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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & collectable books

Anthony Browne's King Kong (from the story conceived by Edgar Wallace & Merian C. Cooper)

I sit at my desk here at Stella Books and constantly catch in my peripheral vision the two large brown eyes and even larger nostrils of King Kong as he sits quietly on our shelf in the Special Book Room. I can't quite make up my mind if the face is scary or scared, possibly the latter. Most definitely the original signed sketch of him inside the book has quite a coy, wry look. 

I'm sure the majority of you are aware of the story of King Kong, the archetypal tale of Beauty and the Beast, with the sad ending of the Beast's death - mind you it would be a little quirky for Beauty to live happily ever after with Kong! Luckily for her, the ship's captain, who of course dislikes women in general, falls madly in love with Ann and she with him - the knight in shining armor who comes to her rescue. It is also very much about the tunnel vision of Carl Denham a film director who goes to extraordinary lengths to better each succeeding film with ever more exotic locations and fantastical ideas.

Just William by Richmal Crompton

The daughter of a curate hardly seems the most likely candidate to write about a young scallywag, roaming the countryside with his band of 'Outlaws', but that is what Richmal Crompton found herself doing. Born Richmal Crompton Lamburn in Bury, Lancashire in November 1890, she took a B.A. degree at London University and then followed in her father's footsteps, becoming a Senior Classics Mistress at her old school, and then moving to Bromley High School for Girls, where she taught until 1923.

During her spare time, and during the school holidays, she started to write, and created eleven year old William Brown, whose escapades first appeared in Home Magazine in February 1919. Why it should have been such a success is really rather a mystery, as the magazine was aimed at women, offering a mix of romantic short stories and serials. Be that as it may, 'William' was a great success, boosting the circulation of Home Magazine. A further 40 stories appeared, until October 1922 when William transferred to 'Happy Magazine', where he appeared in nearly every edition until February 1934.

Josephine Goes Travelling

Let me introduce you to Josephine who is 8 years old and is an only child. She is never lonely as she has a large family of dolls - 16 in all, of all shapes and sizes. Most of them have bits missing but Josephine loves them all and together they have great adventures.

The books are written by Mrs H.C. Cradock and beautifully illustrated by Honor C. Appleton. The first title (Josephine and her Dolls) appeared in 1915 and this title, the last in the series, in 1940.

Mrs. H.C. Cradock was born Augusta Whiteford in 1863 and spent her childhood in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. She became a teacher and taught younger children in Wakefield. Here she met her husband Henry Cowper Cradock who was the Vicar of Ossett. They were married in 1893 and their daughter, Aline was born in 1905. Mrs. Cradock began her writing career in 1908 when The Care of Babies, a Reading Book for Girls was published. This was followed in 1909 byThe Training of Children from Cradle to School, and subsequent books for children. Mrs Cradock died in 1941 aged 77.

Johnny and the Bomb by Terry Pratchett

I have really enjoyed Terry Pratchett's books ever since my brother introduced them to me several years ago. They have so many wonderful layers - you may just skim the surface and read with exquisite enjoyment or you can read a little more slowly and discover the layers beneath connected to Mr. Pratchett's many areas of expertise.

One of the central characters in this children's book is Mrs. Tachyon who has a cat called Guilty "with his fur like carpet underlay, broken teeth and boomerang-shaped backbone" and a shopping trolley filled with strangely moving black plastic bags. She is seen as a "bit.... touched", but it transpires that she lives and moves between many "time trouser-legs". If you look up the meaning of her name you find that tacho is derived from the Greek for "speed, swift, fast" and that a tachyon is any hypothetical particle that travels faster than light!

The John Cobb Story by S.C.H. Davis

"The world land speed record requires the minimum of skill and the maximum of courage". Tommy Wisdom

I drive a 1990 1.4 litre Renault 5 Campus that is my pride and joy, (in addition to being something of a running joke with my colleagues), and answers to the appropriately continental name of 'Claude'. Claude and I have had many adventures together but there are a couple of trips that I long to take in him before we are both too old!

If I were to win the lottery, mine and Claude's first port of call would be the North Yungas Road in Bolivia, 'El Camino de la Muerte' (below) - more commonly known as the 'Bolivian Road of Death' - due to its extreme danger, with an estimated 200-300 travellers killed yearly along its winding paths. Built in the 1930s by Paraguayan prisoners it is one of the few roads that connects the Amazon rainforest region of northern Bolivia, or Yungas, to its capital city and is said to be one of the most spectacular routes in the world.

The Iron Wolf and Other Stories by Richard Adams

I'm sure that most people on hearing the name Richard Adams would think of his first novel, Watership Down, which was published in 1972 and won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Award in 1973. Adams wrote other novels including Shardik, The Plague Dogs and The Girl on a Swing as well as picture books for children including Tyger Voyage and The Ship's Cat. The Iron Wolf and Other Stories by Richard Adams is neither a novel nor a picture book but a collection of nineteen folk tales from all over the world. They are set in countries as far afield as China and Alaska as well as much closer to home in the Isle of Man and Wales. Some, such as The Nightingale, a tale of why the nightingale sings so beautifully, could be set anywhere. The book is illustrated with full colour plates by Yvonne Gilbert and black and white drawings by Jennifer Campbell. All are exquisite and, I think, help to bring the folk tales to life. 

The Inimitable Jeeves

Is there anyone who has not heard of Jeeves? The creation of P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves has come to mean unbeatable and unmatchable. The valet to Bertie Wooster, he appeared in some 11 novels and over 30 short stories, forever extracting his master from the soup.

This novel, the second Jeeves collection but the first to be devoted solely to Jeeves, combines 11 stories previously published in the Strand Magazine. However the first six and the last one were split in two, making a book of 18 chapters.

Set in the 1920's in an England where the 1st World War does not appear to have occurred, you meet Bertie Wooster, a wealthy, happy go lucky character, a member of the idle rich, full of good intentions, but beset by 'The Code' which forces him to never let a pal down, 'noblesse oblige', and to be a 'preux chevalier' etc. Bertie spends much of his time in the Drones Club, where he meets most of his pals. He is beset by a bevy of Aunts, some good, like Dahlia, and some terrifying, like Agatha. Luckily he has Jeeves to help him out. Without him, Bertie's life would be even more chaotic than it is: he makes an excellent hangover cure, his bets usually win and he's intelligent enough to rescue Bertie from nearly any situation. He disapproves of Bertie's more garish items of clothing, and will take it upon himself to deal with the offending item.

Hounds of the World by David Alderton, photography by Bruce Tanner

If you like dogs and especially hounds, this is a beautiful book with fabulous colour photographs of different breeds of hound found throughout the world. There is a colourful map of the world at the beginning which shows very clearly which hound originated from where.

According to the first chapter of the book: 'In the Beginning', the origins of today's hounds closely parallels the former distribution of the Grey Wolf. Looking at the map, one can see that the vast majority of hounds originated north of the equator, where the grey wolf used to be the most widely-distributed of the larger mammals. 

The fly leaf of this book sums it up nicely:'The grouping of dogs known as hounds includes some of the world's oldest breeds. In many cases their origins date back thousands of years, with the earliest evidence of their existence coming from Egypt, where portrayals of hounds with a striking similarity to certain contemporary breeds have been noted on ancient artefacts. Over the years, many new breeds of hound have been developed for a variety of purposes. They have also been evolved to work in a wide range of landscapes, with some, such as the greyhound, being bred for their pace, while many, like the beagle and bloodhound, are valued for their scenting skills and stamina.

The History of Monmouthshire by David Williams

I only have to write one featured book a year, but I see so many wonderful books though the year that it's hard to choose just one; but on the down side with many of the books it is hard to say something about them. The book I have chosen this time is of such good quality that I feel any words I write will detract from its sheer excellence - simply put - it is just stunning! However without words there would not be much of an article, just a series of photos, which would actually work well with this book, but anyway I procrastinate....

Why is the book stunning?

Here Comes Thursday by Michael Bond

There can't be many people who haven't heard of Paddington Bear, created byMichael Bond. But I wonder how many of the other characters created by Michael Bond you know of. Amongst them are Parsley the lion & Dill the dog from The Herbs, Olga da Polga - a guinea pig, a dog called Pomme Frites who accompanies his master in the Monsieur Pampelmousse series, even an armadillo called J.D. Polsen. And then there is a mouse called Thursday.

Thursday made his first appearance in Here Comes Thursday in 1966. The book is delightfully illustrated by Daphne Rowles with some very detailed black and white drawings. When we first meet Thursday he is causing a stir by floating in a strange object towards the organ loft cupboard of St. Mary's in the Valley. The resident family of mice can't identify this mystery object in the sky and are very concerned that it may be something sinister, until Grandpa Aristide points out that it is a balloon - with a label and a bag tied to its side. They manage to guide the balloon into their cupboard where the inhabitant of the bag wakes up to find himself surrounded by the Peck family.

Heath Robinson on Leather

“It is an old proverb that there is nothing quite like leather, and the opinion is equally widely held, though of more recent date, that there is nobody quite likeHeath Robinson.”

So begins the Preface to this remarkable Collected Edition of illustrated essays crafted by W. Heath Robinson in which 'the difficult and recondite subject of Leather' may be 'illumined by such moonbeams from the larger lunacy'.

W. Heath Robinson (1872-1944) had initially sought to make a living as a landscape painter. However, he was forced to turn to more lucrative forms of illustration and joined his older brothers, Charles and Tom, who were already book illustrators. By 1900 he had become one of the country's leading book illustrators, receiving acclaim for his Art Nouveau inspired line drawings to accompany an edition of The Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. He received further recognition in 1902 for the children's book The Adventures of Uncle Lubin, which he wrote as well as illustrated.

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

"My name is Gulliver, Lemuel Gulliver. I was born in Nottinghamshire and was sent to Cambridge University when I was fourteen years old. Three years later I began training as a surgeon, first in London and afterwards in Leyden in the Netherlands. I made several voyages as a ship's surgeon, but grew tired of the sea and decided to set up as a doctor in Wapping, where I moved with my wife and children. However, business did not go well and I again took a post as a ship's surgeon."

Left: Illustration by Savile Lumley

So starts (a slightly abridged version of) the most intriguing and imaginative travel book that you will ever set eyes on! What travel book do you know that describes extraordinary voyages into lands so diverse that you can be a giant in one and a midget in the next? The book Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, orTravels into Several Remote Nations of the World by Lemuel Gulliver as it was originally titled when published in 1726, is possibly the most readable of all the eighteenth-century prose classics.

The Growing Summer by Mary Noel Streatfeild

One of the delights of working in a bookshop is helping customers to find 'old friends', those books they remember from childhood. Since coming to work in Rose's Books I too have been reunited with old friends and have reread books of my childhood. One author I remember well is Noel Streatfeild so when a collection of her books came our way, it was a good excuse to become reacquainted with 'old friends'!

Noel Streatfeild was born on Christmas Eve in 1895 in Sussex where her father was curate. Her great grandmother was the prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry. She didn't particularly enjoy school and her father was asked to remove her from Hastings and St. Leonards College. During the first world war Noel worked in the kitchens at a hospital for wounded soldiers and, later, as a munitions worker at Woolwich Arsenal. After the war Noel entered the Academy of Dramatic Art and trained as an actress. Her career came to an end following a tour ofAustralia in 1929. While she was on this tour her father died and she was unable to get home in time for the funeral. Disillusioned with acting she chose to pursue a new career.

Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

Goblin Market - a familiar title but a poem that I knew only from my interest in the books illustrated by Arthur Rackham, of which Goblin Market is one. Having decided to write an article featuring this book I thought perhaps I'd better read the poem in its entirety. And what a surprise awaited me!

Goblins - the very word conjures up images of fairy tales, mythical little creatures, magical happenings. Goblin Market, published in 1862 and the longest of Christina Rossetti's poems, has enjoyed a reputation as one of the finest of children's poems and indeed Christina herself insisted that it was simply a fairy tale. However, the sensuous language used in the lengthy descriptive passages does give a somewhat different impression. But more of that later...

The French Foreign Legion by Douglas Boyd

They say you're without honour or faith,but what more could they have asked?Did you not fulfil unto death the sworn duty with which you were tasked?

Legion Captain Borelli, to his Legionnaires who died at the siege of Thuyen Quang in 1885.

Established in 1831 by the French king Louis Philippe, The French Foreign Legion (or in French: Légion étrangère, L.E.) is a military service wing of the French army, unique because it was exclusively created for foreign nationals willing to serve in the French armed forces. The direct reason for this was that foreigners were forbidden to serve in the French Army after the 1830 July Revolution, so the foreign legion was created to allow the government a way around this restriction.

Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker

Anybody who loves fairies will have no doubt heard of and enjoyed the series of flower fairies books written and illustrated by Cicely Mary Barker. Her images, being so lifelike yet so comforting, can't fail to touch your heart.

Cicely was born in 1895 in Croydon, London, and spent most of her life there. Because of ill health she was educated at home and, encouraged by a supportive family and assisted by membership of the Croydon Art Society, largely taught herself to draw and paint. She was only sixteen when she had her first work, A Set of Postcards , accepted for publication and from that time she devoted her career to painting.

Edmond Went Far Away by Martin Bax

A recently published book in comparison to many in our shop, 'Edmond Went Far Away' is a short tale of a young boy's Big Adventure to 'another land', far away from his home.

It was the pictures that drew me to the book initially - beautiful bright colour illustrations by well loved illustrator Michael Foreman.

Edmond is a young boy who lives on a farm, and is fortunate enough to call all the farmyard animals his friends. As he decides to go on his journey 'far away', first he has to say goodbye to all his friends on the way; the ducks, the pig, the Jersey cows, Ned the horse and so on. To each of them he says "I am going far away"; each animal replies in its own way; "Quack-away"; "Oink-away"; "Moo-wary Mooway"; "Neigh-away".

The Eagle

Life was different in the years immediately after World War II. Rationing was the norm, and you had to wait for everything. Although we had a daily newspaper, my brother and I were not allowed to have a regular subscription to a comic, such as ' Beano' or ' Dandy', and had to buy copies with our extremely limited pocket money, if we could not beg, borrow or....

Even so, there was a corner shop nearby by which sold old copies of comics, and it was there that I found I preferred to read titles like 'Adventure', 'Hotspur', 'Rover' and, my favourite, 'Wizard'.

So you can just imagine our amazement that we were actually allowed to subscribe to a new comic that hit the news stands in April 1950. As a comic it was perfect. We so looked forward to it that issue No. 6 was actually torn in half as my brother and I struggled to read it first. Although we saved each copy as it came, they eventually all disappeared, as such items do, which was a pity as they would be worth a small fortune today.

Victorian (and earlier) Duck Decoys

What is a Duck Decoy? I thought it was a wooden or plastic duck used to entice wildfowl so they can be shot - yes, that's what they are today, but in Victorian times they were something very different. The Duck Decoys that are the subject of Payne-Gallwey’s book were very large traps covering several acres and during a season from December to March they were capable of taking 5,000 or more birds!

The word Decoy derives from the Dutch 'endekooy' or 'Duck Cage' and this provides an excellent idea of how the Decoy worked. The early and simplest Decoys were tunnels or cages into which the ducks were attracted by food and then trapped by dropping a 'door' to close the entrance. By the end of the eighteenth century and in the early nineteenth century, probably the peak of Decoy usage, they were very much larger and sophisticated devices. Most owners at the time kept the details of their Decoys a closely guarded secret and, in some cases, went to great lengths to keep them hidden from the public by, for example, building a huge moat.

Diary of a Victorian Cat illustrated by Susan Herbert

This is a book I have long admired for the delightfully detailed full colour illustrations of anthropomorphic cats. So much so that I have finally bought my own copy and am now endeavoring to add the further eight works to my collection.

Much-loved for her innovative depictions of cats, Susan Herbert's witty subject matter has been an enormous publishing success and has gained her a reputation as the world's most instantly recognizable cat artist.

Born in 1945, Susan Herbert did not undergo any formal artistic training before embarking on a career as an artist. Her first job was working at the box office for the Royal Shakespeare Company and during this time, described by Susan Herbert as filled with 'hideous part-time jobs', she used her spare moments to draw and paint as often as she could.