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December 2002


Historic Howgills market town to become next Hay-on-Wye?

Sedbergh, in Yorkshire, is gathering dealers to try and become a book town. You could be buying your collectable volumes from the town that is graced by Will Carling’s old school and was part of the landscape that inspired geologist Adam Sedgwick. Like Hay, attractively uneven streets of old buildings are in a fantastic rural setting, already popular with walkers. Half way between Kendal in the Lake District and Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales, it is perfectly situated to attract visitors.

Bonhams Auction House is holding a sale of the Dean's Rag Book Collection on 10th December.

In 1902 Henry Samuel Dean produced his first Childrens Rag Book, Well Kidd's "The Life of a Bold A B on the Ship in the Rolling C". Dean's factory behind Fleet Street in London went on to produce countless Rag Books for young children, illustrated by many popular artists and in several European languages. Bonhams will be offering over three hundred books dating from 1902 to the 1980's, all from the private collection of Ian Scott, a former managing director of Dean's. The online catalogue may be viewed at www.bonhams.com.

Feature article from Stella and Rose's Books

Collecting Warne's 'Observer' books

Observer’s Books

There can be very few people in the UK who at some time in their life, probably in childhood, have not possessed a copy of one of the Observer’s books. Although the series was rooted in natural history it expanded to embrace everything from Cars to Opera.

Why has this series of books been so successful? The ethos of the series is best captured in an extract from the flyleaf of the original editions:

    popular price
    suitable for carrying in the pocket
    accurate pictures

Although the series is seen as for Children and has been popular with Children it would be better described as for Beginners as the authors are pre eminent in their fields, for example Patrick Moore for Astronomy.


So perhaps the three tenets (price, pocket, pictures) have through the years been the bedrock on which the success has been built.

For most collectors the period 1937 to 1982 covers the real Observer’s series as after this period with Warne in financial difficulties and trying the New Observer’s and ultimately being bought by Penguin who relaunched the Observers the Golden years of Observer’s were over.

So to the series itself from Number 1 British Birds published in June 1937 to Number 98 Opera published in 1982 but just to be confusing there are actually only 97 titles number 86 Country Houses was never published.

The series started with Natural History subjects with Warne reusing pictures and text mainly from the earlier Wayside and Woodland series. The first non-nature book and the first not based on other material was Airplanes published in 1942 though not given a number (11) until later in 1949 when it was re-published as Aircraft.

Subjects like Aircraft and Cars have been regularly revised throughout the life of the series. Following on the start in Natural History other spotters subjects were introduced such as Railways and Cars but also subjects like Architecture, Music and Painting which were aimed squarely at an adult audience.

From a general collector’s point of view most titles remain readily available. Many titles can be purchased for just a few pounds. However the first editions of the early editions in dustwrappers in reasonable condition are rare as is Airplanes from 1942 and the later titles from about number 79 Caterpillars onwards are scarce as a result of the small print runs.

A note to the dedicated collector - try collecting every edition of Automobiles or Aircraft….


Ask a Librarian

After a six-month test run, the National Library of Scotland has begun offering a new electronic reference service: Ask-A-Librarian. Send a query using the online form and the librarians of the NLS will get back to you directly or pass your question to another library if their resources can't provide the answer. Even if you're not interested in asking a question, take a couple minutes to check out the library's excellent digital collection and history timeline feature.

Last posting dates for Christmas

3 Dec

Surface Mail to Western Europe (except Cyprus,
Malta, Turkey, Greece, Iceland - already too late)

6 Dec

Airmail Rest of World outside Europe

10 Dec

Airmail to Eastern Europe

14 Dec

Airmail to Western Europe

18 Dec

2nd class

21 Dec

1st class

23 Dec

Special delivery

We often read about the art work on covers but what about covers as art work? The staff of Leeds Metropolitan University Library have been asked to pick 100 books that they believe are important. Artist Stephen Hurrell has tuned their cover images into blue glass 'covers'. These glass 'covers', facing forwards have been arranged on 'shelves' on the outside of the building. The shelves are in two tiers of ten, and tower above pedestrians below. At night they are back lit turning cover art work into a work of modern art. In addition a computer randomly selects a text, anything from 'The Wind in the Willows' to 'The Female Eunuch', and projects it onto the wall.


Next Month:
In January 2003 the featured article will be by Alba Books

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