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July 2005



70 years of Penguin design

The Victoria and Albert Museum is marking the 70th birthday of Penguin with an exhibition of some 500 of Penguin's iconic book covers. Penguin, the idea of the Managing Director of The Bodley Head, Allen Lane in 1935, established the market for paperback books. Allen, inspired by the dearth of affordable books, sought to publish attractive reprints at time when most in the publishing industry thought the idea ridiculous and Allen had difficulty in obtaining the rights for the initial list of ten books.

On view will be the familiar, classic orange fiction paperbacks, the striking monochrome cover of Ulysses and the iconic, menacing design of Anthony Burgess' Clockwork Orange. Also included are contemporary covers by noted artists such as Peter Saville and Sara Fanelli, the latter of whom won the V&A Illustration Awards in 2004. The exhibition continues until 13 November 2005.

Two books have also been published to mark Penguin's anniversary and to coincide with the exhibition: Phil Baines' Penguin by Design - A Cover Story 1935 - 2005, which includes an exhaustive series of illustration of penguin wrappers; and Jeremy Lewis's excellent biography, The Life and Time of Allen Lane.

Signed 'Mein Kampf' sold

A signed first edition of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf has been sold for £23,800 at Bloomsbury Auctions in London. The work - which translates as My Struggle - became the bible of National Socialism in Hitler's Third Reich. Originally called Four Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice, it was first published in two volumes.

The book, which was auctioned on 15th June and was part of a lot of signed postcards and other stationery from high-ranking Nazis, is the first volume, written when Hitler was in Landsberg prison after the abortive Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. The work was dictated to Rudolf Hess, also imprisoned for his part in the putsch, and its first print run was for 500 copies. The second volume was written shortly after Hitler's release. By 1939 Mein Kampf had sold 5,200,000 copies and had been translated into 11 languages. It was provided as a school textbook after Hitler came to power in 1933 and was given to all German newlyweds. It still cannot be sold in some countries - notably Germany.

Crime Writing Festival - Harrogate 2005

As part of the Harrogate Festival, Harrogate is once again hosting the Crime Writing Festival from 21-24 July.

The award for the Crime Novel of the Year sponsored by Theakstons will be made on 21st July and there are a number of workshops, discussion groups, lectures and other events taking place at The Cedar Court Hotel. Those attending include Alexander Mccall Smith, Michael Connelly, Ruth Rendell and Val McDermid.

The Barsetshire novels of … Angela Thirkell
by Darkwood Online Book Sanctuary

Angela Thirkell’s gentle romantic Barsetshire comedies are set in Trollope’s imaginary shire, but date from the 1930’s to 1950’s. There are 29 of them, including the last one, ' Three score and Ten', which was completed by C.A. LeJeune after her death. They chronicle the lives and marriages of a handful of upper and middle class families, the descendents of Trollope’s Thorns and Grantlys, with only one book being without an engagement ('Enter Sir Robert') and one, 'The Duke’s Daughter', having a record four!

Even before the Second World War starts in ' Cheerfulness Breaks' In there is an aspect of social history to the novels, as the families adapt to changing circumstances, fewer servants and less income. The war years themselves are a vivid account of countryside ‘rations’, making do, and the strain of the women who wait to hear the fate of their serving husbands and sons. The joy of the books to the modern reader is her insights, humour and warmth, in a world where your early morning tea still appeared on your bedside table, on a properly laid tea tray.

Thirkell was born in London in 1890, the granddaughter of pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones, and a cousin of Kipling. Angela's brother, Denis Mackail, was also a successful novelist and her son, Colin MacInnes, was the author of 'Absolute Beginners'. Her father was Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. Hamish Hamilton published the Barsetshire novels from 'High Rising' in 1933 to ' Three Score and Ten' in 1961. Penguin brought out the original paperback edition and reprinted some titles in the mid to late 1990’s.

Since 1995 Moyer Bell has been reprinting all the Barsetshire novels and also Angela Thirkell’s World, a complete guide to the places and people of Barsetshire by Barbara Burrell. Some titles have recently been issued in large print by Isis Publishing, who are also starting to produce audio-tapes of some of the novels. However the hardback editions are always in demand, particularly by the members of the very active Angela Thirkell Society. On their website you can find an excellent summary of all the books written by Amalia Angeloni Jacobucci. Thirkell also wrote short stories, a book of children's stories ('The Grateful Sparrow'), an historical novel, a biography of Harriette Wilson and three semi-autobiographical novels.

The ABA Antiquarian Bookfair at Olympia, June 2005
by Jessica Mulley - The Virtual Bookshelf

I felt like an intrepid explorer. Usually quite content in our small and quiet corner of South East London, just a couple of weeks ago, the June London Book Fairs tempted me to scramble half way across London to Hammersmith for the ABA Antiquarian Book Fair. It's on days like these that I forget that I'm a bookseller by trade and fix my collector's hat snugly in place. With exhibitors, dealers in the finest books, drawn from all over the world, I knew I was in for a treat. And with my flexible friend in hand and husband-cum-financial-controller left at home, I was planning to treat myself as well.

Jeremy Paxman, patron of the fair, begins his introductory remarks by stating that "if the book isn't dead, it is on a journey somewhere between the intensive care ward and the mortuary". He cites in support of his premise the growth of alternative leisure activities, the decline of high street second hand bookshops and the penetration of the internet as an informational and research tool. Almost as an aside, he dismisses the on line availability of second hand books as a "remarkably efficient way" to find a book "as long as you don't really care about the state of thing you're buying". Of course, I think he is quite wrong, and his unnecessarily downbeat analysis of the second hand book trade, took the spring out of my step even before I reached Olympia. I could write an essay on this topic - but I'll spare you for now. Anyhow, I needn't have worried. Within moments of arriving, such thoughts were quickly dispelled by a dazzling array of some of the finest books in world.

I'm no longer surprised by the attitude of some eminent booksellers but I am still irritated by it. A number of the stands were uninviting and at times I felt that I had to push my way past an imperceptible barrier of superiority and intimidation just to look at the wares on offer. As a women in a traditionally male environment I've become used to being treated with diffidence and even at times overlooked but I really was quite taken aback to be twice asked, at different stands, if I was with or buying for my husband or my father.

The majority of course were friendly, welcoming and helpful. Adrian Harrington's stand could be compared to a man with come-to-bed eyes. My eyes were drawn to their fine selection of modern firsts including Fleming, Douglas Adams, and Agatha Christie. The centrepiece, to my mind, was a lovely UK 1st, 1st state copy of Heller's Catch 22 in its original jacket - a little foxed and on offer for £1650.

Heritage Books is always worth a visit, even if just to feast one's eyes on their beautifully presented fine books. This time however my credit card took a hit for a large volume of Anglo-Saxon Poetry. More Fleming's on offer. Jonker's Rare Books was a real treat too with a superbly displayed collection of Beatrix Potter on offer, including an original watercolour on cotton of Benjamin Bunny presented in a custom made inlay box together with a first edition Benjamin Bunny. I didn't dare ask the price. More Fleming's.

A lovely American first of Tolkien's The Hobbit stood out at Peter Stern's. The publisher's promotion banner, still in place, proclaimed "Its place is with Alice in Wonderland and Wind in the Willows… the Hobbit may well prove a classic". More modern firsts at Nigel Williams, the most interesting being a lovely 1st of Elergy on Dead Fashion inscribed by Edith Sitwell to E M Forster (£475). Bow Windows Bookshop had a wonderful copy of Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination illustrated by Arthur Rackham but in some ways more reminiscent of William Blake. Next to it was a superb copy of Quiller Couch's Sleeping Beauty illustrated by Edmund Dulac (30 coloured plates tipped in with captioned tissues, original gilt decorated pebbled cloth, slight rubbing to spine ends and corners - £350). Even Stephen Foster, whose stand was by far the most welcoming of all, trumped this for Rackham fans at least, with a delightful original Rackham watercolour (which was reproduced as the frontispiece for Stephen James' Irish Fairy Tales). I was sorely tempted by the most beautiful copy of Pride and Prejudice in a fine modern binding but contented myself by reserving a William Hazlitt.

A selection of the stunning work of the Chelsea Bindery was on show at Peter Harrington's. Their signed first of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird, bound in full green morocco, would have graced my bookshelves were it not for the earlier purchases.

Footsore and weighed down by all that Anglo Saxon poetry, I regretted the absence of a shuttle bus between the ABA fair that of the PBFA, this year being held at the Novotel a few minutes walk down the road. It wasn't until I was approaching the Novotel that I remembered I'd bought a travelcard that morning and could have just hopped on one of the buses going down Hammersmith Road.

I think the PBFA's move from the pleasant Commonwealth Institute to the Novotel is a mistake. The venue was cavernous and poorly lit with that sort of public-sector, hardwearing carpet that offers no comfort to those who mistakenly put on heeled rather than walking boots that morning. Such conditions didn't show off the books, or the booksellers, at their best. Other than the occasional chat with friends and colleagues, there was little to make me pause as a toured the stalls. Perhaps it was tiredness, or my still sore feet, or the temptation of an enticing wine bar at the end of road, but I left, uninspired and credit card balance intact, barely an hour later.

(First published, without the images, in Jessica Mulley's 'blog' 26th June 2005

A Major Charity Booksale at Turville Books 

A unique charity bookshop opens its doors from Thursday August 4th to Sunday August 7th from 10.00am to 4.00pm daily. This consists of a barn full of new and second-hand books of all categories including first editions and leather-bound books, and a very large tent full of 50p books representing fantastic value!

The event will be well signposted from exit 5 of the M40 and is half a mile from Turville (just follow the pink signs) and parking is free. The charities are the Elizabeth Finn Trust and Thames Valley Adventure Playground.

Red House Childrens Book Award

The Red House Children's Book Award for 2005 has been won by Simon James for "Baby Brains". James' book, perfect antidote for parents who feel pressurised to keep up with other parents in order to have the brightest baby, features an extraordinary baby who reads the paper, mends the car and works as a doctor at the hospital at only two weeks old.

The Red House Children's Book Award is the only award to be given entirely on the basis of votes by children. Over 25,000 young readers took part in this year. Now in it's 25th year, previous winners include Roald Dahl for The BFG in 1983 , Jacqueline Wilson for Double Act in 1996 and J K Rowling for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in 1998. Vis.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist without royalties!

Robert Tressell's classic novel of socialism 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' is widely acknowledged to be the greatest working-class novel of all time. The book has run through at least 111 editions since it was published in 1914, three years after Tressell's death plus at least 8 stage editions.

The family and estate of Tressell have, in all that time, received only £25.00 which was paid to the author's daughter, Kathleen, by Grant Richards for the copyright when he was presented with the manuscript after her father's death. This copyright covered the heavily cut editions published until 1955, including several from the then British Communist party publishers Lawrence and Wishart.

In 1955 Lawrence and Wishart published the first unabridged text, most of it put together by Kathleen, her daughter Joan and their supporters. In 1964 the Grant Richards copyright expired, giving the family a chance, which they did notice at the time, of arguing legally that the unabridged edition constituted a new copyright in which they should have a share. However, it was discovered then that royalties were being paid to the grand-daugher of Martin Secker, who was a director of Grant Richards.

Reg Johnson, the widower of Tressell's grand-daughter, Joan, would like to tap the royalty stream from the book to underwrite the Robert Tressell Foundation, which costs him £1000 a year from his government pension, so that the archives which he houses in small house in East Grindstead could be built on and made more accessible to the wider public, who visit from all over the world to research the papers.

Shelley letters auctioned

The recently discovered letters by the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (see March 2005 Newsletter) written to Ralph Wedgwood - a member of the pottery family - between December 1810 and February 1811, have sold for £45,600, including buyer's premium, in a books and manuscripts sale.at the London auction rooms of Christies.

Next Month: The feature for August 2005 will be by Alba Books


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