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.

Good old E Lloyd’s; “Claude Duval” .I think that was my first surgical masterpiece. Friend Harry Steele sold it to me with its 202 nos. literally in festoons of rags and tatters, for 7/6. I spent my waking hours for three weeks over it, grafting paper of the period into some of the fractures. Then I had it bound by a real expert. When Steele saw it, at first he wouldn’t believe it, then I think he could have shed tears. It had an honoured place on my shelves for quite ten years. Then a mint and perfect copy came my way. I sold my surgical operation for a big figure to the late R. T. Herring. When I acquired his collection it came into my hands again, and now a most ardent collector has it, and I know it would take a burglar to shift it. Yet, I suppose in the old days friend Jeffery would have listed it at 2/6. Alas; had we only known. Now we reverently repair derelicts.”

The Jeffery referred to was John Jeffery, who flourished as a dealer in the 1920s. He had no connection to the famous Jeffery family of street traders in books which dominated the Farringdon Road from mid-Victorian times to around 1994. [RR]

See a tribute to Barry Ono by his friend John Medcraft in an earlier Jot and see here for the British Library page on his collection of Penny Dreadfuls.


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