50 years ago on 20th July 1969 the first men stepped onto the moon. The book I have chosen was published in 1954 – seven years before Yuri Gagarin, a Russian cosmonaut, became the first man to go into space and orbit the earth and fifteen years before the first moon landing. It is written by Arthur C. Clarke who was a science writer and a visionary when it came to space travel. In 1954 space science was new and still very much in the realms of fiction and fantasy. Jules Verne and H G Wells notably wrote adventure stories about travelling to the Moon and, although they were great fun, they offered no real insight into how this could be achieved.
Treasures from Tsarskoye Seloby Emmanuel Ducamp with photographs by Marc Walter
Tsarskoye Selo is just outside St Petersburg and is more than 300 years old.
It was originally a modest summer residence for Catherine I, second wife of Peter the Great.
It has since been rebuilt and then refurbished by the Empress Elizabeth and Catherine the Great who developed it as a Royal Country residence. It is now a World Heritage site.
Over the years it had been plundered and left derelict and during WW2 many of the buildings were destroyed. When the war was over a redevelopment and reconstruction plan was put into place. Sadly some of the interiors were destroyed and are now only known through paintings and photographs.
The title of this book may seem off putting, but when this sumptuous leather bound book with gilt titles and vignette is opened, a stunning work is revealed. This edition was published in 1989 and was limited to just 1250 copies. The copy we have in stock at the time of writing is number 1112 and is signed by the publisher John F. Richardson of The Directors' Collection Ltd.
There are 60 specially commissioned, full page colour reproductions of artwork from eighteen leading South African artists with descriptive narrative and photographs facing each one. Each page depicts the life and death dramas played out as a necessary part of survival for all manner of creatures in Africa, from mammals to birds. Each artwork is also signed by the artist.
The naturalist in question and the author of this book is H.N (Henry Nottidge) Moseley, a British scientist who took part in the voyage of HMS Challenger around the world in the years 1872-1876. His observations are the subject of this fascinating and informative book, published in 1879, and dedicated to Charles Darwin “who has personally given me much kindly encouragement in the prosecution of my studies.”
The Royal Society of London obtained the use of Challenger from the Royal Navy and in 1872 modified the ship for scientific tasks, equipping her with separate laboratories for natural history and chemistry. The object of the journey was to investigate scientifically the physical conditions and natural history of the deep sea all over the world.
First published in 1972, the novel was Richard Adams' first and I was surprised to learn that it was rejected by a number of publishers before Collins accepted it. The book then went on to win the annual Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Prize and other book awards. The story was originally told to the author's daughters on a long car journey. It was only by their persistence that Adams put pen to paper.
Set in Southern England, Watership Down is a story of survival and adventure featuring a small group of rabbits who escape the destruction of their warren and seek a new home. The title actually refers to the rabbits' destination, Watership Down, a hill in the north of Hampshire, near the area where the author grew up.
Just recently, here at Stella & Rose's Books, we have had two copies of this oversized soft-cover book come into stock. I decided to take a peek inside and discover more about this book.
This title is actually the first in which we are introduced to the character Toby Twirl. Created by author Sheila Hodgetts and brought to life by illustrator Edward Jeffrey, Toby Twirl is a young pig, but he walks upright, has human hands and feet and wears blue dungarees. It is said that Jeffrey based the illustrations on a soft toy made by his wife.
Sir Walter Besant's (1836-1901) work on London is truly impressive in its scope, and is fascinating to anyone with an interest in this great city.
Besant was a prolific writer, producing a number of novels during his literary collaboration with James Rice, and then a greater number on his own after the latter's death. He also helped to found the Society of Authors in 1884, and had a keen interest in improving the living conditions of London's poor. He was Treasurer of the Atlantic Union which sought to improve relations between Britons and Americans, and he received his Knighthood in 1895.
This month we are doing something slightly different: instead of one featured book, we are each writing a short piece about our favourite illustrators...
My favourite illustrator is Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879-1964). I just love her chubby children and pixies. She is probably most famous for the Boo-Boo series of books (the Boo-Boos being cute little Pixies) but she also illustrated classic stories such as Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. As a teenager I collected her postcards and still have an album full somewhere.... maybe they will be worth a fortune one day!
There are so many of them! I have decided to feature Anthony Browne, a modern illustrator of children's books. He has 50 titles to his name and has won the Kate Greenaway medal for his book Gorilla in 1983 and also Zoo in 1992. Most of his works are picture books (containing minimal text) with bold and colourful illustrations. However, one of my favourite works of his is Alice's Adventures in Wonderland... just because!
I have always enjoyed reading historical novels and have learnt a lot of history through them and think this was probably the first such book that I read. It is set in the 1930's and features a family affected by the rise of the Nazis and what happens when they have to leave their homeland.
Written by Judith Kerr, it is described as a semi-autobiographical novel about a young Jewish girl and her family who flee from the Nazis, leaving Germany in 1933. Judith Kerr wrote the story in response to a remark from her young son after seeing the film, The Sound of Music. He said that now we know what life was like when Mummy was a young girl. Judith wanted him to know what is was really like having to flee from home and friends to become a refugee. Alfred Kerr, Judith's father, was a noted journalist, drama critic and screenwriter who openly criticised the Nazis. The family were Jewish.
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Who of us is not familiar with the adventures of Ratty and Mole and their timeless adventures which have enchanted children and parents alike for more than a century?
The story starts when Mole decides to visit the river bank one sunny morning instead of doing his spring cleaning (who can blame him?). Here he bumps into Ratty and thus starts their marvellous adventures... along the way, we also meet Badger and Toad - the four of them friends and neighbours in the English countryside.
Published by the Daily Express the year after World War 2 ended, paper was still in short supply so War Economy Standard was still in use and the annual was produced with soft covers.
If you are a Rupert fan you may be aware that most of the Rupert annuals from the very first one (1936) to the 1970 edition have been reproduced in facsimile editions. However, a few of them haven't due to politcally incorrect content and this is one of them. In fact, it is the first of those not to be reproduced. It has now become very scarce as Rupert collectors want to collect the full set and without a facsimile of this edition they have to buy the 'real thing'.
Many people are familiar with Maurice Sendak as a children's author and illustrator. This book is written by his father Philip Sendak with illustrations by Maurice. Nearly every story by Maurice Sendak seems to be influenced by his own childhood and the sadness and fragility he felt as a child. He often writes about a child in danger and there is often a “dark” quality to the stories. The Sendak home was not a happy one. Philip was traumatised by events in his life and by discovering that his extended family left behind in Poland had all died in the Holocaust. Sarah suffered from depression. Their misery and “craziness” filtered down to Sendak and he believed that this led him to become an artist and influenced the type of artist he was.
This book is full of vibrant illustrations and tells the story of the first paperbacks, their authors and illustrators.
We are told that 'early novels were mainly printed in hardback and although beautifully printed they were an expensive luxury at 3/6d.'
At the same time as publishers were looking to see how they could improve sales, we see the advent of Free Schools and libraries and a more literate working class, who like everybody else liked to read as a form of escapism.
This signed limited edition copy, illustrated by Edward Roper F.R.G.S. and published in 1894, called to me on two levels as I wandered the aisles of our Special Book Room. The first way it caught my eye was simply that my daughter works in The Peak District and as soon as I opened it I was captivated by the language used.
In the preface the author writes:
My turn to write this article for our newsletter was fast approaching and the usual mild panic was setting in as I tried to decide which book to choose. Then we acquired a collection of folk and fairy tales and this book was amongst them.
First published by William Smith in1846, this title contains 60 hand-coloured lithographed plates. In the introduction to this work, the author/illustrator herself tells us about the book, she states:
'The present work has been undertaken in consequence of its being suggested to me that a selection of British Wild Flowers, in one volume, on the same plan as my Ladies' Flower Garden, would be useful to those who neither have time nor opportunity to consult the larger works on the subject.'
Perusing our rare books shelves, I came across an obscure spiral-bound title: The Enid Blyton Handkerchief Book. This piqued my curiousity as it is a title I have never come across elsewhere during my many years of working as a bookseller.
Do you remember the small cotton handkerchiefs we had as a child pre-1980s? This is a book full of such handkerchiefs! Oh and before you say 'bleurgh', they are clean! The handkerchiefs are stuck to each page with an overlaying clear film sheet on which text is printed. The text provides a description or short story about each character.
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If, like me, you are fascinated by the wizardry of magicians, conjurors and illusionists then this little book will be of interest to you. It is actually a collection, bound together, comprising three copies of The Wizard’s Annual dating from 1913 through to 1916 and two additional small volumes – Moments Of Mystery and Miscellaneous Magic written by Percy Naldrett.
While the latter consist of the explanation of numerous magic tricks, the annuals are also packed with articles, snippets of information, tips for ventriloquists and anecdotes from the experiences of seasoned magicians, the editor having aimed to produce “a readable book, not a dry one”. These do make for fascinating reading and give an insight into the world of magic as it was over 100 years ago.
Many years ago, back in my early teens, I recollect that I would scour the shelves of my local library to find any work of fiction that would have the word 'Island' in its title. I doubt that I managed to find them all, even though I was not including children's literature which is rich indeed in 'island' books. The appeal of these isolated scraps of land is inescapable. Thousands of us make islands our holiday destination of choice and, come the day we earn our first billion, it seems likely that an island of our own will feature high on our shopping list. I guess an island represents an escape from the real world; maybe a place where time really can stand still.
I wonder how many children received an Annual this Christmas? I suspect that many of us looked forward to receiving an annual in our Christmas stockings judging by the conversations I have with our customers. Given the large range of annuals we have in stock there has always been plenty of choice. From Beano, Dandy, Rupert, Bunty and Blue Peter to perhaps more obscure titles such as Aunt Judy's Christmas Volume, Bubbles Annual, The Child's Companion and Little Folks.