Thursday, September 22, 2011

Busy Times...

It's been an unusually busy time for the last couple of weeks. Among other things, I have just published the penultimate in the Raven series of monographs about Frederick Rolfe by Robert Scoble (more of which shortly). I have also been buying a huge collection of books from the house of a gentleman bachelor who died recently aged 100. The sad and strange things that one comes across in the process of clearing books from houses will surprise no seasoned bookdealer but this one was particularly peculiar. The books were stacked horizontally from the floor to a height of about 6' all around the back bedroom: the absence of shelves is not entirely unusual in such circumstances but the fact that every book was still in the paper of plastic bag in which it had been bought was a new twist. I could run a seminar on the evolving design history of W H Smith for the last 60 years with the materials from that room. The piles of books were covered in many years of dust and dirt but, of course, inside the paper bags... new books. I have never in my life seen books from the 1950s in such pristine condition: they look as though they have been lifted carefully from the bookshop shelf just yesterday. How often does a bookdealer get to use the words 'as new' to describe a late 1950s first edition? but it is true of many of these. It's a huge collection with some literature but mainly focused on trains, trams, ballet, the stage, art and photography. I think the last trip to the house should be tomorrow.

On top of all this I was also helping my very good friends A&R move from their house in Portsmouth to a boat! on the Isle of Wight. The entire contents of a house had to be manhandled up a gang-plank some two feet wide at a 45 degree angle over a two metre drop into the icy water of the Medina river on a day when the wind-power research centre across the water seemed the most appropriately sited building in the country. Believe me, a double mattress with a person at each end acts a lot like a sail in a force 6! How someone didn't end up in the water with a sideboard on top of them I'll never know... but in the end, of course, it went well and as straightforwardly (if not entirely painlessly) as could be expected.

A few weeks ago I was selling a collection of old maritime postcards and among them was the picture above of the paddle steamer Ryde proudly going about her business on the Solent. One of the stranger moments of the moving day was the moment I realised that this piece of metal below, which was my friends' new neighbour, is all that remains of her...






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