Wilmarth Lewis—book collector extraordinaire

Strawberry Hill catalogue 1842Found in a copy of John O’London’s Weekly for 18th April 1952 is a review of Collector’s Progress by Wilmarth Lewis ( 1895 – 1979) in which the author reveals that the combination of wealth and a collector’s obsession brought about the greatest collection of manuscripts relating to Horace Walpole in the world.

In his book Lewis revealed that he had always been a born collector. At the age of five he collected house flies in a discarded cigar box. A year later he had turned to shells. Stamps, coins and butterflies followed. Eventually, he began to collect books, starting with standard works and moving on to first editions. On the way to Europe by ship to fight in the First World War he met John Masefield, who introduced him to the writings of Horace Walpole. As a result of this meeting he collected a complete set of Masefield first editions. In 1923, at the age of 28 he had $5,000 a year (a large sum in those days) to spend on books. He was an enthusiast for the eighteenth century, but had not yet decided which particular eighteenth century writer to collect. Eventually, in 1923,after buying in London a copy of Jesse’s George Selwyn and his Contemporaries annotated by the bluestocking Lady Louisa Stuart, he returned to Horace Walpole, vowing to assemble the finest collection of Walpoliana– mainly letters and Strawberry Hill books– in the world. In 1952 he described his Library thus: Continue reading

A new kind of bookshop in 1930s New York City

Drew elizabeth pic 001Discovered in a copy of The Publisher’s Weekly for March 22nd 1930 is this feature by John D. Stannard on a New York bookshop that aimed, with its decorations and objets d’art, to emulate the comfort and charm of a private library.

Elizabeth Drew, a graduate of Vassar College and her ‘ associate’ , the artist Jessie Leach Rector, opened their (unnamed) shop on 43 East 60th Street in September, 1929, just a few weeks before the Wall Street Crash. Designed to be an antidote to the ‘ graceless ‘stores that most booklovers had become used to, the couple had created a ‘ bookish background’ in which old furniture and rare objects of art competed with books for the attention of customers.

Everything in the shop was for sale, including the ‘ lamps, lampshades, old prints and watercolours, framed and unframed mirrors, screens and tables’ provided by Rector, who specialised in interior decoration, and the ‘primitive Indian pottery and Spanish colonial silver which Drew imported from Peru. Drew emphasised that although her store was sophisticated, had an exclusive list of patrons, and sold old and rare books, including modern first editions and fine bindings, her ideal customer was the ‘middle-class ‘type who travelled into town on the subway.

A key innovation devised by Drew was the monthly review of new books in the fields of fiction, biography, essays, Book-of-the Month, Literary Guild, Crime Club and best sellers, which was sent out to a hand picked 6,000 names, half of whom came from friends of the two booksellers, and which bore the testimonial ‘ Recommended by Elizabeth Drew’. In fact, the reviews came not only from Drew herself, but by these friends, who signed their work. Continue reading

One foot in the grave at 44 !

12796501More heart-warming advice from Real Life Problems and their Solution (1938) by the cheery R Edynbry.

‘I am just forty-four years and beginning to feel that real middle age is just around the corner. I don’t mix much with other men and never talk over my symptoms with anybody. But I often speculate as to what may be in store for me in the way of health and sickness. I should be glad if you would tell me some general symptoms of middle age so that should experience them in the coming years I should not be taken by surprise.’

Changes take place so slowly in middle age that it is often difficult to compare conditions from one year to another. The trend of physical life is now downwards, however, gradually, and whether it will be hurried or delayed depends upon the constitution and manner of living. As a rule it becomes more difficult now to plan and carry out personal schemes, the success of which depends upon quick movement and energy. The healthy flush of youth shown in the complexion, gives place to a certain pallor, except when blood pressure gives a florid appearance. Greyness and some degree of baldness begin to show. There may be a bagginess under the eyes and wrinkles at the outer corners. Hearing may not be so keen as formerly and glasses are generally necessarily for reading small print.

Perhaps the most noticeable feature of middle age is the layer of abdominal fat and the general sagging of the body. Unless increasing care is paid to the diet, dyspepsia may give trouble, and various forms of nervous irritability draw attention to the fact that something is wrong. Worry about the physical or economic situation often causes insomnia at this time. The sex life needs careful regulation and all emotional strain should be avoided as far as possible. The sensible man—who should be his own doctor to some extent in middle age—should know that one of the secrets of health and happiness at this period lies in the simplification of one’s needs and demands. Less food and plainer food; less worry because of fewer ambitions and desires; less responsibility because nothing is undertaken without reasonable hope of accomplishment. [RR]

 

George Sims and espionage

img_2750Found in a thriller by George Sims (1923 -1999) an interesting letter about the book. Sims was a successful and much admired dealer in rare books, something of a poet and a novelist with several of his books being about the book trade (bibliomysteries.) This book Who is Cato? (Macmillan, London 1981) actually has an art dealer, one William Marshall (rich but disillusioned), as its hero. He becomes involved in espionage through his connection to  ‘Intelligence’ in WW2 and finds himself working against the KGB many years later while on holiday in Majorca…

The letter from Sims to a woman friend, who ran a bookshop, is on headed notepaper from his cottage ‘Peacocks’ in Hurst, Berkshire. It reads:

Many thanks for your helpful cheering letter. I was glad to have it. Probably I’ve told you that when Cato was published we were in America and our daughter phoned to say that there had been a mysterious burglary at our cottage in which nothing was taken. When I came back I was puzzled as to how an entry was made into our cottage and my office; nothing was missing not even some £10 notes in the office drawer… exactly like the burglary which took place at William Marshall’s cottage near Hambleden!!

Obviously someone thought I knew more than I did. I was to blame as I had signed the official secrets document when I was at the SCU, and there was quite a deal of fact mixed with the fiction. Love George.

The S.CU. ‘Special Communications Units’ were outstations of S.I.S (‘Special Intelligence Services’) involved mostly with radio communications. They were disbanded in 1946. Sims, known to be irascible, appears quite philosophic about this incident. His books are collected, especially the bibliomysteries, also his excellent and still mouthwatering catalogues

500 Books with Interesting Inscriptions

img_2706Found – a 1982 book collector’s catalogue from George S Macmanus of Philadelphia 500 Books with Interesting Inscriptions. Mostly modern American and British literature, it has many direct signed presentation from the authors and  many association copies. There are the usual authors who are known to have signed a lot – Galsworthy, Masefield, John Drinkwater, Witter Bynner etc., but also uncommon signers like the great WW1 poet Isaac Rosenberg-  a copy of his play Moses signed shortly before his death, a modest condition copy at $2500. There are some inscriptions whose significance is hard to fathom- Norman Douglas’s In the Beginning inscribed by him to the effete (and highly collectable)  novelist Reginald Turner “To Reggie hoping he won’t follow Symira’s example in ‘every’ respect, from Norman Douglas.” Great condition $375. There are several Aldous Huxley 1920s novels inscribed to Anita Loos with minor condition problems in the $300 range and several Swinburne presentations at $1000 inscribed to the artist Burne-Jones. A decent buy at $1750  is George Orwells Eton leaving present. We have had dozens of these through over the years. Each boy was given a current smart cream-coloured edition of Poems by Thomas Gray. The presentation leaf reads: ‘Hunc Librum Erico A Blair’ and it is signed by the master ‘Cyrillus’ Alington. Potentially these ‘leaving present’ books exist for Cyril Connolly, Brian Howard, Aldous Huxley, Harold Acton, Henry Green and, possibly more valuable than even Orwell, Ian Fleming. Continue reading

Bishop Bury: a 14th century bibliomaniac

philobiblion-pic-001Bishop Bury of Durham spent so much money on books that he lived in dire poverty and debt and when he died all that could be found to cover his corpse was some underwear belonging to his servant.

The facts regarding his library are mind blowing. According to W.M. Dickie, who wrote a paper on Bury and his magnum opus , the Philobiblon, in The Book Handbook (1949), he had more books than any bishop in England. Five wagons carried them away, which suggests that the number of volumes was more than 1,500. This compares with the Sorbonne’s 1,722 in 1338, the 380 volumes at Peterhouse College, Cambridge, in 1418 and the 122 housed in the University Library there in 1424.

In his Philobiblon Bury writes of wishing to found a college in Oxford and to endow it with his library, but no college is named. Some historians have maintained that the library was bequeathed to Durham College, but there is no evidence that the college received any such endowment. The sad truth is that this wonderful library was probably broken up and sold off to pay Bury’s huge debts.

The Philobiblion is revealing as to how many of Bury’s books were acquired:

“We were reported to burn with such desire for books, especially for old ones, that it was more easy for any man to gain our favour by means of books than of money. Wherefore since support by the goodness of the aforesaid Prince (Edward III)…we were able to requite a man, well or ill, to benefit or injure mightily great as well as small, there flowed in instead of presents and guerdons, and instead of gifts and jewels, soiled tracts and battered codices, gladsome alike to our eye and heart…In good will we strove so to forward their affairs ( the affairs of donors of books) that gain accrued to them, while justice suffered no disparagement”

In this way Bury, when Keeper of the Privy Seal, was given four books, namely Terence, Vergil, Quintilian and Jerome against Rufinus by Richard de Wallingford, Abbot of St Albans, who also sold to Bury for fifty pounds of silver, thirty-two other books, of which he gave fifteen to the refectory and ten to the kitchen (presumably at Westminster Abbey), an act which was later condemned by Thomas Walsingham, former scriptorarius at the Abbey. The Abbot’s motivation in securing such an astonishing bargain for Bury was to promote the interests of his monastery at Court and indeed Bury helped him secure a royal charter giving the Abbot the exceptional right of imprisoning excommunicated persons. When Bury became Bishop of Durham in a fit of remorse he restored some of the books to St Albans. And following his death, Wallingford’s successor at the Abbey secured other volumes at a discounted price from Bury’s executors. One of these, John of Salisbury’s Policraticus—now in the British Museum—bears an inscription recording its sale to Bury and its repurchase in 1346 from his executors. Only two other manuscripts are known to have belonged to Bury. One is in the British Museum and the other is in the Bodleian. Both are from St Albans. Continue reading

Book prices in 1909 and 2016

It is interesting to see how the values of certain books have risenpeel-somaliland
—sometimes amazingly—or fallen— in real terms (taking inflation into account)over a long period. The following twelve titles, advertised for sale at a discount in a full page advert taken out by Edward Baker’s Great Bookshop in John Bright Street, Birmingham, in an issue of the Bookman for June 1909, represent a selection of some of those works that have risen most in value by today’s standards.
Because the bookseller of 1909 describes them as ‘ in new condition’, the retail values sampled from Abebooks today are for those books graded as being in very good or excellent condition. In all cases the 1909 discounted prices are recorded side-by-side with those taken from Abebooks.

Inigo Triggs, Art of Garden Design in Italy (1906)       21s.                                £480

Rev. J.M.Bacon, The Dominion of the Air (1902)        2s.                                    £92

Edward Clodd, Tom Tit Tot (1898)                               2s.                                     £87

Complete Works of Edward Fitzgerald                     £3 3s.                                 £100

Octave Uzanne, Fashions in Paris (1901)                   6s.6d.                             £180

R.N.Hall, Great Zimbabwe (1905)                             6s.6d.                               £150

Morrison’s Lonely Summer in Kashmir (1904)         4s 6d                               £167

A.E.Waite(ed), Hermetic and Alchemical Writings   21s.                                  £1,046

of Paracelsus the Great (1894)

C.V.A Peel, Somaliland (1900)                                   4s                                     £2,092

Pitt-Rivers, Antique Works of Art from Benin (1900) 5s.                                         £95

Sweet and Knox, On an Mexican Mustang through Texas (1905) 3s.                  £125

Schilling, In Wildest Africa (1907)                             12s.                                    £343

[R.M.Healey]

A note on Brunsdon Yapp

img_2508Found in The Biology of Space Travel (London, 1961)— a typed note on the biologist Brunsdon Yapp. It was dated 2005 and initially refers to Yapp’s bookplate. There is a short entry for him at Wikipedia but this fills out the existing info on this excellent human being.

Brunsdon Yapp’s father came from Hereford to Bristol for the sake of his family’s education, and his two daughters went to Bristol University. William Brunsdon Yapp went to Bristol Grammar School before going to Downing. Christened William and known at home as Billy, he preferred as an undergraduate to be called Brunsdon, inviting friends to call him Brunny. Brunsdon was his mother’s maiden name, but I think his choice was dictated more by a desire to be different than by any desire to give particular credit to his mother. He read Natural Sciences, taking biological options. He went on to teach at Haileybury and Manchester Grammar before being appointed secretary to Oxford Local Examination Boards. Then he became a lecturer, subsequently a senior lecturer at Birmingham University. Service on the National Parks Commission won him the OBE. He was a member of both the Athenaeum and the RAC, the London club that is, not just the roadside motoring organisation.

‘An Introduction of Animal Physiology’ was, I fancy, the book that won him his appointment at Birmingham, and he prepared a series of revisions of Borradaile’s Manual of Elementary Zoology, a more advanced work than its title suggests. Published after his retirement, his ‘Birds in Mediaeval Manuscripts’ was a significant contribution to antiquarian studies. In 1962 Yapp’s ‘Birds and Woodlands’ was published by Oxford University Press. He regarded it his most important scientific work. The frontispiece is C. E. Tunnicliffe’s picture of ‘Cock Pied Flycatchers in Sessile Oak’, which I understand was specially commissioned. It was also used, on a green background, on the dust jacket, and Yapp later adopted it as his bookplate. I have not seen it in publications about Tunnicliffe, though I have not looked very hard. Continue reading

Barry Ono—collector extraordinaire

barry-ono-pic-001Barry Ono (1876 – 1941 ) was both a comic ( in the Music Halls) and a collector of comics. This photo from the Collector’s Miscellany of August 1936 shows him lecturing at the ‘Barry Ono Penny Dreadful Exhibit ‘at Selfridge’s Hobbies Exhibition.

In a short article for the same magazine a trawl by Ono through the ‘ For Sale ‘ and ‘Exchange’ adverts in the Boy’s Standard of the 1880s recalls his own early triumphs as an avid collector of Penny Dreadfuls.

“There was a little shop in the Waterloo Road, London, that had stacks and stacks of the Chas. Fox publications when that firm passed out, 6d a vol. mint in wraps. “Spring Heeled Jack”, “Sweeny Todd” , “Turnpike Dick” and all the lot, plus quarterly divisions in wrappers of the Boy’s Standard, Boy’s Leisure, and Boy’s Champion at 3d each. At another second hand shop, also in the Waterloo Road, a shilling used to be my limit for such items as “The Boy Detective, or The Crimes of London”, “Gentleman Clifford”, etc, etc. Seems incredible now, and all a fantastic dream. Yes, my £20 would have gone quite a long way then, wouldn’t it? And many now completely unknown and unheard of rarities would have been saved. Well, since I acquired belated wisdom, many a tattered only derelict have I rescued from that oblivion it was hastening to, midst unfeeling and heedless vandals, carefully have I doctored it, gorgeous has been the half-calf overcoat in which I have had it arrayed, and now a more careful posterity I am thinking will least honour it on my demise as ‘Curiosa’. I am thinking I have been the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ of the ‘bloods’, rescuing not from the guillotine, but from the flames and the dust bin. Continue reading

The 1971 Bookbang—a damp squib?

The_Sacred_Mushroom_and_the_Cross_coverHalfway through its run Guardian journalist Alex Hamilton visited the much vaunted Book Bang (see earlier jot)  in Bedford Square and discovered many disappointed people . One of these ( presumably a writer ) had scrawled on a litter-bin: ‘ Publishers are rich, writers poor, people poorer’. A bookshop owner called Eddie Pond complained about paying good money to be bombarded with promotional shows. There was much else to complain about, according to Hamilton:

‘You can’t see work from the private presses, because their shows start elsewhere on Monday. You can’t be drawn by Felix Topolski for £3 because he has now gone back to his studio under the arches. You can’t see underground gigs because the Bedford Settled Estate would not permit a concrete base to be sunk in their turf…You can’t smoke in the tents. You can’t drink till six, because the square businessmen objected to the echoes of saturnalia they caught on the breeze…You can’t see many heads of the publishing industry, because they have bigger fish to fry, and didn’t all want the Bookbang in the first place…’

In fact, so lukewarm were the bigger publishers that two of them underwrote the Bookbang to a derisory extent—Penguin and Weidenfeld both donated a measly £250. Nor did the book industry help much with staffing. Those few staffers who did arrive were grossly overworked. A frustrated Bookbang supreme Martyn Goff was quite willing to admit to Hamilton that ‘of all the publishers who promised me help, only one turned up’. Continue reading

Maundy Gregory – a St John’s Wood Gatsby

IMG_1829Found in a 1955 Punch – a review by the novelist Anthony Powell of Honours for Sale. The Strange Story of Maundy Gregory. (Gerald Macmillan, London: Richards Press 1954). Maundy Gregory had in the 1920s what amounted to a licence to print money. He sold honours, a profession that made a comeback in the Blair years. For £10,000 (about $1 million now) he could get you an earldom; knighthoods were a bit cheaper. You could, in fact, sign a cheque to him in your expected new name–only cashable when you assumed the title. He liked rare books, especially the works of the fantastical Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo.) In some cases (according to AJA Symons in Quest for Corvo) he would pay his agents to track down supposedly unfindable books, money no object. He had a mansion in St John’s Wood which later became the world famous Beatle’s recording studio.

Powell calls him an ‘honours tout’, a ‘real life Gatsby’ and ‘a mad aspect of the 1920s incarnate’. He suggests that anyone  ‘who enjoys a good laugh’ should read the list of  guests at his Derby Eve Dinner at his own club ‘The Ambassador’s.’ Something of a ‘sausage fest’ (i.e. no women) but, as Powell says, Gregory certainly knew how to ‘bring them in.’  The author of the book, Gerald Macmillan, may  be exaggerating when he says it was the most distinguished gathering ever held…

List of guests at Ambassador Derby Eve Dinner, held on June 2, 1931.

Major-General J. E. B. Seely (in the Chair), Sir Austen Chamberlain, Mr. Winston Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, Mr. J. H. Thomas, the Duke of Sutherland, Viscount Craigavon, the Marquess of Reading, Major-General the Earl of Scarborough, Sir John Simon, Lord Southborough, Viscount Elibank, Mr. J. Maundy Gregory, Lord Jessel, Mr. Ralph E. Harwood, Earl Winterton, Lord Queenborough, Lord Bayford, Mr. W. Dudley Ward, Lord Plender, Marquis del Moral, Lieutenant-Commander Sir Warden Chilcott. Continue reading

Bookish mnemonics – the 5 D’s and the 4 R’s

bookridepile-1Someone once categorised the 5 reasons for selling books thus – Death, Divorce, Debt, Disinterest and Displacement (the “5 D’s”). The last refers to people moving houses, a very common reason. One could add ‘Disease’- we were once called to a house in Battersea where a man was selling every single book he possessed because he had become allergic to the paper in them. Dotage could also be added but this is usually covered by displacement…Duplication is another reason— for example, marriage can occasion the turfing out of a lot of duplicated books, especially when two great collections are amalgamated. We were privileged to be called to the Notting Hill mansion of Margaret Drabble and Michael Holroyd soon after their marriage. Divorce can be problematic in the division of books and occasionally lawyers become involved. In the days of CDs this was seldom a problem except one of clashes of taste.

In deciding which books to sell or get rid of the “4 R’s” mnemonic acronym can be of use.  Read, Revere, Reference, Riches. It is slightly  more contrived than the 5 D’s but is a very good test to use when slimming down a book collection. All bases are covered. Of each book ask the question:

Are you  going to Read or re-read it?

Do you love or Revere the book?

Could the book be of use (Reference)?

Is the book going to increase in value and eventually yield Riches?

If yes to any of the above -keep the book, if no to all -toss it.

A bookseller meets T.E. Lawrence

IMG_0006Found among  the books in the working library of the actor Peter O’Toole (1932 – 2013)  his copy of Letters of T.E. Lawrence (Readers Union, 1941.) O’Toole had surprisingly few books on or by Lawrence considering that this  was probably his greatest role and the film that made him an international star. In the Reader’s Union edition was loosely inserted  a one page wartime broadsheet keeping members of the book club informed about new publications. It was from an address at Wray Common, Reigate. This broadsheet / flier was dated February 1941and  has a good piece (“T.E.”) on Lawrence by his friend and bookseller  K.W. Marshall.

I have more reason to feel grateful to T.E. Lawrence than most booksellers. When I was unemployed years ago, he loaned me Clouds Hill his Dorset cottage, where I stayed for just over three months. Later, my wife and I spent a honeymoon holiday there. On my first  visit I was in “possession” of the cottage, and Lawrence would ask permission to stay the night on the infrequent occasions that he managed to pay a visit. He was very proud of the cottage and spent some considerable effort and time in gradually planning a comfortable retreat for his retirement. Unfortunately, when he died he had not enjoyed Clouds Hill for as long a period as I had; and during his short term of possession he was harassed by news reporters. Continue reading

A warning for all collectors of manuscripts

Boerhaave picA snippet featured in the miscellany Medley dated October 1936 comes from ‘Ripley’ in the Sunday Express. It concerns the famous Dutch physician Dr Herman Boerhaave (1668 – 1738), ‘founder of clinical teaching’ and called by some ‘The father of physiology’:

“When he died his effects were sold by auction, and among his manuscripts was a sealed book for which there was a heated scramble. It was sold for £2,000 in gold, and when opened was found to contain all blank pages except one on which the doctor had written:

 “Keep your head cold —your feet warm, and you’ll make the best doctor poor “

I wonder if there are similar instances of bibliomaniacs fighting at auction for a particular sealed manuscript or printed book with annotations by an eminent, and perhaps controversial, person. Information welcome.

[R.M.Healey]

At the Bookshop 1822 and 2016

Retrieved from our old Bookride site – this not unamusing extract from an 1820s English/ French conversation manual.  It gives an interesting insight into a vanished world. It is followed by our modern version where the translation was slightly robotic, so apologies for that…

Note the concern with the appearance and quality of the books, the perennial problems with trying to get the binder to do what the bookseller and customer wants, and on time. The eagerness of the collector to be the first to be offered fresh stock from the shop has changed very little. Still with us are the problems of delay in postal sytems…  Also it is interesting that in the early nineteenth century women bookbuyers were thought likely to be attracted to ‘Large Paper Copies’ and vellum bound books. The customer’s knowledge of book lore and binding styles has changed somewhat.

1822    
Well ! you are a man of your word, as usual: and the books that you were to send me, when shall I have them?
Eh bien ! vous etes un homme de parole, comme a l’ordinaire: et ces livres que vous deviez m’emvoyer, quand viendront-ils?
You are under great obligations to your binder; he often furnishes you with an excuse.
Vous avez un relieur a qui vous avez de grardes obligations , car il vous sert souvent de manteau.
I protest that I sent them to him the same day you came to buy them.
Je vous proteste que je les ai fait porter chez lui le meme jour que vous etes venu les acheter.

Continue reading

Desiderata—a weekly publication for libraries and booksellers

Desiderata 001How come nothing can be found online about the little weekly periodical entitled Desiderata, a copy of which was found in a box of books the other day? It resembles the Clique in some respects, but unlike the latter, whose main job was to put collectors and booksellers in touch with one another, it aimed instead to provide ‘ a direct link between library and bookseller ‘.

The copy we found is probably fairly typical. It is issue number 36 of volume 8 and is dated September 9th 1955. Its 12 pages comprise an editorial in the form of a salutary story about a bookseller’s ring; there follows a rather silly defence of the inept ‘poet‘, Alfred Austin, against the entirely justifiable description of him by Evelyn Waugh as a ‘obnoxious nonentity ‘. Five whole pages of Wanted adverts from the British Museum then follow, and the rest of the issue is taken up by what appear to more Wanted ads from various public libraries, some small ads from booksellers and a full page ad from the eminent Guildford booksellers Traylen. A miscellany of literary notes and announcements takes up the back page.

The British Museum books wanted advert is the most interesting feature of the magazine. Listed in this case from ‘Tovey’ to ‘Trial’, the items demonstrate how keen the Library was (and presumably still is) to hold all editions of a particularly title, however seemingly obscure. This is, after all, its raison d’etre. However, one example listed seems out of place. There was a call put out for the 1915 second edition and its 1930 reprint of Pitman’s Dictionary of Secretarial Law and practice edited by Philip Tovey. Why would a 1930 reprint differ in any meaningful way from the 1915 second edition? Insisting on reprints for the sake of completeness is per se rather ludicrous. Continue reading

Hollywood bookplate (1928)

IMG_1443

A bookplate from Hollywood 1928 right at the end of the silent movie era. It was done for actor and film director Robert G. Vignola (1888 - 1953) and was found in his copy of Emil Lucka's Eros. The Development of the Sex Relations Through the Ages (Putnam's , N.Y. 1915.) It was drawn by the film costume designer Walter Plunkett, presumably a friend of the distinguished director and 26 years old at the time. By this time Vignola had acted in many movies and had directed at least 60, some of which are no longer to be found.

Vignola's  career seems to have come to and end  just after 'talkies' came in, a not uncommon fate for older directors. The figures in the bookplate represent stars of the time and probably relate to movies he had made. Other film  directors who had bookplates include George Cukor, Bryan Forbes, Charlie Chaplin and Cecil B de Mille.

“Fadeless Sundour”

Found on the dust jacket of a Collins 1939 edition of Alice in Wonderland
 this notice:

This book is bound in fadeless Sundour cloth, which can be lightly rubbed with a sponge when soiled, with perfect safety.

The cloth has hardly faded in its 77 year life and does not need sponging. The Sundour company is still going (in Warrington, Lancs) but now deals almost exclusively with  curtains. Its involvement with book cloth seems to have ceased in the 1940s. There is very little online about this and Sundour’s fadeless cloth is mostly mentioned in the more meticulous used bookseller’s lists…

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A Parisian Aladdin’s Cave of Children’s Books

Found in a small magazine/ booklet published in Edinburgh 1953.
COLLECTORS ITEMS A BIBLIO-TYPOGRAPHICAL MISCELLANY (No. 2, Vol. 1) this piece on Gumuchian – a collector and dealer in children’s books (now a hot collecting area.) His book Les Livres de L’Enfance (Paris, 1930) is still in print (Holland Press modern reprint, right.) Originals are seldom under 1000 euros.

A Parisian Aladdin’s Cave of Children Books

Short and bearded, and somewhat like Tolous-Lautrec in appearance, Victor Gumuchian was one of the great booksellers of the past fifty years. Gumuchian will probably be known for posterity by his immense two volume catalogue of children’s books, “Les Livres de l’Enfance de XVe au XIXe Siecle,” which he published in 1930. But apart from hi knowledge of juvenile literature, he was a great authority on old buildings and books relating to flying and locomotion. He was a man He was a man of erudition, wide knowledge and versatility. A great traveller and linguist, as well as a writer and dramatist, he was also gourmet and a cook of rare quality. He knew where the best food could be eaten in Paris, or, in fact, anywhere in France.

 How well I remember my first visit to his bookshop in the Rue Richelieu in Paris. A small window, with perhaps a dozen or two rare books on show; inside, a somewhat dull room, lined with glass covered book shelves full of uncommon and interesting books of all centres. At the end of the room was a small door through which he took me, up a dark winding staircase, such as is only possible in Paris, to a door in the first floor. This he unlocked, and switched on the electric light… I was in an Aladdin’s Cave! There were three rooms, leading one into the other, with thousands of children’s books, all in perfect condition, arranged to show the beautiful points of as many as possible, whether an illustration, a binding, or a page of superb typography. These books were the fruit of his three years’ collecting, and the basis of his great catalogue. I was dumbfounded at what I saw. I had never seen, nor shall I ever see again, such a galaxy of treasures: all so beautifully arranged and delighted displayed. From that moment I became, not an enthusiast, but a fanatic – and have remained so to this day.

M. Gumuchian died in America in 1949, after a series of great misfortunes and after a long illness that caused him much suffering.

A rare friend whom I can never forget.

Frank J. Minnitt (1892-1958)

FMinnitt_Bunter_sm Found in the Peter Haining archive this piece by his friend the tireless researcher W.O.G. Lofts. Both men noted in former jots. Minnitt is not  forgotten as long as Billy Bunter is still part of our culture and it is worthwhile recording this Lofts piece which appears not to have been published.

Frank J. Minnitt - Billy Bunter Artist in The Knockout.

By W.O.G. Lofts.

Every so often someone emerges from the shadows as it were to become the leading light of the show. An understudy replaces the star and becomes an overnight hit. A reserve footballer or twelfth man cricketer is promoted to the first team, and scores a hat trick, plus the winning goal, or a sparkling ceatury as the case may be. Another case in point: when Gerald Campion - a small part actor on the screen- landed the T.V. part of Billy Bunter. Completely unknown to the public at large, overnight he became a star. And so it was once with a comic artist named Prank J. Minnitt, who after years of plodding along, drawing the centre pages of small - now long forgotten strips - when was given the job of illustrating a character who today is a household word. The name of course being Billy Bunter the fat boy of Greyfriars School in Kent.

Although one can write the whole life story and history of Billy Bunter, almost nothing is known at all about the artist who drew him in Knockout except for his birth and death dates. Born in 1892, possibly at Warlord, nothing is known of him until his work appears on the scene in 1927 in several Amalgamated Press comic papers. His art work that featured in such top selling papers as Chips Jester, and Joker, with a curious rounded style (that was to stand him in good stead in later years) could be said to be competent enough to fill the centre pages. Never in the class of Bert Brown, Percy Cooking, G.W. Wakefield, or Roy Wilson, he was never even considered to duplicate like most artists for these great illustrators. His style was so distinctive that it is hard to see how he could copy any other artists work. Seemingly, he was just content to plug along, eking out a living for a few guineas a week, and never improving sufficent to get bigger commissions to draw the front pages.

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