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.

Follow IES on social media: Facebook / TwitterInstagram

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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

Continue reading

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Another oddly-shaped book

Last week, I mentioned the appeal of the oblong format.  (I once had an oblong 12mo in half-sheets, but that’s very nerdy…)  Here’s another which recently caught my eye:

We’ve catalogued it as ‘oblong slim folio’, as it measures 260 × 685 mm.  It’s a copy of the first edition of 16 tinted etchings of the frieze in the throne room of the Royal Palace in Dresden by the German artist Eduard Bendemann (1811–1889).  Two issues of the work are known, with the plates unfolded as here (hence the unusual shape of the book), and another with the etchings folded in half and mounted on stubs, resulting in what one might call an oblong quarto.

Bendemann was appointed professor at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts in 1838, and soon received a commission to paint the halls in the royal palace there. In the throne room, he created huge frescos featuring rulers and legislators from Moses to Henry the Fowler (d.936), and showing how the human soul progresses from an original state of innocence, through its earthly life, to salvation and Paradise.

This copy has a nice early English provenance, too: Edward Nicholas Hurt (1795–1867) of Lincoln’s Inn.



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Mixed formats

People sometimes ask how I go about looking for books.  Why do I pull off one book in a bookshop rather than another?  I’m not sure I have an immediate answer to this question, but one type of book I often end up looking at are those in oblong formats.  They appeal to me, physically, but also their very nature lends themselves to certain types that I like to deal in, namely illustrated books (perhaps a sketch book, or a volume of prints) and music.  Here’s one such volume which contained yet another surprise:

It’s a copy of the rare first edition of Nicolo Pasquali’s The Art of Fingering the Harpsichord. Illustrated with Examples in Notes, published in Edinburgh c.1757/8.  Later editions were published in London.  In his preface, the publisher, Robert Bremner, writes that ‘having purchased the whole musical Effects of the Author after his Decease, this Work was found amongst them, ready for the Press, and is presented to the Public without any Alteration’.  According to Charles Burney, Pasquali (c.1718–1757) came to London from Italy about 1743 ‘and from then on was extremely active in the three main British musical centres. He spent the period 1748–9 in Dublin, where he produced an oratorio, Noah, and a masque, The Temple of Peace.  By 1750 he was back in London, returning to Dublin in 1751.  From October 1752 onwards he lived in Edinburgh, where he led the orchestras at both the Canongate Theatre and the Musical Society, wrote and acted in a “whimsical Farce” entitled The Enraged Musician (based on Hogarth’s print), and composed, among other works, a Stabat mater which continued to be performed in Edinburgh after his death’ (New Grove).  Much of Pasquali’s music is now lost.

One of the fascinating aspects of Pasquali’s book is the way Bremner has decided to present it.  The fifteen pages of engraved music are interpolated throughout the letterpress text, which is largely printed on folded half-sheets, so it ends up being a mix of oblong folio and octavo.  This is unusual, and a bit of a headache for the binding to put together, but it does mean the reader can easily refer to the musical examples whilst reading the book, rather like a throw-out plate in, say, a scientific book of the period.


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A blind lexicographer

I have long been interested in dictionaries, even before I completed my MA in Lexicography twenty years ago.  One book we shall be exhibiting at the London Rare Book Fair next week is this:

It’s a copy of the first edition of Trésor des origines et dictionnaire grammatical raisonné de la langue française (1819).  Although over 400 pages long, it is ‘only a specimen of a projected work’ (Oxford Companion to French Literature), an immense dictionary compiled by the blind French bookseller Charles de Pougens (1755–1833) which was never published in full.

Pougens, who was allegedly the illegitimate son of the Prince de Conti, suffered an early setback when he was blinded by smallpox during his studies in Rome.  Undeterred, he found work first as translator, then as a bookseller.  During his career he prepared the portable library for Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign, ran a printing company with some fifty staff, and created a literary journal.  Another blind polymath, Alexander Rodenbach (1786–1869), described him as ‘one of the most distinguished blind men of the century’.

Pougens’ fame now rests largely on the extraordinary lexicographical project which consumed much of his life: a vast dictionary for which he gathered over 500,000 quotations from French literature.  He and his English wife eventually retired to northern France to finish the project, but he died of apoplexy before its completion.  The 100 folio volumes of notes for his dictionary, which were much used by Littré for his great Dictionnaire de la langue française (1863–73, ‘still the finest work of its kind for the study of the changing use and meaning of words’, Oxford Companion), are held by the Institut de France.  Most of those volumes are in the hand of Théodore Jorin, Pougens’ amanuesis, to whom the present copy of the only printed part of the dictionary was given by Pougens and whose neat marginal annotations here expand on the text, offer new interpretations, and make reference to contemporary lexicographical scholarship.  Pougens’ inscription (‘mon premier ami’) hints at the close working relationship between the men, and the volume offers a wonderful insight into their hugely ambitious project.

For more details on this book, and others we shall be bring to the fair, click here.


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