Thursday, March 31, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
This battered old copy of Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies was illustrated by the twin sister team of Anne and Janet Johnstone. There are actually eight colour plates in the book but, as ever, it's the black and white work with resonates with me more. I'm fairly sure there's a strange bibliographical quirk to be sorted out here. When I was Googling around this book I saw illustrations which were clearly not in my copy (The Heirloom Library, no date) and Wikipedia tells me that Anne produced illustrations for The Water Babies in the 1980s, on her own after the death of her sister, and yet this copy is clearly credited to both of them. I'm pretty sure it must have been a re-release with a few extra illustrations and that the original set were created by the both of them before Janet's death.
The sisters were best known for their illustrations of Dodie Smith's 101 Dalmatians and I think it's possible to see something of their influence even in the Disney-fied cartoon. Their style was so very 'of the period', the elfin faces and big eyes, one has to wonder if there is any connection between this 1960s/70s style of illustration (not just from the Johnstones) and Japanese manga style characters.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Oh the vintage goodnesss... these are simply as juicy as Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles... Unfortunately not a single one of the 1930s Meccano Magazines I found at the bottom of a box the other day are in good enough condition to sell but the covers are just fab.
The other day, and I wish I could remember where, I heard or read someone reflecting on the fact that the Second World War pretty much stopped all progress in design for a decade and is why it can sometimes be difficult to tell immediately, at first glance, whether something is from the 30s or the 50s. I thought that was really insightful and made me realise why it's sometimes difficult to intuit a date on much of the vintage ephemera that comes through my hands.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Of course, it's always interesting to think about the way books have appreciated, or not, over time. From the illustrations above we see, for example, item 55: A New System of Sword Exercises - the first edition of 1876 and this one containing Burton's card. This is regarded as one of the great Burton rarities and in 1976, a hundred years after its first publication you could buy it from Spink for a mere £650. There are only four auction records since the year 2000, which show ordinary copies of the first edition selling for between £1,250 and £3,000. (A Zaehnsdorf bound copy managed nearly 5K), but God help you if you want to buy a copy retail - three first editions I found currently online are between £5,000 and £10,000. So, the 1976 copy is beginning to look like something of an investment.
What about item 37, the little green pamphlet published for the author by William Clowes in 1865. The Guide Book. A Pictorial Pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina? Well, not so many auction records for this one but two copies I've found in 1995 and 2005 for about £10,000-£20,000. If you want to buy a copy from Abebooks then you should be thinking of writing a cheque for either £12,000 or £25,000 depending on which of the two copies you fancy. The Spink copy? It was, after all "A strikingly clean copy": £475.
One more? How about that seminal piece of travel writing, First Footsteps in East Africa, issued by Longman in 1856. This is item 16 in the Spink catalogue and has a little bibliographical frisson to it. When Burton was in Somali country in East Africa he noted that infibulation was prevalent and so, having made copious notes as he travelled, he wrote them up as Appendix IV (much of it in Latin). However, his publisher got cold feet about that and the appendix was suppressed. The appendix is present in this copy and Spink speculates that perhaps only those copies destined for the author ever had the suppressed appendix, perhaps six, says Spink. Today, a good copy of the first edition at auction looks to be costing you a few hundred pounds, and it's not that uncommon either. However, in 2009 a copy was sold by Sotheby's with just the first leaf of Appendix IV and that raised £5,000. With that in mind the copy currently on sale by Buddenbrook's for about £15,000 in immaculate condition, in the same beautiful binding as the Spink copy and with the rare appendix, seems quite reasonable. In their description, Buddenbrooks note the information from the Spink catalogue and it strikes me, looking at the available images that it could even be the same copy - although Buddenbrooks don't say that it is. In 1976 you would have paid £750.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
This is Quark/#1. my rather tatty copy, published in 1970 and edited by Samuel R Delany and his then wife Marilyn Hacker. I've been looking through a lot of the books in my Delany collection thinking, ruefully, that it might be time to move on and dispose of the collection. Then I find something like this tatty little paperback and my resolve falters.