Meyrick’s Arms and Armour

If you’re on the mailing list, you may have already seen our latest list of recent acquisitions,which includes everything from Anderson’s Cook in the original wrappers (c.1785), to one of the earliest books to be printed in Russian Braille (1886). One of our favourites is a (very) large quarto with over 150 full-page lithographs of arms and armour from the collection of Samuel Rush Meyrick, published in 1836.

How very Monty Python of the artist.

The present edition, published in Berlin, is the first and only edition in German, and is scarce in such nice condition. The original, Joseph Skelton’s Engraved Illustrations of antient Arms and Armour, was published in two volumes in London in 1830.

Both feature lithographs of arms and armour from the collection of Samuel Rush Meyrick. Meyrick (1783–1848) was an antiquary and historian who began to acquire his famous collection in the 1820s. His obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine describes the collection as ‘filling not only “the garrets, the staircase and the back drawing room” but as even encroaching “upon the bedrooms”’–i.e, he must have been the medieval armour equivalent of a bibliomaniac.

Happily, however, he was less of a hoarder and more of a scholar-librarian, keeping the collection open to students and scholars. In 1825 it was visited by the artists Eugène Delacroix and Richard Bonnington, who both drew items from the collection and made use of them in later works. Meyrick also helped, among others, Sir Walter Scott in collecting arms and armour to decorate his new house at Abbotsford (Oxford DNB).

For more on this and other recent acquisitions, check out the PDF here.

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Love, Hate, Ambition, and Edinburgh

Though we’ve only just returned from New York, we find ourselves preparing yet again for a fair: this time, the 2019 Edinburgh Book Fair.

In preparation we have compiled an expansive list, ‘Spring Miscellany’, of the books that we shall be bringing this year, available for browsing here. We are particularly excited to be bringing a rare first edition in German of the first two volumes of the Scottish playwright Joanna Baillie’s Plays on the Passions (publ. 1798 and 1802, respectively; the third did not appear until 1812):

Rare first edition in German of Baillie’s Plays, published in 1806.

The plays are divided into three volumes by ‘passion’: Love (Count Basil, The Tryal), Hate (De Montfort, The Election), and Ambition (Ethwald, The Second Marriage). The first volume, published anonymously, famously had London abuzz with curiosity as to the author’s identity, and it wasn’t until the third edition, published in 1800, that Baillie revealed herself as the work’s creator. The translator, Carl Friedrich Cramer (1752–1807), was a theologian, bookseller, and journalist who also translated Rousseau and Diderot into German, as well as Klopstock and Schiller into French. He was a staunch supporter of the French Revolution and lived in Paris until his death.

If you plan on attending the Edinburgh book fair, do stop by and say hello. You will find us at stand 23, happily sandwiched between the fabulous McNaughtan’s Bookshop and Gallery and Neil Pearson Rare Books. And for those of you looking for something to do that Friday evening, Simon will be giving his very first public reading of his recent translation of Friedo Lampe’s At the Edge of the Night at the Edinburgh Bookshop during their Friday night speakeasy, where G&Ts will be served. Come and join us!

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Elsa Béreny: 1930s German Dancer Living Her Best Life

As I write this the sun is streaming in the window of our Chesham office. Spring, it seems, is finally upon us, which means something even more exciting is just around the corner: the 2019 New York Antiquarian Book Fair.

This year we’re bringing some great material, including the first book on figure skating, published c.1773; some beautiful decorated papers; two fabulously designed Russian type specimens from the 1930s; and an impossibly delicate and intricate straw marquetry box from the early 1800s. My favourite among them all is a little more modest, but brings me pure joy nonetheless: Elsa Béreny’s Reise-Erinnerungen einer Tänzerin.

The camera clearly loves her.

Privately printed for her in 1933, the book recounts her experiences of being a dancer on tour in the interwar period. Her stops include Bosnia, Italy, Belgium, England, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, and Poland. Though she clearly wasn’t famous, and none of the cities she visits seem very glamorous (she visits Hull, Newcastle, Durham, Darlington, and Sunderland in the UK, for example), one can’t help but get the impression that she had one hell of a time.

The photographs are a mix of Elsa in costume (the range of her performance styles is extraordinary), and posing in front of various sights. A curious inclusion is a shot of Chief White Horse Eagle, of the Osage tribe, ‘the oldest man in the world’, standing next to William Penn’s grave in Buckinghamshire, just around the corner from our office. Postcards with photos of her in costume occasionally pop up on the internet, and I would dearly love to get a hold of one. It’s not everyday you get to see someone just going for it, and living their best life.

We will be selling Elsa’s book this year at the fair, along with a host of other fantastic materials. For more, check out our fair list PDF, or swing by stand C33 at the fair itself.

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Countdown to California

Ladies and gents, the countdown has begun!

If you follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook you might be wondering why we’ve been posting photos of wobbly toys and flamboyant Italian men. The answer is, of course, because we can, but it is also because we are in love with one of our recent acquisitions: an art nouveau-influenced card game by the incomparable Florentin Garraux.

Garraux (1859-1950) was a Swiss painter best known for his miniatures, bookplates, vignettes, and in particular his unique ‘Künstler-Postkarten’ which he drew for his friends. Here he has created a complete card game along the lines of the British game ‘Happy Families’, with 100 exquisite original illustrations.

There are 25 sets of 4 cards, each with its own unique theme. Humour meets art nouveau in a delightful, and oftentimes unexpected, way in Garraux’s work, and we are excited to include it in our offerings for the 2019 California Antiquarian Book Fair.

To see the rest of the sets and the stunning matching vellum box (also painted by Garraux), keep on eye on our social media as we continue our countdown, or email us for a copy of the fair list.

See you in sunny California!
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Stinde in Simla

There’s nothing better than finding a cheeky marginal doodle or two, and that’s what we found when we picked up an otherwise nondescript copy of Julius Stinde’s Buchholzens in Italien at a recent fair.

First published anonymously in Berlin in 1883, Stinde’s satirical travel novel arose out of an 1881 trip through Italy, and pokes fun at the archetypal German abroad.  The reading public not only took the jab in its stride, but with zeal, and Stinde’s novel went through many editions, and gave rise to a number of sequels, before the turn of the century. 

Our copy has some fab drawings by (who we presume to be) Walter G. Young of Marburg / Calcutta / Simla / Brussels, who signed the half-title. Young was evidently a traveller himself, and a polyglot: on the verso of the same leaf, he translates the same phrase into German, Italian, English, Spanish, Russian, and French: ‘Kindly remove fingers off the pencil drawings, if on them!’ We have complied.

Even the title page sports a faux Indian imprint, written in Young’s best imitation of printed type:

For more info on this travelling travel book, check out our latest list of miscellany here.

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Kronshtadt Printing

Last Friday we posted a list of 27 books currently in stock which reflect British engagement with the Continent, and vice versa, from the 18th to the early 20th century.  Though diverse in subject, all 27 reflected a keenness, on both sides, to engage with foreign material.  Translations of Baillie, Radcliffe, Pope, and Saint-Pierre were included, as well as a particularly amusing work by André-Guillaume Contant d’Orville referred to by a later scholar as possibly ‘the most egregious example of a fake traveller’s account’ ever written.

We had a particular fondness for the sixth item in the list, a bond certificate printed in Kronshtadt dated 14 July 1827.  The document testifies to British captain John Cutter’s ownership of the Success who, under Cutter’s command, plied the lucrative route between St Petersburg and Hull,  the port through which vast quantities of northern European flax and hemp were imported for Britain’s linen, canvas, and rope industries.

It makes sense that English-language printing would have been happening in Kronshtadt, where many British merchants maintained offices and a ‘sizable British community was swelled by hundreds of visiting British sailors and travellers’ (Cross, By the Banks of the Neva, p. 118).  Cross also cites James Prior’s Voyage to St. Petersburg in 1814 (1822): ‘…every second person we saw was English; the beach, quays, streets,and taverns were crowded with them … the place might be taken for an English colony.’ 

The real star of the show here, however, is probably the bond certificate’s watermark. Hold it up to the light, and you will be greeted by the glorious, nearly 3-dimensional image of an eagle:

How fabulous is that?  It’s a far cry from the simple wire outlines on laid paper of centuries past.

For more on this and a host of other interesting cross-cultural items, check out our latest list, Britain and Europe.

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English Printing in Revolutionary Paris

Given all the Brexit talk of late, we thought it might be nice to balance things out with a list of books on Britain’s relationship with Europe.  And what better book to feature than one printed in Europe by an Englishman?

In this latest list we offer a first edition of Helen Maria Williams’ English translation of Saint-Pierre’s Paul et Virginie, which, out of the two contemporary English translations, ultimately became the more popular and highly-regarded.  Its origin, however, has traditionally caused bibliographers some trouble. Though its typography and use of catchwords hint at a solidly English origin, it could equally be French, given the paper stock and binding.  Is it English, French, or a mixture of the two?

John Bidwell at the Morgan Library offers an explanation:  ‘Given the French origins of the paper, type, plates and binding, and the quality of the typesetting, this edition was printed in Paris, almost certainly at the English Press of the expatriate radical John Hurford Stone, who was living with Helen Maria Williams at this time’ (see Madeleine B. Stern, ‘The English Press in Paris and its successors’, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 74 (1980), 307–389).  The type is indeed of ultimate English origin, being cast from Baskerville’s punches by the Dépôt des caractères de Baskerville in Paris, established by Beaumarchais in 1791 and closed c.1795–6.  Beaumarchais (who considered Baskerville a genius) purchased the bulk of the Birmingham printer’s punches from his widow after his death (John Dreyfus, ‘The Baskerville punches 1750–1950’, The Library, 5th series 5 (1951), 26–48; also cited by Bidwell).

Stone (1763–1818) was an English radical and printer living in Paris who rubbed shoulders with other like-minded expats such as Helen Maria Williams, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, and Thomas Paine.  Williams quickly formed an association with Stone, who divorced his wife in 1794 and was possibly secretly married to her that year.  Paul and Virginia was translated at the height of the Terror, when Williams was imprisoned in the Couvent des Anglaises on account of the war between England and France.  Stone’s English Press remained active throughout these years in the Rue de Vaugirard, successfully printing works by authors such as Paine and Joel Barlow.

For more on this book, check out item 20 in our latest list, Britain and Europe.

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Inscribed to Amelia Opie

It’s Wednesday, and we’re having an Amelia Opie moment here at 84 The Broadway.  And why not?  She ticks all the boxes: Romantic novelist, abolitionist, pal of Sarah Siddons and Mary Wollstonecraft, married to a feminist, accomplished musician…the list goes on.

Though Oxford DNB calls her ‘the most respected woman fiction writer of the 1800s and 1810s after Maria Edgeworth’, I can’t say I’ve had much exposure to her, which is a shame, because she was clearly a force of nature.  Adeline Mowbray (1804), in a very Wollstonecraft-ian manner, tackles the elusiveness of an egalitarian marriage, slavery, reason and feeling, and women’s education.  Her other works include the comic and pathetic, the sentimental and the Gothic, most first appearing in triple-decker format but soon finding their way into the wider world as popular chapbooks and melodramas.

One of Simon’s latest acquisitions is a copy of Matthew Henry Luscombe’s Pleasures of Society (1824), inscribed to Opie.  It’s a lovely snapshot into her world.

‘To Mrs Amelia Opie, / in testimony of unfeigned respect / from the Author / M. H. L. / Paris, Oct. 19 1829.’

Opie attended events at Luscombe’s house on several occasions, as well as society weddings which he performed.  She described one in her memoirs: ‘The marriage took place at the ambassador’s chapel, and the bride and her husband were a sight to see, as they knelt before Bishop Luscombe, picturesque from his fine face and large sleeves!’ (See Cecilia Lucy Brightwell, Memorials of the Life of Amelia Opie (Norwich, 1854), p. 234–5, 386).

For more on this book, check out our latest list, English Verse, 1810–1846.




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IES takes on Women and the Book

Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending a one-day symposium, Women and the Book, hosted by IES at the University of London.  David Pearson gave the introductory plenary session on women as book owners in the seventeenth century, which was a real treat for those of us who couldn’t hear him speak at the Lyell lectures this year.  On the digital side of things, Marie-Louise Coolahan and Mark Empey gave an overview of RECIRC, an incredible quantitative project being undertaken at NUI Galway to analyse the reception and circulation of women’s writing, 1550 to 1700.  Both the scale and rigor of their work is impressive, and their blog is definitely worth a read, too.  Another highlight was a peek into the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection at Duke’s Rubenstein Library, courtesy of Rare Materials Project Cataloguer Stephanie Fell.

Out of all of the talks, however, I was particularly taken by a paper given by Gilly Wraight titled ‘Stitched up?  Devotional Messages?  Reading Women’s Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Embroidered Bookbindings’.  Wraight, a freelance speaker undertaking doctoral research at Oxford, is a long-time embroiderer and contributed to the Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles c. 450-1450 (Brill, 2012).  I appreciated her fresh take on the embroidered binding, stressing its untapped research potential and reminding us that ‘embroidery was meant to be read’.  Marshall McLuhan, eat your heart out.

Gilly Wraight shares some of her own (extremely skilled) needlework at the Women and the Book symposium.

The talk worked particularly well in conjunction with Ms. Fell’s presentation on the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection; it certainly supported Baskin’s assertion ‘that women have always been productive and working people and this history essentially has been hidden’ (Baskin Collection webpage, Duke University Libraries).

I was personally reminded of the work involved in making carpet pages for medieval manuscripts; the painstaking, delicate, elaborate, all-consuming work of monks really does mirror that of an embroiderer, in that their labour is, in and of itself, an act of devotion.  Ms. Wraight added that, in addition to being a devotional aid, embroidery also functioned as rites of passage for young girls, and was an essential part of women’s education.  It’s a point I’d vaguely known already, but gave, with the rest of the audience, an audible gasp when Ms. Wraight shared a photo of a stunning casket embroidered by Hannah Smith, aged 11-12, c. 1654.

I would love to see embroidered bindings become the subject of more serious studies like Ms. Wraight’s, rather than simply be relegated—as they all too often are—to people’s Pinterest boards.  Surely there must be a PhD candidate or two out there ready to take this on?

For those interested, there’s an embroidered bindings Facebook page that updates fairly regularly.  There’s also a particularly fascinating embroidered binding currently on view at the Bodleian’s  Weston Library; attributed to Elizabeth I, aged 12, it was given as a new year’s gift to Katherine Parr in 1545.

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‘What’s it like working for Simon?’

Greetings from Chesham—and hooray for a new blog post!  We’re hoping to get back to posting weekly after what has been a busy spring and summer.

As I write this, Simon is cooing over one of his latest finds: a lovely example of eighteenth-century block-printed endpapers. This is not an infrequent occurrence here at SB Ltd, as we are very into the-book-as-object, and very very into endpapers, but these are particularly gorgeous. Take a look:

(Are they peaches?  Are they pomegranates?  Who knows.  Maybe it’s Maybelline.)

Access to pretty endpapers is definitely a perk of the job, and I’m sure we’ll posting many more of them here on the blog as we get back to posting weekly.  In the meantime, I thought I’d share something I recently wrote for the ABA Newsletter, describing my experience in the ABA Apprenticeship scheme.  Supported by the ABA Educational Trust, it’s a fabulous way for young people to break into the trade and gain on-the-ground (in-the-book-fair?) experience.  I hope this also shows how dedicated ABA members are to supporting young women in the trade–not just in theory, but in practice.

I hope you enjoy this little peek into what it’s like being Simon’s apprentice.

Best wishes,

Annie Rowlenson

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