Here’s a curiosity – a hand-made and hand-painted dust-jacket individually made for a copy of A. G. Street’s “Holdfast”, published by Faber & Faber in 1946 – not to replace the original dust-jacket (a typical Faber design by Berthold Wolpe) but to go over it, leaving it wonderfully well-preserved beneath.

I bought it almost a year ago, privately convinced that somewhere in the far recesses of memory I somehow recognised the style and knew exactly who the artist was. Perhaps I do, but the name persistently and stubbornly refuses to come to mind, so I’ll throw it open to suggestions from elsewhere. Any ideas?

holdfast2The novel is the story of a young woman finding herself when, newly married, she is left to run a wartime farm (600 acres somewhere in the West Country) while her husband is on active service overseas. Against the odds and almost despite herself at times, she succeeds – innovating with new technology, adopting new strategies, switching to arable rather than dairy (the green and gold of the Wolpe jacket echoes the contrast between pasture and cornfield), battling with bureaucrats, and circumventing the challenges both of land-girls and handsome officers in uniform. She becomes acknowledged as the best farmer in the neighbourhood before having to negotiate a formidable final hurdle – the return of her husband to a farm no longer recognisable as his own.

“Holdfast” is a new variety of wheat, but serves as a motif for holding true to principle, to perennial values, for endurance, gumption and grit. The author, Arthur George Street (1892-1966), was a farmer himself of course and someone who knew about holding fast. He’d left school at sixteen – “my father made me do every job on the farm at some time or another in order that I might, from personal knowledge, be able to estimate whether a man was working well or ill at any particular job. I was much older before I realised how much I did learn in those first years after leaving school”. He turned to writing to eke out his earnings when farming prices collapsed in the interwar depression.

By 1946 he had become well-known as both an author and a popular wartime broadcaster. Urban reviewers were a little overwhelmed by the both the minutiae and the daily grind of farming, but the Exeter & Plymouth Gazette (3rd January 1947) knew the worth of this West Country author – “a novelist of the first rank … In the six years between his last novel and ‘Holdfast’. Mr. Street has encountered many new experiences … The cream of it is here set forth in great good humour and, if one may say it for want of a better word, tenderness. This is a book to read and re-read at leisure.”

He was in truth a remarkably good writer – the Faber imprint is probably sufficient indication of that – flavouring his prose with the occasional deliberate lapse into the Wiltshire dialect of his youth. This is a rock-solid, thoroughly professional, beautifully constructed novel – a novel of delicately defined contrasts – between the green and the gold, between old ways and new, between men and women, between youth and age, between workers and employers, between producers and consumers, between the useful members of society and the jacks-in-office of bureaucracy. It’s full of the old-fashioned virtues and now – of course – wholly forgotten because it is so old-fashioned.

But it once meant enough to someone to spend time, trouble, and no little skill in fashioning a personal and artistic tribute in the form of this hand-made jacket. As an image, it seems to reflect the rustic spirit and themes of the novel rather than relate to any particular incident – although the elderly couple in the centre must be the Ferrises, young Phoebe Carpenter’s mentors both in farming and life, and the flighty land-girls outside the pub are recognisable enough.

Does anyone have any ideas as to who the artist may be? Or does anyone have any similar examples of hand-painted dust-jackets?

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William Bellinger Northrop (1871-1929)

Octopium Landlordicuss

© Cornell University – PJ Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography and reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) Unported License.

I was actually looking for an image of an old air-raid shelter in Myddlelton Passage in Clerkenwell (my great-grandmother Martha Worms died in there during an air-raid in 1940), when I came across this extraordinary map on the always engaging A London Inheritance blog – Octopium Landlordicuss (Landlord-I-Cuss), published in or about 1909. Whatever your politics, it’s a masterpiece of visual rhetoric and a damning indictment of inherited land, privilege and English leasehold law.

curious map bookI thought at first that I hadn’t come across it before, but that can’t be true: it features in The Curious Map Book by my colleague and co-author Ashley Baynton-Williams, published by the British Library in 2015, which I read very conscientiously in proof. Memory like a sieve these days.

Beyond Ashley’s lucid and cogent account, there is also a readily accessible analysis of the map on Cornell University Library’s Digital Collections website, so no need for me to reiterate any of that here, except perhaps to repeat Ashley’s use of a contemporary excerpt from a Lloyd George speech:

There is no question more vital … than the question … of the land! … It enters into everything – the food the people eat, the water they drink, the houses they dwell in, the industries upon which their livelihood depends.  And to whom does the land belong in Britain?  To a handful of rich people!  One-third of all the land belongs to members of the House of Lords.  Landlordism is the greatest of all monopolies in this land.  The power of the landlords is boundless.  They may evict their tenants, and devastate the land worse than an enemy would.  Now, I am not attacking the landlords either individually or as a class, but can such a state of affairs be allowed to continue?

The map obviously belongs to the compelling “octopus” category of propaganda map – a nice selection here from Allison Meier at Hyperallergic – although, unusually, this one deals with the enemy within rather than external threat from an enemy without. But lots has already been written about these octopus maps in recent years and indeed they’ve cropped up here on the blog before in a piece about Fred W. Rose back in 1915.

Bomb Shop LogoWhat I thought had been overlooked about the present map was that it was published by Francis Riddell Henderson (1860-1931) of the infamous “Bomb Shop” at 66 Charing Cross Road, but my plans of telling you a little about him soon disappeared when I found that there is already a far better account of him and the shop by Christopher Draper on the English Radical History blog.

All that’s really left for me to say is that the one central figure in all of this who hasn’t really been done justice is the enigmatic man who actually made the map – William Bellinger Northrop (1871-1929). He was actually an American, born in San Francisco on 6th March 1871, so belongs to that special tradition of visitors to London who can perhaps see things with a less comfortable and more revealing eye than those born and bred here. For all his views on aristocrats, he was virtually American aristocracy himself – his mother Emily Constance Northrop (1845-1937), born in Charleston, South Carolina, was a direct descendant of Joseph Northrup who arrived from England in 1637 and was one of the original settlers of Connecticut. Her brother was a bishop, her father, Claudian Bird Northrop (1812-1865), a well-known lawyer in Charleston before his brutal murder in one of the more barbaric passages of the American Civil War, and her uncle Lucius Bellinger Northrop (1811-1894), the Commissary-General of the Confederate forces, appointed by Jefferson Davis himself.

W. B. Northrop was born William Bellinger Ryan, but after his mother formally separated from his lawyer father, Thomas Patrick Ryan (1841?-1909), she was given dispensation by the court for her and her children to revert to her maiden name. After a spell as a young man selling typewriters and cyclostyle duplicating apparatus in Charleston in 1890, Northrop became a journalist, photographer and press-agent. He married Cecile Pinckney (1869-1960), a doctor’s daughter from Atlanta, in 1897 and then made his first visit to London, where their first child, William Ryan Northrop (1898-1905), was born in September 1898.

baking cureNorthrop was soon appearing regularly in the English magazines – a fascinating article on how the British Museum dealt with its already unwieldy newspaper collection, “with some capital photographs”, in the Temple Magazine for March 1899; a London from Aloft feature in the Leisure Hour in November of that year, with photographs from the top of the Monument, followed by pictures from the  top of St. Paul’s a few months later. An article which attracted a lot of attention was one on the “baking cure” for certain diseases in the Strand Magazine in 1900.

His biggest coup of these years was without doubt a dramatic intervention in the Dreyfus Case which had rocked Europe – his interview with Esterhazy, published in Black & White in 1899, put beyond doubt Dreyfus’s innocence and Northrop’s photographs of the infamous bordereau are now in the National Archives.

After a brief return to the United States in 1900, the Northrops regularly criss-crossed the Atlantic for the next few years, although their other three children were all born in London. From his pen and camera there were articles on Freaks of American Scenery, A Day with Mark Twain, one on Wall Street for The Sketch in October 1902, one on Edison and his phonographs in Leisure Hour in April 1903, another on Auguste Rodin for World’s Work in May 1905, and much else.

His book With Pen and Camera: Interviews with Celebrities came out in 1904. “The book does credit to Mr. Northrop’s enterprise”, declared The Sphere (21st January 1905), “He has interviewed in succession Lord Avebury, Mr. Edison, Mark Twain, Miss Marie Corelli, Sir Hiram Maxim, Mr. John Burns, Mr. John Redmond, Mr. Anthony Hope, Mrs. Humphry Ward … this book may be said to be the apotheosis of the cult of the interview: men of letters, men of science, eminent statesmen, distinguished ambassadors, all falling over one another pell-mell to tell the public their favourite dish for dinner and, indeed, all their special idiosyncrasies. Well, it is all very harmless and pretty if not idyllic, and the abundant illustrations are exceptionally interesting”.

Justice – Saturday 7th December 1907. © British Library Board.

Justice – Saturday 7th December 1907. © British Library Board.

All very worthy, but no sign at all as yet of Northrop the radical polemicist. His sudden and explosive excursion into politics was perhaps triggered by an article on A Court for Child Offenders he wrote for Sunday at Home in March 1907. Later that year he launched his magazine, The Deadly Parallel, published by Henderson. It struck a vein. A public lecture, illustrated with lantern slides, was given at Lambeth later in the year, followed by a cinematograph display at the Latchmere Road Baths in Battersea in November – “We had an immense crowd at the Latchmere Baths last Sunday evening. Quite 2,000 men, women and children came, whole families together, to hear W. B. Northrop and see his telling pictures of contrasted luxury and misery” (Justice, 30th November 1907).

Justice – Saturday 4th January 1908. © British Library Board.

Justice – Saturday 4th January 1908. © British Library Board.

Lantern slides and cinema film were combined together for an even bigger evening at Bow in January 1908 – the celebrated George Lansbury himself in the chair. Bow Baths Hall was packed to the rafters for Northrop’s lecture on “how the rich live by grinding the faces of the poor”. Lansbury topped off the evening with a rousing speech of his own.

Northrop’s book Wealth and Want: A Study in Living Contrasts and Social Problems was published by Frances Griffiths in 1909 – “a veritable gold mine of facts for the social reformer. Mr. Northrop has woven together with much skill hundreds of telling facts and statistics illustrating the conditions under which the mass of the people exist; and to make them still more vivid and convincing, he has put side by side with these horrors the other horrors, those which illustrate the wasteful and useless lives of the rich” (The Clarion, 5th March 1909).

Votes for Women – Friday 31st March 1911. © British Library Board.

Votes for Women – Friday 31st March 1911. © British Library Board.

But there, bar a book of poetry – Contrasts: Poems of Poverty – published by Frank Palmer in 1911, Northrop’s rapid rise to the front rank of British radical activists came to an unexplained and sudden end. He returned to New York in 1912, resumed general writing for magazines, and by the time of his death at 253 Henry Street, Brooklyn, on the 8th May 1929, he had become a “special agent of the arson bureau”.

Although we know what Northrop looked like from his various passport applications – five feet, nine inches; high forehead; blue eyes; dark brown hair; straight nose; oval face; medium mouth and complexion; round chin; split thumb-nail on his left hand, etc. – we really can’t account for his sudden excursion into radical politics, or even less for his sudden withdrawal.

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People Like Me

Just back from a summer book-hunting safari, mainly around what we might loosely call the English Mid-West, with a few stops closer to home on the return leg. Some thirty bookshops or other outlets on the itinerary, if we include a number of book-stalls in antiques centres and a couple of charity shops.

Most of these can be swiftly glossed over – that would be very much the kindest thing. Bookshops where they appear to think that wrapping a couple of courtesy purchases in pretty paper and handing over a tasteless bookmark might make the dismal experience of being there a better one. Bookshops where they not only offer no courtesy trade discount but grotesquely overcharge you for postage. Bookshops where you can feel and almost taste the foxing spores hanging tangibly in the air. Bookshops where you pause more than once to think – this must be the worst copy of this book I’ve ever seen, the worst copy in existence. Charity bookshops where they mire the dust-jackets with their adhesive stickers.

Bookshops which aren’t open at their advertised times are too familiar a complaint to dwell on. I ran a small shop for long enough to know that just once in a while this really can’t be helped, but with some shops it appears to be both deliberate and habitual. Book-rooms and book-stalls in antiques centres, almost invariably unattended, remain an enduring mystery. Perhaps I was unusually unlucky, but I visited perhaps ten of these and came away with nothing more than a paperback for a pound to read on the train. I’m sure there must be exceptions, but they seem all too often to operate simply as dumping grounds for unsold, unchanging and probably unsaleable stock, which is odd because the antiques in the adjacent areas are very often of quite a high standard.

So far, the trip had been a depressing one – making me wonder in my bleaker moments why so many people who don’t actually appear to like books or have any great regard for them ever choose to become booksellers.

etbooksBut the sun came out and the tide turned, as it always does. A warm and courteous welcome from John Richards of Etbooks & Bookbinding in Leamington Spa – he even delayed setting off on his holiday for twenty minutes or so while we had a chat. A smallish selection of books, it is true (he’s primarily a bookbinder), but I found a few things I was very pleased to acquire. He’ll send them on when he gets back from holiday.

Banbury next stop – and the Books & Ink Bookshop in White Lion Walk. A very nicely laid out and tidy bookshop – I always so much admirebooksandinktidiness in others because I’m so very bad at it myself – new books as well as old, over 20,000 of them in all. A visit made just in time as they are preparing a move to a new shop at Winchcombe in the Cotswolds in a couple of weeks (mid-September 2019). In half an hour I had bought more books (a couple of boxes – the first just arrived and very nicely packed) and spent more money than in the whole of the twenty-five or more outlets visited so far. Things were looking up and I wish them every success in their new home.

And better still the following morning – an early start in Brackley and the Old Hall Bookshop. Years since I’d been there – I suspect ten or twelve, so it could well be twice that (in fact it’s eighteen, I’ve just checked). Lots of good old hall bookshopbooks – new, old, second-hand, rare, collectable – all sorts. I had soon accumulated a healthy pile, the meagre spending of the previous few days now comfortably dwarfed, and paused for a word with owner John Townsend. “We don’t often see people like you”, he said. “People like me?” – I puzzled, what on earth could he mean? People who still write cheques? People who arrive by bus? People who wear a suit when they are working? People who still buy Somerville & Ross? How odd and unusual have I become over the years? (There really is no need at all for anyone even to contemplate answering that). But what he meant was simply that the London trade no longer visits shops around the country in the way it did in years gone by. And this is true. We can blame the internet, but I think the process started long before with the proliferation of book-fairs from the 1970s onwards. It’s a mistake – there are some very good books and very good bookshops out there still, even if you have to struggle past some of the bad ones. And nothing beats holding and handling a book before you buy it.


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The Chaucer Bookshop


Quite a while since I was last in Canterbury, but what a pleasant spot it remains.  Beautiful old houses akimbo.  And right at the heart of it, just a short walk from the Cathedral, a pleasant bookshop – the Chaucer Bookshop – on evocatively named Beer Cart Lane.

chaucerbookshopDigital evidence provided by my computer seems to record that the last time I bought a book from here (barring some online purchases) was back in February 1995 – far too long, I know – and no real excuse.  But back there again yesterday to a warm and cordial welcome.  Current intern (Lizzie Critchley) in tow.  Lizzie is writing an essay on how the trade has adapted to the online world and all the perils and pleasures of the internet – and in particular on what we might call the second phase: not just the basic search engines developed back in the last century, but the twenty-first century world of social media.

We shall be contacting many of you over the coming weeks – but please don’t wait to be asked.  How are you all getting on with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and wherever else you may be?  Not just booksellers but book-buyers too – what do you have to say?  How is it for you?  Who is still blogging? – and to what effect?  And how many of you are using eBay, Etsy or other non-book-specific online platforms to sell or to buy?  Tell us more.  Do let us have your thoughts – how it’s going, where it’s going?

While Lizzie was quizzing away (she’ll probably be going back soon to give the shop’s online profile a boost), I stuck to what I love best.  Book-hunting pure and simple.  Buying online is all very well, but nothing to beat the raw experience of viewing the physical books, handling them and letting them speak to you in person.

chaucer4The Chaucer Bookshop was established in 1956 and the amiable Sir Robert Sherston-Baker, Bt. took it on twenty years later.  He’s still there and the shop is now somewhat larger than I remember it – it’s expanded into the building next door in the intervening years.  And it’s everything you might wish for in a local bookshop – full of books from floor to ceiling – books downstairs, books upstairs – books for reading, books for enjoying, books for collecting, books for giving – all subjects catered for – something for everyone and for every depth of pocket.

I soon had a bagful – fiction, poetry, topography, economic history and cricket – and departed weighted down with a ballast of purchases.  You will too if you go there – and you could not ask for a more pleasant day out.  And failing that, do look at their website.


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Illustrations by A. J. Macgregor / Verses by E. M. Coghlin

A guest post by Gillian Neale. Gillian has an MA in the History of the Book from the University of London and is spending time with Ash Rare Books to gain some inside experience of the rare book trade.

“Jeremy’s Day in the Country” (1941)

“Jeremy’s Day in the Country” (1941)

“Creating a bibliographic record suitable for a bookseller’s catalogue,” Laurence  remarked “usually takes no more than ten minutes”.  I remain some way off this target, not least because, like my eminent cataloguing tutor himself, I suspect, I can happily spend many multiples of ten minutes in pursuit of the back-story behind little-known titles, authors or illustrators — those nuggets of information that enrich any book’s history and (once in a while) have the potential to enhance its saleability.  Nonetheless, as Laurence reminds me, a bookseller has to strike an economic balance, and a book’s value necessarily determines how much background research can be justified before it is appropriately catalogued and shelved.  Sometimes, however, the suggestion of more to be discovered lingers on, as it did with the illustrator/author partnership behind “Jeremy’s Day in the Country” (1941), a very early Ladybird Book that refused to ‘fly away home’. A. J. Macgregor and E. M. Coghlin both proved sufficiently elusive that I continued my online research after office hours. Who were these women and what was their story?  It might be worth a post on the blog, suggested Laurence in an email.

The Wonderful Bunnies and Silversuit. © The British Library Board.

“The Wonderful Bunnies and Silversuit” (1927). © The British Library Board.

Ladybird Books and their founding firm, Wills & Hepworth, have well-documented places in the history of children’s books.  The books themselves have attained iconic, although not uncriticised, status, and in recent years have provided a seemingly endless stream of material for television and radio documentaries, exhibitions, websites, blogs and Twitter feeds, as well as the twenty-first century ‘spoof’ series for adults.  But attention has largely been directed on Ladybird’s explosive post-war growth and success, and the staff, writers and artists who contributed to that, rather than on its very earliest authors and illustrators.  These are Angusine Jeanne Macgregor (1879-1961) — responsible for the illustration of all the earliest titles — and Edith Mary Coghlin (1913-2012) — responsible for the verses in “Jeremy’s Day in the Country” and two (or possibly three) more of the first half dozen Ladybird Books ever to be published — the wartime titles in Ladybird’s first numbered series, 401, of rhyming animal stories.  Whilst the Ladybird imprint had been in existence since 1914, the company had chosen the 1940 launch of the standard format book as the date from which to officially recognise the birth of the Ladybird Book.

Pages from Miranda’s Diary - "The Graphic”, 26th December 1903. © The British Library Board.

Pages from Miranda’s Diary – “The Graphic”, 26th December 1903. © The British Library Board.

Angusine Jeanne Macgregor came, as her name suggests, from Scottish parentage.  Her father, Angus Macgregor, was a farmer’s son from Laggan in the Central Highlands of Scotland; her mother, Jeanne Chisholm, was born in the same hamlet.  Forsaking farming for the drapery trade, Angus Macgregor moved south and became a commercial traveller.  After stints in Worcester and at Herne Hill in South London, he settled his family in 1881 in Birmingham, where Angusine, the sixth of six daughters, was born in the suburb of Harborne in 1879, as was the seventh child and only son, Peter Chisholm Macgregor, who died in infancy.  The household was by then sufficiently well-off to accommodate both a live-in lady’s maid and domestic servant. In due course Angusine went on to study at Birmingham School of Art and subsequently to become an illustrator and writer of children’s books.  From July 1917 to July 1919 she served as housekeeper with the Scottish Women’s Hospital in Ajaccio, Corsica, then returned to the family home in Birmingham, from where she continued to work as an illustrator. She never married and died at the Parkfield Nursing Home in Birmingham on 26th February 1961.

“Mrs Bunny’s Refugee" from “The Wonderful Bunnies and Silversuit” (1927).

“Mrs Bunny’s Refugee” from “The Wonderful Bunnies and Silversuit” (1927). © The British Library Board.

Her earliest known published work is a full-page spread in “The Graphic” for 26th December 1903 titled “Pages from Miranda’s Diary” and from then until 1956 there were dozens of publications written by her or featuring her illustrations.   Closer examination shows a clear pattern of two main periods of output, 1903-1921 and 1940-1956.  Work from the latter period represents Angusine’s Ladybird output; the earlier works consist in the main of picture books for younger children with full-page, bright, bold illustrations accompanying simple texts, many in verse.  Early titles include “The Mysterious Disappearance of What and Why” (1905), “The Story of Snips” (1909), “The Bunny Book” (1909) — reviewed by “The Graphic” as “a sheer delight” — and “The Story of Flip and Fuzzy. A Picture-book for little folk”, with Jessie Pope, (1911).

What, Why, and Flip were young rabbits while Snips was a mouse and Fuzzy a toy golliwog, suggesting that from an early point in her career Angusine had developed a talent for creating engaging stories about anthropomorphised animals and toys, for which she would supply the illustrations and either the accompanying storyline or the full text.  Several of these stories proved extremely successful and were reprinted in later editions.

“The Losing of Baby-Brother". © The British Library Board.

“The Losing of Baby-Brother” (1921). © The British Library Board.

Among Macgregor’s non-anthropomorphic works are two “Bunty Books”, stories about a little girl who longs for “Someone to Play With” (1921), in this case a baby sibling who becomes the focus of a sequel — “The Losing of Baby- Brother” (1921).  Although slightly whimsical, these books are quite different in content and artistic style, rather more visually and textually satisfying — and not a walking, talking bunny in sight.  There appear to have been just the two Bunty books, which suggests the possibility that they were written in remembrance of her own short-lived baby brother, Peter.  Online searches also throw up Macgregor as a credited artist in a number of early twentieth-century children’s anthologies or annuals, including “The Children’s Friend” (1907), “Cassell’s Annual for Girls and Boys” (1909), Aunt Ruth’s “Frolic and Fun” (1909), “The Tiny Folks’ Annual” (1918), and “The Big ABC Book” (1921), where her work appeared alongside such well-known names as John Hassall, Charles Robinson, Millicent Sowerby and Louis Wain.  It is clear that Angusine’s pictures drove the storyline in the early books, whether she supplied the words or not, and this active engagement with shaping the text would continue for Wills & Hepworth, as acknowledged on the title page of her Ladybird Books (“written and illustrated by A. J. Macgregor”).  Looking at some of these early picture-verse books, it is easy to see how such child-friendly, sing-song tales of mischievous ducklings, mice, and other nursery-suitable animals and toys would evolve into the endearing and enduring series of eighteen Ladybird Books.  The reasons for the apparent hiatus in Angusine’s work are unclear, but her career revived with the invitation from Wills & Hepworth to work on their latest publishing venture, and this is where Edith Mary Coghlin comes in.

“How to Study” from “The Girl’s Own Paper” (1934).

“How to Study” from “The Girl’s Own Paper” (1934). © British Library Board

If there is little information about Angusine, Edith is positively cloaked in mystery. Daughter of James Edwin Coghlin (1874-1947), a customs officer, and his wife, Frances Alma Rowe (1881-1962), Edith was born on 11th January 1913 in Halifax, Yorkshire, and, like Angusine, was the second youngest of seven children.  Edith’s were a remarkably literate set of siblings.  Of her five brothers, three held degrees from Oxford; one edited “Cherwell” and had a novel published by Faber in 1932, one became a master at Ardingley College in Sussex, and another a journalist.  Furthermore, Edith’s sister, Mercy, was a teacher of English Language and Latin at Goole Grammar School. According to the emergency national register compiled in 1939, Edith, still living with her sister and parents, was an apparently out-of-work advertising copywriter.  Search for published works, and the only books that appear are the 1941 Ladybird titles for which she wrote the verses to accompany Macgregor’s illustrations: “Smoke and Fluff”, “Bob Bushtail’s Adventure” and “Jeremy’s Day in the Country”.  Other than this, all that can be identified are a story (“The Infectious Laugh”) broadcast on the radio in 1936 and an article called “How to Study” in “The Girl’s Own Paper” (1934, 55).  And although the Ladybird 401 series finally totalled eighteen titles, Edith was soon replaced by one Walter Perring.  It is difficult to conceive that Macgregor and Coghlin failed as a partnership, for there is little discernible difference between Coghlin’s verses and those of either Macgregor or Perring. Nonetheless, as each of the Coghlin titles was reprinted, her verses were revised by Perring, so that Coghlin’s work and name now exist only in the first editions of each book.

“The Bunny Book”

“The Bunny Book” (1909). © The British Library Board.

So what might Edith’s backstory be?  As a copywriter, it is conceivable that Coghlin had come to Wills & Hepworth’s attention via their commercial printing operations, although it is perhaps more likely that a connection at “The Girl’s Own Paper”, an RTS publication, initiated an introduction, for Wills & Hepworth had long been printers of books for religious publishers.

After her initial engagement on the Ladybird Books, given her well-connected brothers and copywriting skills, she may have volunteered or been selected for war work.  Equally, it might have been Wills & Hepworth’s decision not to produce any new Ladybird titles in 1942 or 1943, probably as a direct result of the additional paper rationing introduced in December 1941, that determined Edith to pursue other employment.  She was presumably the Edith Coghlin listed at 52 Portland Grove, Vauxhall, in South London, on the Electoral Register of 1949, but she was back in Yorkshire, living with her mother and sister by 1951.  Like Angusine, she never married, and continued living with her sister, Mercy Coghlin, until Mercy’s death, aged 101, in 2006.  The archival record is currently largely silent over the last fifty years of Edith Coghlin’s life until the report of her death in York on 9th January 2012 — two days short of her ninety-ninth birthday.

We would be pleased to add more, if anyone has further information.


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Percy Heath (1803?-1838)

Kinfauns Castle, Perthshire. 1829. Steel engraving by Percy Heath after John Preston Neale.

Kinfauns Castle, Perthshire. 1829. Steel engraving by Percy Heath after John Preston Neale.

I had been doing some unrelated work on the engravers James Heath (1757-1834) and his son Charles Heath (1785-1848) – both fine engravers, both well-known and comparatively well-documented – when I received and enquiry from a customer about a steel-engraving of a Yorkshire country-house published in 1829 and engraved by a different Heath – Percy Heath.

Without having received anything like the level of acclaim accorded to his namesakes, Percy Heath was himself a highly gifted engraver – his style distinctive and characterised by an ease and fluidity of line most uncommon in steel-engraved work.  His was a relaxed economy of effort, his plates never overworked, but with an attention to detail on the foreground figures quite unusual among the contemporary topographical engravers of the period.

I had always rather assumed that he must in some way have been related to his better-known contemporaries of the same name, but, although that may yet prove to be the case, I can find no evidence for it at all.  His origins remain undiscovered, but he was apprenticed – in his full name of John Percy Heath – to another well-known engraver and etcher in George Cooke (1781-1834) on the 7th November 1820.  Cooke is of course remembered for his “Views in London and its Vicinity” series (1826-1834), as well as for his collaborations with artists as distinguished John Sell Cotman, James Duffield Harding, Samuel Prout, David Roberts, Clarkson Stanfield, and – not least – his own son, Edward William Cooke, and the great J. M. W. Turner himself.

Denton Park, Yorkshire. 1829. Steel engraving by Percy Heath after John Preston Neale.

Denton Park, Yorkshire. 1829. Steel engraving by Percy Heath after John Preston Neale.


Cooke had a number of other pupils and apprentices who became highly distinguished in the own right, including his nephew William John Cooke (1797-1865), the artist and lithographer Thomas Shotter Boys (1803-1874), and the engraver John Saddler (1813-1892) – all of whom, like Cooke and the other Heaths, have their own entries in the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”.  It is recorded of the young Saddler that he once took along a proof, largely his own work, for Turner to inspect.  Turner quizzed him as to who had engraved it.  Saddler credited the work to his master.  Turner was not persuaded and sent the boy back with a message for Mr Cooke – “Tell your master he is bringing you along very nicely – especially in lying”.

His apprenticeship finished in late 1827, Percy Heath soon found regular work with the publishers of the books and series of topographical views so popular at the time. Work is known for “Devonshire Illustrated” (1828-1832); “Views of the Seats, Mansions, Castles, etc. of Noblemen and Gentlemen” (1829-1831); “Ireland Illustrated” (1829-1832); “Views in the East” (1833); “Syria, the Holy Land, Asia Minor, &c. Illustrated in a Series of Views” (1836-1838), etc.

ruling machineHe was working too on developing his art: his invention of a new method of re-biting steel plates, useful in restoring or repairing worn plates, was reported in the “Mechanics’ Magazine” and elsewhere in December 1832.  And in 1836 he won the large Silver Medal of the Royal Society of Arts for his invention of a ruling machine for taking the wholly repetitive work out of engraving – a design improving on the earlier machines produced by Wilson Lowry (1760-1824) and Edmund Turrell (1781?-1835).  Twelve pages of the published “Transactions” of the Society for the 1835-1836 season (Volume 51) are given over to a highly detailed description of how it worked, with a complex full-page diagram of the actual machine.

A developing career and almost certainly greater fame were cut short by Heath’s early death at the age of thirty-five in the autumn of 1838.  John Percy Heath of Edward Street (now Redhill Street), St. Pancras, was buried at St. James Piccadilly on the 7th October of that year.

His simple will, scribbled on a scrap of paper and unwitnessed, found in a locked drawer after his death, left £300 in invested funds to his widowed mother, Eliza Heath of 98 Piccadilly, and the rest of his property to William John Cooke above, whom he made his executor.  He had no debts as of 21st September 1837 when the will was written, but there were monies owing to him from people referred to simply as Fisher, Saddler and Engleheart – Henry Fisher (1781-1837) and his son, Robert Fisher (1803-1884) were the Fisher and son of the print and part-work publishers “Fisher, Son & Co.”; his former fellow apprentice John Saddler was his neighbour in Edward Street, and Engleheart was another well-known engraver in Francis Engleheart (1775-1849), or possibly one of his sons.

Eliza Heath, William John Cooke and John Saddler all testified to the authenticity of the hand-writing and the will, while Thomas Shotter Boys also turned up to recount that in September 1837 Percy Heath had been intending a trip to Antwerp and had spoken of setting his affairs in order and writing a will.  He remembered Percy Heath saying that Cooke’s business experience would probably make him a better executor better than any of his other friends.  The will was uncontested and probate duly granted on 23rd October 1838, just a fortnight after the funeral.  And there ended the historical record of a man who perhaps deserves better from posterity.

Cove Harbour, Cork, Looking toward Rostellan. 1832. Steel engraving by Percy Heath after William Henry Bartlett.

Cove Harbour, Cork, Looking toward Rostellan. 1832. Steel engraving by Percy Heath after William Henry Bartlett.

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Boutell’s First Editions of To-Day


Having a bit of a clear-out and I came across this: First Editions of To-Day and How to Tell Them, by H. S. Boutell, published by Elkin Mathews & Marrot in 1928.  A copy given to E. A. M. Norie for Christmas in that year – a thoughtful present to a young man still at Oxford – inscribed with love from his mother to her son, Evelyn Arundel Medows Norie (1908-1944), who died on active service in France in 1944.  I rather think that it’s a book I inherited from my predecessors, Hugh Jones and Cyril Nash.  Not a book I have looked at in years, much as I fondly remember it as one of my earliest introductions to the mysteries and eccentricities of the world of rare books, but simply because its contents were later subsumed in their entirety into the more recent compilations of Edward N.  Zempel and Linda A. Verkler, published in various ever-expanding editions as First Editions, A Guide to Identification, of which I still have a working copy within easy reach of my desk.

boutell1Boutell’s book first appeared at the height of that feverish and curious point in time when, for a few short years, collecting modern first editions was seen as the ultimately cool, sexy and fashionable thing to do.  That was obviously always going to end in tears – and it duly did, in the wake of the Wall Street Crash.  But the period also called forth a spate of guides to book-collecting, most of them meretricious and memorable only for the spectacularly wrong advice on who and what to collect as the best investment.  But Boutell’s book was a little different.  It aimed to answer that perennial question – one that booksellers are still asked weekly if not daily – “How do you tell if a book is a first edition?”  Boutell’s answer was so obvious that no-one else seems to have thought of it.  He simply wrote to all the leading publishers, on both sides of the Atlantic, and asked how they marked their first editions – and then reprinted their answers verbatim.

I shall confine my remarks to the British publishers – I am far more familiar with those – but it is interesting to note that publishers who operated on both sides of the Atlantic tended to do things differently in each jurisdiction.  In this country, the long-established Longmans, Green & Co. were confidence-inspiring: “We always date the title page of our books, and unless the book is marked “— Impression” or “— Edition” it is a first edition”.  Worth noting here – as Boutell was at pains to point out – is the explicit assumption that a subsequent impression (printing) even of the original edition was not and is not regarded as a “first edition” in collecting terms, whatever its technical status in bibliography.  Martin Secker was even more succinct: “Bibliographical entry on the reverse of the title page” – and this was more or less the answer given, albeit at rather greater length, by most of the British publishers.  T. Werner Laurie followed “the custom laid down by the Publishers’ Association” – a surprise to find that there were official guidelines.  No other publisher mentioned these, but they represented the most common British practice, stating “First published —” on the verso of the title-page and listing (where applicable) consecutive impressions and editions below that.

William Heinemann were among the most reliable of publishers, clearly outlining the boutell2publishing history of the book on the verso of the title-page – “We take great pains to get these bibliographical notes accurate and to discriminate carefully between new impressions and new editions”.  This had perhaps not always been the case, but was consistent from “soon after 1920”.  Methuen, another reliable publisher, had been using this standard system since 1905.  What Heinemann did not do, in a splendid old-school example of English haughtiness and condescension, was to “follow the American practice of printing the words ‘First Edition’ anywhere in our books.  This I believe is quite a recent idea inspired by the interest taken by the modern American in first editions of modern books”.  A strange statement from a business which had become essentially American-owned since the death of William Henry Heinemann in 1920, but such was the view from Bloomsbury.  Meanwhile, in Mayfair, the much older and more patrician firm of John Murray was doing just that: they had – “for some years” – been printing “First Edition” on the verso of the title-page – and why no other British publishers seem to have followed them down this fairly obvious route remains a puzzle.  But what is unclear from the Murray statement is whether they retained the “First Edition” designation on later impressions of that original edition.

Not all of the publishers were helpful.  Chatto & Windus stated that they “use no particular distinguishing sign to mark our first editions”, although I can’t recall their books (at least in the twentieth century) ever being particularly problematic.  The same can’t be said of W. Collins, Sons & Co., who likewise did “not adopt any special method”, but it becomes clear from the rest of their statement that although cheaper editions were noted, fresh impressions of the original edition were generally not.

boutell3Some publishers – booksellers will know them – were almost obstructive.  These are the publishers who cause the problems and where we need to fall back on a wall of bibliographies, the scouring of library catalogues, the skill and expertise of seasoned booksellers, and, not infrequently, a trip to the British Library to look at the copy deposited for copyright (and even that is not always conclusive): – Hodder & Stoughton: “We are unable to help you with regard to our First Editions, as our methods vary with every book”; Hutchinson & Co. – “We do not mark First Editions in any way”.  Nor did Hurst & Blackett, while Ward, Lock & Co. also had “no fixed method of designating our first editions”.

Herbert Jenkins were not much better, although they claimed that first editions were dated, reprints marked, and cheap editions undated – collectors of P. G. Wodehouse may know otherwise.  There were other publishers too who made claims that might raise an eyebrow.  J. W. Arrowsmith reported that fresh impressions of their books were clearly marked.  This may conceivably have been true in 1928, but it certainly was not back in the 1890s, when their best-sellers like Three Men in a Boat, Diary of a Nobody, and The Prisoner of Zenda first appeared.  All three – and especially the first – are distinctly problematic.  A. & C. Black were another to state that “subsequent editions and impressions are so noted” – a remark patently untrue at that time, as is witnessed by Colin Inman’s bibliography of their Colour Books and the later spin-offs.

Boutell’s enquiries obviously gave a number of publishers pause to think.  Some, like the Poetry Bookshop, promised to do better or to be more consistent in the future: W. & R. Chambers promised they would henceforth print the words “original edition” in the first impressions of their books.  They reiterated that this was their practice in two later editions of Boutell, so I assume that this was the case.  I can’t recall ever having seen a book so marked, but then I don’t appear to have had a book published by Chambers published later than 1896 pass through my hands for at least twenty years, so I can’t be sure.

boutell4The most entertaining entry comes from Frederick Warne & Co., who stated mysteriously, “We did at one time mark first editions of our publications with a private mark, but we are afraid the habit has been discontinued over a number of years now, and we have even lost trace of the private marks”.  Given the number of tiny variations in the Warne first editions of Beatrix Potter, I suspect this may be true, but on the whole, I think I would rather believe that this was a delicious hoax designed to give booksellers and book-collectors sleepless nights.  But does anyone know anything about these private marks? – do share.

[UPDATE] Peter Allen of Robert Temple Antiquarian Booksellers now writes to say that he thinks their private mark used in the 1880s and 1890s may have been an initialled shield stamped in blind on the back cover. He has generally found it only on books from their file library, one of which, at least, was apparently never published due (probably) to a copyright dispute – and in one instance on a copy of “Little Lord Fauntleroy” (1886) not from that source.

Perhaps oddly, in that this was a book for collectors published at the height of the issue-point mania of the time, none of the publishers appears to mention the ever-present possibility of different issues within that first impression.  Boutell would appear not to have asked the question.  His introduction in fact makes no real distinction between issue and impression.  The book offers no help in cases where, perhaps, the first impression appears in two or more different bindings, or variant dust-jackets, or where, say, some copies have cancelled leaves, but that said, in its quiet way, this was an invaluable book for collectors, at least in sorting the sheep from the goats in the publishing world.

What of H. S. Boutell himself? – a man in whose debt we genuinely remain.  Most striking of all is that he was just twenty-three years of age when he produced the book.  Born at the American Legation at Bern in Switzerland on 11th August 1905, Henry Sherman Boutell (1905-1931) – grandson of the American lawyer and diplomat of the same name – is recorded variously as writer, literary agent, and bibliographer.  He seems to have had some connection with the London Mercury and co-authored a piece on Robert Frost for The Colophon in 1930.  His name turns up in the passenger lists on a number of transatlantic crossings in the 1920s, as well as in Hawaii and New Zealand, sometimes in the company of his parents, the lawyer Roger Sherman Gates Boutell (1881-1962) and his wife Avis Burley (1883-1962), who had married in Chicago in 1904 – and sometimes too in the company of Anita Day Porterfield, née Day (1895-1972), an American literary agent ten years his senior, whom he was to marry in 1930, the year before his own shockingly early death in London on 23rd March 1931 at the age of twenty-five.

The later editions of 1937 (some authorities give 1939) and 1949, both published in the United States, were enlarged and expanded by Roger Boutell – I assume his younger brother, a second Roger Sherman Gates Boutell (1914-1993), but his father was still alive at this point, so I am not entirely sure.  A fourth edition, revised and enlarged by Wanda Underhill, appeared in 1965.  The whole corpus of accumulated material from the first three editions, together with material from their own 1977 A First Edition? Statements of Selected North American, British Commonwealth, and Irish Publishers, was absorbed into Zempel and Verkler’s First Editions, A Guide to Identification, which itself ran through four editions between 1984 and 2001.  Get a copy of any of these if you have a mind to.  Some of the more obscure methods of designating first editions employed by some of the more transient publishers are things of joy.  But better than that, these statements direct from the publishers take you deeper into the books they published and, in their waywardness and idiosyncrasy, make you relish them all the more.

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Designer Bookbinders Prize-Giving 2018

Sundrie Pieces - binding by Kaori Maki

Sundrie Pieces – binding by Kaori Maki. © Designer Bookbinders

Invariably a pleasure to go along to the annual Designer Bookbinders prize-giving evening.  Always interesting work to be seen and interesting people to talk to.  I had already been fortunate enough to have seen and been able to handle most of the books at the judging day a few weeks ago, which gives a certain advantage – books and bindings need to be handled to be fully appreciated.  But they can also look quite different when show-cased and put on display.  An example of that is this binding by Kaori Maki (Sundrie Pieces by George Herbert) which very deservedly won one of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association’s Highly Commended Certificates (judged by current President Angus O’Neill of the Omega Bookshop).

I hadn’t really noticed the binding on the judging day – I can’t actually recall seeing it (and may actually not have done) – but lit up and on show it is quite superb, giving at once both the impression of being carefully sculpted and of being fully alive.  You can see it along with other bindings from the competition at the St. Bride Foundation in Bride Lane, off Fleet Street, until 27th November.

The Illustrated Man - binding by Glenn Malkin. © Designer Bookbinders

The Illustrated Man – binding by Glenn Malkin. © Designer Bookbinders

Another of the ABA’s Highly Commended Certificates went to this equally deserving binding by Glenn Malkin on this year’s set book (The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury).  This one I had seen earlier and fully concurred with our President’s judgement.

The set books are supplied by the Folio Society and the Society’s own first prize for Best Set Book went to Mel Jefferson.

The Illustrated Man - binding by Mel Jefferson. © Designer Bookbinders

The Illustrated Man – binding by Mel Jefferson. © Designer Bookbinders

This is the book which then went on to win the Mansfield Medal for the Best Book in the entire competition.  Mel Jefferson also won the Harmatan Leather Prize for another quite different binding (you can see it, along with all the other prize-winners on the Designer Bookbinders website).

The runner-up for the Folio Society Prize went to Gillian Stewart for the binding below, which personally I liked just as much (a little more actually).

The Illustrated Man - binding by Gillian Stewart. © Designer Bookbinders.

The Illustrated Man – binding by Gillian Stewart. © Designer Bookbinders.

I was also rather taken by Miranda Kemp’s take on the set book, which won the St. Bride Foundation Prize for Finishing, although I seem to think it was being displayed the other way up at St. Bride’s last night.

But the binding I liked the best of all was Clare Bryan’s interpretation of The Illustrated Man.  I gave it my own Ash Rare Books Lettering Award for its imaginative use of letters and numbers, fully integrated into the overall design, and for its innovative use of technology – the design was somehow printed directly on to the leather in a technique I’m not sure I’ve come across in bookbinding before.  Not conventional tooling by any means, but innovative and beautifully executed.

The Illustrated Man - binding by Clare Bryan. © Designer Bookbinders.

The Illustrated Man – binding by Clare Bryan. © Designer Bookbinders.

And – of course – what you can’t possibly see here is the way the book comes alive as it slides out of its slip-case – as it slips past a diagonally striped transparent screen, the figures really do seem to flicker into life.  An immensely satisfying piece of work and – the whole binding extremely well made and perfect for the text inside – and, had I had a say in it, it would have been given a bigger prize still.

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W. L. Walton


© Getty Images, Science & Society Picture Library.

Given that his work is found in all the major collections and that it includes some of the most defining and memorable images of the nineteenth century, it is in a way surprising that no-one has ever thought to establish who the artist, engraver, and (above all) lithographer, W. L. Walton actually was.  Take, for example, this extraordinary predictive image of a flying-machine hovering over London published in 1843 – “The Ariel” – brainchild of William Henson and John Stringfellow, who had patented the design the previous year and intended their Aerial Steam Transit Company to become an airborne freight company.  There is a companion print of the flying-machine over the Egyptian pyramids.  Neither “The Ariel” nor the company ever actually got off the ground, but the partners were working along the right lines and their ideas lay behind the earliest successful aeroplanes.

Death of Albert

© Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images.

Amongst Walton’s other lithographs are impressive views of the Great Exhibition, powerful images of Balaklava and Sevastopol at the time of the Crimean War, and that high-point of Victorian mawkishness, “The Last Moments of H.R.H. the Prince Consort”, commemorating the death of Albert at Windsor Castle in December 1861.  There is too that most charming and popular of Victorian cricket prints, “The Cricket Match, Tonbridge School” – and, not least, the quite remarkable “International Contest Between Heenan and Sayers at Farnborough, on the 17th of April, 1860” – a depiction of a boxing match for the world championship between the great Tom Sayers and the American champion, John Heenan – the faces of 250 notables in the crowd all captured from photographs taken at the event and faithfully depicted by Walton.

Cricket at Tonbridge School

The Cricket Match, Tonbridge School. © the-saleroom.com

I wanted to establish something more about W. L. Walton for some work I am doing on the parish maps of London – one of his earliest and least-known works was his rendition of Anthony Portington’s map of St. Pancras published in 1829.  His first name is sometimes given as William (which is correct) and his dates are sometimes given as 1796-1872 (which are not) – apart from that nothing seems previously to have been established.  Scouring the internet produced not much more than the fact that someone on Etsy has stolen my entire description of an early Walton print word-for-word without any acknowledgement – the second example of such aggravating piracy in a week, although at least the other culprit had the decency to buy the book from me before regurgitating my description – again word-for-word and without acknowledgement. This is tiresome.

Extract from 1851 Census

© National Archives

Walton’s full name was in fact William Louis Walton, but what made him particularly difficult to trace was that he himself was not sure when or where he was born.  You can see in the extract from the 1851 Census Return, when he and his family were living on Homerton High Street, that his place of birth is indicated only by “n.k.” – not known – and although his age is given as thirty-six (suggesting a birth-date of about 1815, which can hardly be right as he was producing prints at least as early as 1827), this has clearly been an afterthought added in over another “n.k.”.  In 1861 he suggested a revised birth-date of about 1811 and that he had been born in Hackney, but although his age remained consistent with that in 1871, his place of birth was once more recorded as unknown.

Sayers v Heenan 1860

The International Contest Between Heenan and Sayers at Farnborough, on the 17th of April, 1860. © Royal Collection Trust, RCIN 775144.

At the time of his marriage to Sophia Robinson Dent (1824-1907), the daughter of a corn-factor, at St. Olave, Hart Street, on 1st July 1843, his father’s name was said to be Joseph (occupation naval officer), so I suspect that in reality he was the William Walton born on the 18th June 1808, son of Joseph and Jane Walton, who was baptised at St. Matthew, Bethnal Green (near enough to Hackney), on the 17th July 1808 – this is a date which fits much better with his recorded career.

There is no record of his having used the middle name Louis early in life and I rather think that he simply adopted it at some point, perhaps in homage to that great lithographic artist Louis Haghe (1806-1885), whom he must have known through their mutual close connections with the foremost lithographic printers of the period, William Day and Charles Joseph Hullmandel.  Similarities in style are readily seen and I rather think that Haghe was perhaps Walton’s mentor, which further leads to the thought that Walton could well have been related to his contemporary, Joseph Fowell Walton, who became Hullmandel’s partner in the 1840s.

As for the rest of the record of his life, William Louis Walton (1808?-1879) exhibited landscapes at the Royal Society of British Artists 1837-1840 and at the Royal Academy in 1855.  He had three daughters – Sophia Lucy Walton, later Sharpe (1843-1920), Edith Berengaria Constance Walton, later Carr (1855-1940), and Isabel or Isabella Rowena Walton, born in Kingston, Surrey, in 1858, but whom I have been unable to trace beyond 1871.

Houses in Torriano Avenue

Houses in Torriano Avenue / Hampshire Street, NW5 cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Mike Quinn – geograph.org.uk/p/1404650

Walton lived the peripatetic life of an artist, living at various time in every quarter of London – from Hammersmith in the west, Kennington in the south, Homerton in the east, and Kentish Town in the north.  One address in particular stood out – No. 1 Torriano Avenue, Kentish Town, where he and his family were living in the early 1860s.  It was an address which sounded vaguely familiar.  It took me a little while to recall the connection – but strangely, unaccountably, remarkably – this was the very same house occupied either side of 1900 by the sisters Laetitia Worms, Rosetta Worms, Emily Worms, Eliza Worms and Hannah Worms.  All five of the sisters were originally involved in running their own business in manufacturing fancy items made of wool – baby-boots, dresses for children, etc., – although by 1901 only Emily (the crochet expert) was still plying that trade.  The eldest sister, Laetitia, deaf and dumb since birth, had retired, Rosetta was running the house although doubling as a pianist, for the younger sisters were now running a music and dance academy from the house, with Eliza the music-teacher and Hannah the dance-instructor.  And, yes – they were my second cousins (albeit four times removed) – and no, I can’t knit, sing, or dance.

Family digression aside, William Louis Walton, having lived to see at least two daughters married, living once more in Torriano Avenue, but now at No. 119, died on the 14th May 1879.  Probate on a somewhat meagre estate for such a versatile, gifted and industrious man – it was valued at under £200 – was granted to his widow on the 7th August 1879. A man who deserves rather better from posterity.


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Victorian Opulence

Segg's London & Fashionable Resorts 1888I acquired a nineteenth-century London guide-book a few weeks ago – nothing much unusual in that.  Something I have been doing routinely, almost reflexively, for more years than any of us care to remember.  What was unusual was that it was not one I had ever come across before, at least to the best of my recollection (although these days my recollection is becoming as frayed at the edges as most of my shirts).  Unusual too, in that I had never come across the publisher before – and, to pass on a tip given to me by an old-time bookseller many years ago – while it’s by no means unusual to come across a previously unknown author or title, if you come across a previously unencountered London publisher (at least in your regular field), then the book is very likely a rare one.

The guide-book is called “London and Fashionable Resorts, (Illustrated): A Complete Guide to the Places of Amusement, Objects of Interest, Parks, Clubs, Markets, Docks, Leading Hotels, and also a Directory, in Concise Form, of First Class Reliable Houses in the Various Branches of Trade” – published by J. P. Segg & Co. of Regent Street in 1888, and claiming to be in its seventeenth year of publication.  What is even more unusual about it is its size – it’s usually a prerequisite of a guidebook that even if not fully pocketable it should at least be readily portable – but this is large (elephant octavo) – and it is heavy – elaborate cloth gilt over thick bevelled boards, all edges gilt, and 240 pages of creamy paper.

The text printed throughout in purple and gold, as if designed for visiting emperors, this is clearly a guide-book for those for whom travelling light would have been unthinkable.  We are in a world of indulgence, a world of footmen and flunkies.  Priced at a guinea – that’s over £100 in today’s terms, nearer £500 relative to average earnings – this is a guide-book for the rich and privileged.

Remington Standard Type-Writer 1888Beyond the polychromatic title-page, there are indices to the “business announcements” – advertisements for the exclusive from silk to champagne – Madame Clarisse of Park Lane for the “prettiest children’s dresses in London” and afternoon tea; Madame Kerswell of Grosvenor Street, court dressmaker; Litsica, Marx & Co. of the Strand for your cigarettes; E. M. Reilly & Co. of London and Paris for your guns and ammunition – and even that ultimate status symbol in 1888 –  an imported Remington type-writer – “No more writer’s cramp! No more round shoulders! No more late hours! No more delayed correspondence! No more illegible letters!” – sole London office, Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict of Gracechurch Street (you would, of course, I imagine, have had a personal assistant to work it for you).

Madame LeckyThere follows a more or less standard piece on London and its principal thoroughfares and buildings, illustrated with purple wood-engravings – all routine enough, although the wildly idiosyncratic (and not wholly accurate) six-page timeline of London history had me smiling.  Then the commercial business of the guide really begins – editorial write-ups in glowing terms of the of the dozen or so “leading houses” (principally, but not exclusively, those who had paid out for a full-page advertisement) – Piesse & Lubin of New Bond Street for their exquisite perfumes; Mrs E. Billinghay Hart of Belgravia for her corsets; Messrs Barkentin & Krall of Regent Street (coincidentally occupying the ground floor of the publisher’s office) for gold and jewels; Arthur Tooth & Sons of the Haymarket for works of art; J. H. Dallmayer of Bloomsbury for telescopes, etc.

Ellen TerryNext comes a splendid “Album of Operatic, Dramatic, and Musical Celebrities” – fifteen portraits – Ellen Terry, Adelina Patti, Madame Albani, Lily Langtry, all the big stars of the day – backed up by pages of advertisements for the theatres. The railways feature next, but we are not talking here about day-trips to the seaside – the advertisements are for glamorous international travel – to Paris and beyond, via Dover and Calais; or by “the most picturesque route” via Newhaven, Dieppe or Rouen; or from Liverpool Street with the Great Eastern via Harwich and Antwerp or Rotterdam.  And not just by train, there are luxury steamships sailing to every port in the world. But we are still in London for the moment – and here are the best hotels: a double-page spread for the Langham; single pages for the Charing Cross Hotel (under entirely new management); the Westminster Palace; the South Kensington; Rawlings’s of Jermyn Street; Brown’s of Dover Street, and half a dozen more.

Advertisement for J. P. Segg & Co. 1888The final third of the book is a separate section on the “fashionable resorts” outside London – Brighton, Bournemouth, Eastbourne, Hastings and dozens more, interspersed with advertisements for palatial hotels across the country, but it is in the publisher’s own advertisements that we can see the reality of the publication: J. P. Segg & Co. ran a free postal advice service, perhaps something like a Victorian Trivago or TripAdvisor, but were also advertising contractors for the hotel trade – offering to undertake “the whole of their advertising – in journals, hotels, railway stations, etc., etc. Particulars on application”.

No surprise to find that Segg also published a parallel guide, virtually identical in format, called “The Hotels of Europe, America, Asia, Australasia & Africa : With Maps and Railway and Steamship Routes” – “a marvel of publishing skill and artistic beauty—nothing more can be said of it save that it stands unique” (Scots Magazine, 1st October 1894).  I shall return to the mysterious John Philip Segg in a moment, but a number of the wood-engraved illustrations are signed in the block as having been engraved by Henry Herbert, which takes us back to the earliest editions of both these guides, published back in the 1870s by that same Henry Herbert – Segg had only taken them over in the mid-1880s.

Lyceum TheatreThe earliest edition of the London guide was published by Herbert in 1872 under a slightly different title (“London. A Complete Guide to the Leading Hotels, Places of Amusement …”).  The dark green binding is less elaborate, but still richly gilt, the text slimmer at 180 pages, but the price and format are the same – each page with a charming chromolithographic border in gold and colours, the emphasis already on luxury and conspicuous consumption.  Despite the greater prominence given to hotels in the title, only seven are actually featured (with only the Langham appearing in both editions – fashions change fast in this world).  Herbert’s emphasis was rather more on the retail shops, with advertisements for silk, chandeliers, chronometers, damask table linen, portmanteaus, hats, jewellery, kid gloves, perfumes, cut-glass, ivory-backed brushes, merino socks, whips, cigars, carriages, oriental carpets, Elliott & Fry’s Talbotype Gallery for photography (with a specimen photograph of a simpering blonde), and boots and shoes “as worn by the Princess of Wales” from Gundry & Sons of Soho Square.

Anchor LineA number of the advertisements, including that placed by “The Graphic” magazine, address themselves particularly to American visitors – and Henry Herbert was himself running an “American Agency” – free advice on all matters from his office in Charterhouse Buildings and “goods of all descriptions purchased and shipped on moderate commission”.  The map of London was supplied by Edward Stanford and most of the illustrations of London buildings in the guide section are two-to-a-page steel engravings by J. T. Wood of the Strand (for whom see this earlier post).  They look a little untidy, out of place, and definitely outmoded in an otherwise slickly produced exercise in chromolithography and were soon abandoned in subsequent editions.

Henry HerbertWhether Henry Jacob Herbert (1838-1884) genuinely engraved his own replacement engravings I somehow doubt, although the signatures in the blocks are clear enough.  He had no background in engraving, or even in publishing.  He was the son of a comfortably-off Nottingham lace manufacturer and that was originally his own occupation until he left the family business at the age of twenty-five.  Now living in London, he was described somewhat nebulously as a manufacturer and foreign merchant in 1871, before he began his foray into top-end publishing the following year.  The London guide-book was followed by the international hotel guide in 1874, originally confined to the hotels of Europe.

Hoses of Parliament, engraved by Henry HerbertHerbert’s only other publication, as far as I can make out, was “Herbert’s Metropolitan Hand-Book for Railways, Tramways, Omnibuses, River Steamboats, and Cab Fares”, published from 1875 onwards, illustrated with maps from Bradshaw and Bartholomew, later becoming “Sights of London Illustrated: and Metropolitan Handbook for Railways”.  This was pitched at completely the opposite end of the market – a cheap and entirely pocketable guide to public transport – “This handbook will be of the greatest service … correct in detail, well arranged, and of a very handy size, whilst its moderate price brings it within the reach of nearly everyone, being as cheap an eighteenpennyworth of the kind as has ever been offered to the public” (Hampshire Advertiser, 20th February 1875).

Whether Herbert had judged the market correctly at either end of the spectrum, I rather doubt. All three of his publications seem to be inordinately scarce.  I imagine it was all financed on inherited money, but however that may be, time for Herbert was running out.  After several years of ill-health, medical complications, and radical surgery – by now also troubled with mounting business and financial worries – Herbert committed a painful and long-drawn-out suicide at his home in Sheen Park, Richmond, by drinking the best part a bottle of carbolic acid. A harrowing account of the inquest was published in the “Surrey Comet”, Saturday 12th January 1884.

Edwards' Royal Cambridge HotelPublication of the two large guides was then taken over by J. P. Segg & Co., which brought a puzzle, because I could find no trace of any real person of the name of John Philip Segg.  As it turned out, revealed in reports of a bankruptcy hearing in 1886, this was the trading name of one George Eustace Skliros, a Greek dentist who had been practicing in London since at least 1878.  Skliros had presumably overstretched himself in taking on and financing the guides, with premises in both Bouverie Street for the printing and Regent Street for the administration.  He had also just started a new publication called “Future Careers for our Sons and Daughters at Home and Abroad”.  The first part of that had appeared in late 1885, was very well received by the press, and had some distinguished writers, including the printer and journalist Emily Faithfull on “Employment for Women”. This appears not to have survived his bankruptcy, but the guides did and Skliros was soon released from his obligations and resumed their publication.


Queens Hotel, EastbourneQuite why a Greek dentist moved sideways into the field of luxury guide-books, I have no idea, because George Eustace Skliros took his dentistry very seriously.  He continued to practice in the Segg offices in Regent Street and as late as 1915 was sharing those offices with two other dentists.  He became the publisher of the “British Journal of Dental Science” for a number of years, and if we look at the other publications of J. P. Segg & Co. – this is what the imprint is best known for – they are all books on dentistry: Richard Denison Pedley’s “The Teeth of Pauper Children”, “The Diseases of Children’s Teeth”, and “The Hygiene of the Mouth”; Edmund Roughton’s “Oral Surgery” and “General Surgery and Pathology for Dentists”; Thomas Edward Constant’s “How to Give Gas. With a Detailed Description of the Apparatus Employed”; a translation of Nathaniel Feuer’s “The Relation between Affections of the Teeth and of the Eyes”; George Cunningham’s “Defective Personal Hygiene as it Affects the Teeth”; Harry Rose’s “Dental Mechanics” and “Vulcanite Work”; Sidney Spokes’ “The Care of the Teeth during School Life”, etc.

Skliros discontinued publishing the guide-books after 1903 – the final edition of the London guide in that year retains most of the earlier features, but the London section has contracted in favour of the other fashionable resorts, the crisp wood-engraved portraits of the celebrities have largely been replaced by not wholly satisfactory blurry photographs, and beyond the theatre and hotel advertising there is very little else. It was an era which had probably come to an end.

Skliros himself continued his agency work, becoming also a shipping agent and import-export wholesaler. In 1905 J. P. Segg & Co. won the contract to print the elaborate commemorative stamps for the following year’s Olympic Games in Athens – highly prized by philatelists, I believe.  Always in the vanguard of technology – Skliros had been one of the first men in London to own a telephone back in the 1880s – and in yet another inexplicable departure from dentistry, Skliros opened a “cinematograph theatre” in Rotherhithe – he got into trouble with the authorities in 1911 for showing films on a Sunday.

In 1916, he patented a device for alleviating back-pain – some kind of hot-water bottle strapped to the lower back – and there was also the curious case of the extortion trial at Marlborough Street in 1910, where Skliros stood accused of having tried to blackmail the former Greek Minister in London, Demetrius Metaxas, over some money alleged to be owing.  A trial perhaps most notable for the fact that Metaxas was represented by the brilliant and mercurial F. E. Smith – although even this greatest of barristers couldn’t get the charge to stick – but that is perhaps a story for another day.

Skliros remained registered as a dentist until 1920 and continued to be listed in London telephone directories until 1924, but then apparently returned to Greece, where he is reported to have died at Lefkas in or about 1932.  He had given his age as forty on the 1891 Census, but the same undocumented source for his death suggests that he may have been some ten years older. In either event, it was a life fully lived and we can be grateful to both him and his unfortunate predecessor, Henry Herbert – two unconventional outsiders – for preserving these glimpses into a forgotten world of Victorian opulence.

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