I am a sucker for bibliographies and book catalogues. So when, at a book auction a couple of weeks ago, I heard the auctioneer announce several lots one after another, all consisting of some cartons of bookeller's catalogues and bibliographical tracts of one kind or another, my hand rose almost trance-like into the air repeatedly with, it must be said, very little recourse to my brain.
But how could one regret the expense when it brings such wonders as this 1930s catalogue from Maggs Bros.: "Curiouser and Curiouser!" Cried Alice. A Catalogue of Strange Books and Curious Titles. In the last few years there have been a sucession of books about books with funny titles and this, I suppose, is their big brother, or perhaps grandfather. Among a host of curiosities, some of which we may come back to at a later date, the collection being sold appears to have a significant subsection of books on whacky aviation. Or rather, aviation that might appear whacky to us now but which at the time was simply the promise of the future. A number of the plates in the catalogue reproduce illustrations of the fantastic flying machines from these titles. The last of the plate reproduced here was taken from
WALKER, Thomas. Treatise upon the Art of Flying, by mechanical means, with a full explanation of the natural principles by which birds are enabled to fly; likewise instructions and plans for making a flying car with wings, in which a man may sit, and, by working a small lever, cause himself to ascend and soar through the air with the facility of a bird. Simmons for Longman, Hull, 1810
It was described in this catalogue as "one of the rarest English books on Aviation" and priced at £31 10s. It appeared later in another Maggs catalogue in 1936 The History of Flight. Today there are two sellers on Abebooks who have copies of the first edition and for either you would have to shell out in excess of £6,000