Andrea here, I’ve been thinking about the last few months, and how stressful it’s been for all of us in so many ways. The need to shelter at home has cut us off from so many daily pleasures—meeting up with friends for drinks or dinner . . . visiting a museum . . . treating oneself to a little shopping. So I am deeming myself deserving of a splurge. And it should come as no surprise that books are involved!
Viking Cruise Line, a sponsor of PBS’s Masterpiece Theater, has been offering a video channel on culture and the arts for us to enjoy some virtual travels and lectures . . .and among the recent fun offerings was an interview with the Duke of Devonshire by his son-in-law, who owns Heywood Hill, one of Britain’s most famous rare book emporiums. (You can see it here)
Now, of course, I couldn’t resist taking a virtual visit to Heywood Hill. (Oh, how I miss real-life London!) And what do I find—a carefully curated list of 80 fun bibliographic treasures, specially chosen to lift the spirits during the pandemic! (You can see the full selection here.) So, I’ve opened my virtual checkbook—because money is no object when one is drooling (of course not literally) over such a fabulous array of goodies! However, I’ve exercised great restraint and haven’t gobbled up all them, but have chosen just a few that really tickle my fancy:
Album of Ring Designs c1950s: A portfolio of 90 ring designs, all depicted in actual size. Drawings in pencil and watercolour on various coloured cards, inserted at corners into album leaves, separated by patterned glassine tissue guards.
The ring designs are stylistically similar, probably from the 1930s through to 1950s, with many variations of stone settings and signet rings and some with a distinctly Art Deco quality. The album was possibly a compilation of designs, either put together by a jeweller or workshop, or by a collector, rather than a presentation album for prospective clients. Several of the intricate drawings have pencil annotations (possibly Eastern European in origin?), the numerical annotations likely referring to either size or price. £1,200
Paris: 6 Vues: Palais de Justice; Hotel-de-Ville; Notre-Dame; Place de l’Opera; Place du Carrousel; Place de la Concorde. [Paris, Mazerand] [c.1890]
Six chromolithographic ‘pop up’ scenes recreating famous Parisian locations, each enclosed in a printed card folder 190 x 205 mm (7. x 8 ins.). Presented in the original printed card box decorated to the lid with the coat of arms of Paris, and with ‘Ch. Arnal’ to printed border lower right. £3,995.
Jane Austen—The Novels and Letters: Edited by R. Brimley Johnson with an introduction by William Lyon Phelps. John Grant Edinburgh, 1911; The Winchester Edition in 12 volumes. 8vo., original green cloth with gilt titles and foliate decoration to the spines, top edges gilt, others uncut. Titles printed in red and black. A very good set. Frontispiece portrait of Jane Austen to volume one. £995.
Electric Refrigerator Menus and Recipes by Miss Alice Bradley: Recipes specially prepared for the General Electric Refrigerator. General Electric Company. Cleveland, 1927. First edition with 29 colour illustrations and 2 photographs which show decomposition of fruits outside and inside a refrigerator, delicate ornaments and borders in blue throughout on the theme of icicles.
Alice Bradley was principal of Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery and Cooking editor of the magazine ‘Woman’s Home Companion’. She embraces the refrigerator eagerly, including recipes for various occasions including afternoon bridge where she recommends salad in aspic jelly and raspberry ice cream sandwiches and, more successfully, some excellent party menus for children. £95.
“The owning of such a refrigerator is a form of health and happiness insurance . . . it requires no attention, not even oiling . . .”
“On Me” Play your favourite Cocktail Game: House of Gadgets Inc New York, [n.d.] 9 panel linen backed black and white game sheet with cartoon illustrations depicting different cocktails. Small hole to one panel, a little rubbing, generally a very good example. The central panel gives a clue to the game. “When “On Me” appears on dial, banker takes all checks and player on number shown on dial becomes banker.” Sadly we do not have the dial for the game. (That's okay—after several martinis we'll make up our own rules!) £395
Grand Panorama of London and the River Thames: Extending from the New Houses of Parliament to Greenwich Hospital. Charles, Evans, et al. London, 1849. Uncoloured wood-engraved panoramic view of the North bank of the Thames, printed on on six conjoined sheets and folding concertina-style into the publisher's blindstamped cloth boards (oblong 8vo.). The title printed in red and mounted on to the front pastedown, and repeated over a blocked vignette of St Paul’s Cathedral in gilt to upper board. Sheet 150 x 4860 mm fully extended. £995
The British Herbal: An History of Plants and Trees, Natives of Britain, Cultivated for use, or Raised for Beauty. Printed for T. Osborne and J. Shipton in Gray's Inn…&c. London, 1756. First edition – the botanist George Claridge Druce's copy with his bookplate. With another bookplate with monogram GOM. Neat contemporary ink name at head of title-page. £1,500.
So, now that I’ve had my fun, which book treasures would you buy to keep yourself happy during these stressful times? Remember, money is no object since we’re living so much of our lives in virtual reality. It can be from the Heywood Hill list, or any book treasure for which you've been longing. (I would add to my choices above a copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer, designed by William Morris, which is considered the most beautiful book ever printed.) So have some fun!