and friendship. It is possibly the premier association copy in modern science fiction: Dick was basically the dedicatee of the book, as well as being the main character. It was the perfect marriage of my love for association copies and science fiction.

If you could choose one item from Peter Harrington’s stock to keep for yourself, what would it be?

It’s too hard to choose something from items I’ve catalogued, so I’d take something that aligns with my interests, but would never end up on my desk. We have a beautiful astronomical manuscript by Henry Ferdinand Pelerin, an 18th-century science enthusiast who created a commonplace book of his learning and interests. It’s clear, elegant, wonderfully preserved, and is filled with watercolour and gouache illustrations. There are a handful depicting comets and the night sky that bring me a lot of joy.

You attend and exhibit at book fairs on behalf of the company. Could you summarize the significance of attending fairs and meeting the book-buying public in that capacity?

There’s a lot to be said for taking the shop to customers, rather than waiting for them to visit us. You can chat with overseas collectors in person, which often leads to more meaningful conversations about what books interest them. It’s also a good opportunity to take books back to their birthplace – an obscure private press work from a small Boston bindery might not be of interest to a London buyer, but when you take that item to the east coast of the US, there’s a better chance someone will connect with it and give it a good home.

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Unwrapping the Past: Festive Bestsellers That Shaped the Market

“Nothing”, writes Washington Irving, “exercises a more delightful spell over my imagination, than the lingerings of the holiday customs and rural games of former times. They recall the pictures my fancy used to draw in the May morning of life, when as yet I only knew the world through books.” This season has always been an exercise in nostalgia, for any age.

The classics we turn to every December have proved so enduring because they are populated with the ghosts of Christmas past. Our Christmas exhibition spans almost two centuries of festive publishing which have shaped our modern conception of the holiday. While the attraction of these books for readers has always been rooted in the way they speak to cherished traditions, nonetheless each has contributed something new to our celebrations. The printing and reprinting of a set of core texts, reimagining them for each generation, has established a literary mythology for Christmas. The variety on offer displays how both Britain and America have appropriated and adapted each other’s holiday ideals. Through this collection of volumes, ephemera, and original art we can appreciate the foundations of today’s essential customs: from generosity and goodwill, to Santa Claus and cards.

An Emerging Festive Book Market

 

Any discussion of the festive book market should start with the landmark publication of A Christmas Carol in 1843, which was an instant success in Britain. When Dickens toured the States in the winter of 1867-8, his publishers Ticknor and Fields leapt to capitalise on the immense popularity, releasing little volumes of his readings, and America’s own Christmas Carol in deluxe and trade editions.

The book preached a message that was radical in its rejection of modern values in favour of a return to old-fashioned morality. In his introduction to our facsimile of the first edition, G.K. Chesterton explains that Dickens “saved Christmas”; the “tradition has often been in need of defence, as Dickens here defended it”. But Dickens was not the first to put his pen to resurrecting the true spirit of the holiday. Washington Irving’s work pays tribute to an American admiration for a lost golden age embodied by an old English Christmas, where social harmony and communal cheer presided between classes.

Among our collection are the first volumes of Irving’s Christmas stories to be published separately from the larger works in which they first appeared: The Keeping of Christmas at Bracebridge Hall (1906) and his Old Christmas (1876). The former appeared, fittingly, as part of Dent’s English Idylls series, with illustrations by Charles Edmund Brock, who also illustrated our set of Dickens’s five Christmas books. Brock’s work embodies the spirit of Christmas nostalgia; a connoisseur of Regency and early Victorian design, his ‘period-piece’ watercolours perfectly evoke a lost era.

The Timeless Influence of The Night Before Christmas

 

If A Christmas Carol is the festive novel par excellence, then The Night Before Christmas is its poetic peer. First published anonymously as “A Visit from St. Nicholas” in the Troy Sentinel in 1823, the poem’s author was first identified when the American scholar Clement Clarke Moore included it in his anthology of poetry in 1844. Its status in the national canon is clear from its inclusion in an American treasury of Christmas Poems and Pictures from 1864.

This anthology features many of the same traditional English verse and carols as our Christmas with the Poets, published in London in 1851, but, crucially, adds Moore’s new classic. Although Moore named his character after the familiar Dutch saint so long associated with the season, his description of the figure was quietly revolutionary: “this Santa had no precedent in history” (Restad, Christmas in America, p. 47). The latter half of the 19th century saw a flurry of illustrated reprints, snowballing into a publishing phenomenon in the States (it arrived in the UK around 1890; one of the earliest foreign editions of the poem is among those on offer this year). The great US cartoonists and illustrators of the day tried their hands at the poem, such as F. O. C. Darley, from whom “American book illustration can be said to have begun” (ANB).

Our 1862 edition of his Visit from St Nicholas is believed to be the first book to print the last line as “Merry Christmas to all”, replacing the original “Happy”. In 1862, Thomas Nast, the “Father of the American cartoon”, first sketched Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly, inspired by Moore’s “chubby and plump… right jolly old elf”. He continued to draw him for decades, culminating in an anthology of his Christmas drawings published in 1890. Over the years, Nast’s various depictions popularized the image of Santa Claus as we now know him. A particularly early incarnation of his Santa is found in the curious palm-sized Visit from St Nicholas, which unfolds like a concertina, produced in 1864 by Louis Prang. Prang later brought Christmas cards to the American market and this little souvenir anticipates his first cards by over a decade. It depicts Santa wearing a brown fur suit; only later did Nast begin to dress him in the red with which he is now associated. Through the sheer number and range of illustrations from the 19th century we are showing this year, one can watch Santa’s development from a diminutive figure fitting Moore’s elfin description, who is dwarfed by his naughty-and-nice book (believed to be a Nast invention), to an adult-sized one.

One of Nast’s major publishers was McLoughlin Brothers. Founded in 1858, they specialized solely in children’s entertainment, from books to games and toys, which was unusual at the time. John McLoughlin Jr. was a keen innovator in the realm of colour illustration, who experimented with various techniques until McLoughlin Brothers started producing lavish chromolithographs, for which they became renowned; by 1870 they had the largest colour printing factory in the country.

Until John McLoughlin Jr.’s death in 1905, the firm remained the market-leaders despite much new competition in the juvenile sector. Capitalizing on the power of familiar favourite stories, they cannily repackaged content for decades with vibrant lithographs and in various formats: on linen, paper, and thick card. The Night Before Christmas was a natural classic for them to reissue each year, as was a spinoff called Santa Claus and His Works. In December 1865 Nast provided his first major depiction of Santa for Harper’s Weekly, a multi-scene work titled “Santa Claus and His Works”, revealing what Santa did in the off-season. It further elaborated the mythology behind the figure who had emerged from Moore’s poem, such as locating his home on the North Pole. Seeing the commercial potential, in 1869 McLoughlin Brothers contracted Nast to illustrate a book alongside a poem of the same name provided by George P. Webster.

Among the many McLoughlin books we have collected this season, particular highlights are the couple of volumes of Santa Claus and His Works illustrated by Nast, as well as the first and second editions of A Visit from St. Nicholas for which he was commissioned by the McLoughlin. While the majority of their books are illustrated anonymously by in-house artists, the publishers were quick to name those illustrators, such as Nast, who were known to the public. But it was the McLoughlin brand itself which became most familiar with their young consumers, and which became so closely associated with the image of the favoured national saint, Santa Claus.

Festive Illustrations

 

To conclude our whirl-wind tour, one must appreciate the continued reinterpretation of these foundational texts throughout the 20th century, through seminal new illustrations, like those of Arthur Rackham, and eccentric retellings, such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Dr Seuss dressed his antihero in the iconic red Santa suit, gave him the temperament of Scrooge, and told a timeless story of redemption, once again in resounding rhyming couplets. It had all the trimmings one expected of a seasonal classic, but added an important reminder: that the materialism that had sprung up around the holiday was not, really, at its heart. “Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”

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“Not of an age, but for all time”: The Legacy of Shakespeare’s First Folio

This month marks the 400th anniversary of one of the most important books ever published: Shakespeare’s First Folio. It has been credited with shaping and solidifying Shakespeare’s influence on the English language – the literal and literary heft of the First Folio granting Shakespeare’s works a prominent and permanent place in the English literary canon. However, at the time of the Folio’s publication, many of Shakespeare’s plays had started to fall out of fashion and were staged less frequently. The First Folio was the first book solely dedicated to printed plays ever to be published in the prestigious folio format – an imposing size usually reserved for religious texts such as Bibles and collections of sermons. This folio format lent a gravitas and importance to Shakespeare’s plays, marking them out as something far beyond mere entertainments, and in the process established the world’s most important literary canon.

‘The Play’s The Thing’

In Shakespeare’s day, plays were written to be performed, and rarely printed – and as a result many were lost. The real importance of the First Folio rests on the fact that it contains 36 plays by William Shakespeare, half of which had never been published before. Of Shakespeare’s plays, only five are missing – Pericles, Prince of Tyre, The Two Noble Kinsmen, Edward III, and the two lost plays, Cardenio and Love’s Labour’s Won. Without the First Folio, 18 of Shakespeare’s plays would have been lost forever, including some of his most loved and well-known works such as As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and The Tempest.

The plays themselves were typeset from varying sources; many, including The Merry Wives of Windsor and Measure for Measure, were set into type from manuscripts prepared by Ralph Crane who was a professional scrivener employed by the King’s Men (the acting company in which Shakespeare belonged). Many others were taken from what are known as Shakespeare’s foul papers – working drafts of a play.  When these working drafts were completed, the author or a scribe would then prepare a transcript or fair copy of the play. These copies were heavily annotated with detailed stage directions needed for a performance, and usually served as prompt books used to help guide the performance of the play.

An estimated 750 First Folios were printed in 1623; currently 233 are known to survive worldwide. More than a third of these are housed at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., which is home to a total of 82 First Folios. On the private market they are exceedingly rare and highly sought after. One can expect a copy to fetch a price tag in the millions of pounds.

The Birth of Shakespeare’s Canon

The unpublished plays were the property of Shakespeare’s theatrical company, the King’s Men, with manuscripts in the possession of Shakespeare’s two fellow company members and friends, John Heminge and Henry Condell. They compiled the contents of the First Folio in 1623, seven years after their friend’s death, by which time most of Shakespeare’s plays had fallen out of the repertoire. Were it not for the First Folio, the scattered papers would have been worthless. With its great heft and imposing appearance, the First Folio established the Shakespearean canon for all time.

In book form, the plays found a new lease of life and sense of permanence. The First Folio was reprinted in 1632, again in 1663, and in 1685, the four Shakespeare folios spanning the century, eclipsing the rival collections of Ben Jonson and Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, the English dramatists who collaborated in their writing during the reign of James I (1603–1625). Shakespeare was the only dramatist to achieve four folio editions in the 17th century, so the publication of the four editions in relatively quick succession set the seal of distinction on Shakespeare’s reputation as England’s foremost playwright. Shakespeare’s Elizabethan and Jacobean plays, already a little old-fashioned in 1623, were among the first to be revived in the Restoration, when the theatres reopened for business after the enforced darkness of the puritanical Commonwealth. They have continued to be performed ever since.

The Printing of the First Folio

The publishers of the First Folio were the booksellers Edward Blount and father and son, William and Isaac Jaggard all members of the Stationer’s Company. William Jaggard is sometimes seen as an odd choice by Heminge and Condell to print the First Folio because he had previously published works by other authors under Shakespeare’s name, and in 1619 had printed new editions of 10 Shakespearean quartos to which he did not have clear rights, some with false dates and title pages which are referred to as the False Folio by Shakespeare scholars.

The printing of the First Folio was probably done between February 1622 and early November 1623. It was listed in the Frankfurt Book Fair catalogue to appear between April and October 1622, however modern consensus is that this was simply intended as advance publicity for the book. The first impression had a publication date of 1623, and the first recorded buyer of the First Folio was Edward Dering, an English antiquary, who made an entry in his account book on December 5, 1623, recording his purchase of two copies for a total of £2.

Some pages of the First Folio were still being proofread and corrected as the printing of the book was in progress. As a result, individual copies of the Folio vary considerably in their typographical error with around 500 such corrections having been made in this way with the typesetters changing out and resetting the type in the middle of printing. These corrections consisted only of simple typos and clear mistakes in their own work. There is much evidence here to suggest that the typesetters rarely if ever referred back to their manuscript sources.

One error in the printing process was that the play Troilus and Cressida was originally intended to follow Romeo and Juliet, but the typesetting was stopped, potentially over issues with rights to the play. It was later inserted as the first of the tragedies and does not appear in the table of contents.

Preface to the Folio and The Droeshout Portrait

Ben Jonson, one of the most important English dramatists of the Jacobean era, wrote a preface to the folio addressed “To the Reader” is sits facing the famous engraving of Shakespeare on the opposite page. The engraving opposite Johnson’s preface is known as the Droeshout portrait and it serves as the frontispiece for the title page of the First Folio. It is one of only two works definitively known to be a depiction of Shakespeare and is thought to be based on an equally famous oil painting known as the Chandos portrait. The copperplate engraving used by Martin Droeshout to create the portrait for the First Folio was subsequently reused for all three later folios. The plate began to wear out from frequent use and had to be heavily re-engraved and re-touched with each subsequent folio.

The Book Collector’s Prize

Of the surviving copies of the First Folio most are missing some of their original leaves, with only about 56 copies complete, and many of those have been “made-up” with leaves supplied from other copies. It was during the 19th century, when the First Folio became firmly established as a popular item with book collectors, that many “improvements” to copies were made, it was common for early calf bindings to be discarded and replaced with shiny red goatskin shimmering with gilt.

The most assiduous folio hunter of all time was the president of Standard Oil, Henry Clay Folger, who bought his first First Folio in 1903 and whose Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, now has the world’s largest holdings, comprising 82 copies, of which 13 are complete. The vast majority of First Folios are similarly housed in major libraries, universities, and other institutional holdings. Only 27 or so copies remain in private collectors’ hands, and only six of those are complete.

Complete copies of the First Folio emerge in commerce once in a generation. The first complete copy of the 21st century was from the library of the Chicago collector, Abel E. Berland, sold at auction by Christie’s in New York, on October 9, 2001. Known as the Canons Ashby copy and bound in early panelled calf, c.1690-1730, it had passed three times through the hands of the famous Philadelphia bookseller, Dr A. S. W. Rosenbach. Like most complete First Folios, it was not perfect and had its title-leaf and two, possibly three, other leaves supplied from another copy. It sold for $6,166,000 to Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft

Nearly 20 years later, the same auction house sold a complete First Folio that had been bequeathed to Mills College in Oakland, California, for $9,978,000. The relatively small price uplift over two decades reflects the truth that no two copies of the First Folio are strictly alike. This copy was bound in full blind-stamped russia in about 1810 and had been shown at the 1951 Festival of Britain Exhibition of Books. It had the first leaf with Ben Jonson’s verse address “To the Reader” inlaid, a few letters on the title and a portion of the portrait restored, and the last leaf re-margined. It was 15mm shorter than the copy bought by Paul Allen, having been trimmed very close at the top of the leaves, often removing the upper box-frames. These factors were enough to keep it from breaking the $10m mark. Even so, it remains the most expensive work of literature ever auctioned.

Earlier this year, in 2023, we offered a First Folio for sale at £6.25 Million which has now sold.

A Wordsmith Without Equal

Shakespeare’s primacy as the earliest and greatest writer in modern English has led to some unsupportable claims made for him. It used to be argued that he was a preternaturally inventive wordsmith, with a huge number of original coinages attributed to him. But he wouldn’t have been so popular in his lifetime if he couldn’t make himself understood to the general playgoer. What Shakespeare displayed was an extraordinary linguistic ability to redeploy parts of speech in unexpected contexts, a process of transference known as functional shift. In Troilus and Cressida, for example, he describes how “Kingdom’d Achilles in commotion rages”, where he converts “kingdom” from a noun to an adjective. It’s the earliest instance of this usage recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary and just one of many such that we can assume to be Shakespearean creations. Shakespeare may not have plucked new words out of thin air (a phrase first found in The Tempest), but he had a special gift for combining words to create resonant phrases that made their way out of the First Folio into the English language. Only one other book, the King James Bible of 1611, has had such a profound and lasting influence on the common stock of English phrases.

William Shakespeare: Bard and Muse

It can be argued that Shakespeare’s is the shadow that all subsequent writers in the English language find themselves trying to escape from under. While Shakespeare was known for adapting existing stories and myths, it is his versions which have stood the test of time laying the foundations for subsequent re-imaginings and interpretations.

Many important modern writers, including Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood, have created work either in response to or inspired by Shakespeare’s plays. The Bard’s ghost haunts the Scylla and Charybdis episode of James Joyce’s Ulysses, in which Joyce’s alter-ego Stephen Dedalus presents his “Hamlet theory” to a group of acquaintances in the National Library of Ireland.

The title of William Faulkner’s masterpiece, The Sound and the Fury, is taken from a line from MacBeth, as is Agatha Christie’s By the Pricking of my Thumbs, while David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is taken from a line in Hamlet.

Even Disney has played its hand at Shakespearean adaptation most notably with The Lion King not to mention the countless film adaptations of Shakespeare’s work by famed directors such as Derek Jarman, Julie Taymor, Peter Greenaway and Kenneth Branagh.

Reinterpretations of Shakespeare’s work are not only limited to the Anglosphere with works in many other languages having been influenced by the plays collected in the First Folio; a particularly good example of this is Aime Cesaire’s Une Tempête, a post-colonial reimagining of The Tempest.

 

Sections of this article were previously printed in an issue of Antique Collecting.

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