ibooknet - the independent booksellers' network

News from the
Independent Booksellers' Network

Archive index


June 2003


Sheppard's Directories - a plea to UK Book Dealers!

Sheppard's Directory of Book Dealers in the British Isles is one of the essential tools of UK book selling. As well as a guide for the public, it tells us who and where we all are, our specialities, size of stock, contact details and if a shop, our opening days and/or hours. If visiting an unfamilar part of the UK then I would be lost without my copy.

With 95% of UK book dealers now with email addresses, Richard Joseph, the publisher of the Sheppard's Directories, made a decision to change from the annual data collection by questionnaire to collecting data for their directories online at their website.

This made a lot of sense as UK book dealers can now keep their details up to date at will, without waiting for the annual questionnaire. It also means that the publisher, when the deadline is reached to extract the data for the new edition, has more recent information than it would otherwise have by the older method.

If only!  95% of UK book dealers may have email address but how many read their emails? Not many, it seems. We spoke with Richard Joseph and it seems that many dealers have still to respond to their invitation by email to register and add their details to the database.

Please - if you are a UK book dealer and receive email from BookSearch@SheppardsDirectories.com, open, read and act upon it. If you have not already registered then you can go direct to the site at: http://www.sheppardsdirectories.com and register yourself as a book dealer now.

By registering with Sheppard's Directories site, not only will your current details be included in the published hard copy Directory but you will have enquiries for books in your specialist areas, made via their BookSearch scheme, forwarded to you at no charge. You will also be able to browse the Book TheftAlert database being created. Only if you want to initiate BookSearch enquiries or report thefts is there a fee for registration.

London Book Fairs - June 2003





Antiquarian Art, Book, Print, Map and Paper Fair

Bonnington Hotel

May 31

June 1

HD Book Fair

Royal National Hotel

May 31

June 1

London Book Fair

Bonnington Hotel

June 1



Hotel Russell

June 1

June 2

17th International Book Fair

Hilton Olympia

June 4

June 5

Antiquarian Book Fair


June 5

June 8


Commonwealth Institute

June 6

June 7

London Map Fair

Bonnington Hotel

June 7


International Map Fair


June 8


Ephemera Society's Summer Special

Hotel Russell

June 15


A Brief Portrait of a Publisher - JONATHAN CAPE - Part 1
by Charlotte Robinson of Amwell Book Company

In 1990, I produced a catalogue of books from the House of Cape to celebrate the firm’s 70th birthday. Looking back I was wondering what led me to Cape in particular. In retrospect I think it must be a fascination with a man with little formal education and a very Victorian upbringing’s success in a very fast changing world and his sympathy for women writers.

This is the man who kept faith with T E Lawrence, brought Hemingway to Europe and personally looked after Radcliffe Hall, E H Young and Mary Webb to name but a few.

Jonathan Cape was a Victorian by birth and upbringing. His publishing house reflected nineteenth century principles and it is therefore surprising that it was so successful in the in attracting the young authors of the inter-war period. Unlike many of his peers Jonathan had little formal education, leaving school at 13 or 14 to become an errand boy for Hatchards. He spent 15 years with Gerald Duckworth and learnt his trade there. His decision to form his own company seems to have been more the result of Gerald Duckworth finding him socially unacceptable as a potential Director than any great crusading spirit.

His first attempt to find a partner led to Geoffrey Faber, whom he discovered lacked the same ingredient - capital. A new job with The Medici Society started the train of happy meetings on which the prosperity of the House of Cape was based. It was here that Jonathan Cape found George Wren Howard and became acquainted with T E Lawrence. These three and Edward Garnett, known from Duckworth days, were the catalyst.

George Wren Howard came from a more conventional background, for a publisher, Marlborough and Cambridge. It was there that he decided on a career in publishing. It was the art of the book which attracted him most. He was some years younger than Jonathan Cape and this was reflected in the agreed ratio of a 5:7 division of financial support and responsibility in the partnership formed in 1920. Jonathan Cape also brought the assets of the small firm of Jonathan Page & Co. which he had founded the year before, and its secretary, Mrs James, who subsequently became Mrs Cape.

The fledgling firm took offices in Gower Street and Eric Dukes designed their device, later known as the Gapapot - Rupert Hart-Davies irreverently referred to it as the "coup jacques" which offended Jonathan Cape's dignity.

The next step was the acquisition of Edward Garnett as literary adviser. Garnett was happy at Cape, but he was possibly too independent-minded and impartial for Jonathan Cape who would have preferred a less remote adviser. Their relationship was based on respect rather than liking. Garnett had a considerable ability to nurture and discover talent, and many authors recognized their debt to him. A few, mostly women I suspect, were less enamoured - Carrington described him as "an old sheep on wheels".

T. E. Lawrence by Eric KenningtonMany of the early titles were Transatlantic imports, including a number for children, and many non literary titles, garnered from Jonathan Cape’s frequent forays to America. Books came from all sources, Jonathan Cape rarely commissioned work although he endeavoured to make links with important people who might write books. His genius at this stage was to seek the right advice and use it, tempered by his own flair and nose for a good book. Jonathan Cape had faith in T.E. Lawrence with whom it must have been incredibly difficult to deal. Not until 1927 did this show tangible rewards, firstly with "Revolt In the Desert" and then Robert Graves's "Lawrence and the Arabs". Lawrence also enforced his caveat that "Revolt in the Desert" should be withdrawn when his debts were paid. The book could easily have been reprinted. The trade edition of "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" brought enormous financial rewards when it was published in 1936. The production of the book provided a memorial and a testament of how attached the partners had been to Lawrence.

Jonathan Cape also believed that fifth books were the critical measure of an author. Two notable examples of these were Mary Webb’s “Precious Bane” and Radcliffe Hall’s “The Well of Loneliness”. Mary Webb’s books had always received critical acclaim but no financial reward. “Precious Bane” performed much the same until Stanley Baldwin spoke of the book at a Royal Literary Fund dinner. Sadly Mary Webb was already dead but Jonathan’s judgement was rewarded.

Johnathan Cape preferred to avoid “difficult” books but was always happy to publish controversial books on serious subjects. It had been hoped that by sending review copies of “The Well of Loneliness” only to the quality and literary press, trouble would be avoided. Unfortunately the editor of the Sunday Express wrote a leader about it. After that the fatal combination of Jonathan Cape's sincerity and the Calvinistic propensities of the then Home Secretary meant a furore was inevitable. The plates were sent to Paris and a new edition smuggled from there. A court case was lost and the book was not reprinted in England until after the war.

Robert Graves by Eric KenningtonThe following year saw more controversy with the publication of "Goodbye to All That" by Robert Graves, reproducing, without consent, a verse letter sent him by Sassoon in 1919. Sassoon, when shown the book by Edward Blunden, reacted strongly against the use of the material and the tone of the book. The only way Jonathan Cape was able to placate him was to agree to omit the offending passage. It is said that only 100 or so of the un-expurgated volumes escaped and, apart from a pirated reprint of 50 copies, the poem has remained suppressed. Cape was not lucky with Graves who was prolific and spread his books widely. There were problems over "But it Still Goes On", the first edition of which carries a cancel.

....to be continued in part 2 next month

The Big Read from the BBC

The full list of the top 100 best-loved books in the BBC's 'The Big Read' feature has been published and there are some interesting inclusions and omissions.

Children's fiction features prominently. All four of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter books are included and a similar number of titles each from Roald Dahl and Jacqueline Wilson. Amongst the many classic titles are Black Beauty, Little Women, The Secret Garden and Winnie the Pooh but The House at Pooh Corner is not and Enid Blyton has only one entry, The Magic Faraway Tree.

Charles Dickens has five entries and Jane Austen three and amongst the more modern authors there are Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm, Huxley's Brave New World and Rushdie's Midnight's Children. There are some suprising inclusions and omissions. Few recent Booker or Whitbread winning authors has a single title listed but Jeffrey Archer's Kane and Abel is there. The full list can be viewed here.

'Lord of the Rings' with music

A London producer has announced plans for a lavish musical version of "The Lord of the Rings," the J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy.

Kevin Wallace has said that the production is budgeted at $13 million, topping the present champion, the $10.6 million production of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Already made into a radio play by the BBC, an animated film and the current three part Hollywood feature film, the proposed stage premier of the musical version is early in 2005. It has been in development for 18 months and casting is due to take place early in 2004.

Bookplate removal

Many might question the need to remove any bookplate - a bookplate is part of the history of the book and as such adds mystery and speculation to it's past. Some bookplates are works of art in themselves and others, even if plain, can help to establish an interesting previous ownership and even enhance the value of the book where that ownership has literary connections.

Others might want to remove a bookplate anyway. The following has been offered to us as one way of doing it. It is repeated here with no recommendation or endorsement as to it's effectiveness and if undertaken, it is very much at your own risk:

"Traditionally book plates are put in with paste - this is water soluble.
Cut a piece of paper towel to fit over it.
Soak the towel and ring it out.
Place it over the plate lay a plastic bag or wrap over it and close the book.
In a few hours you should be able to peel it off - if not re-apply.
Remember you don't want to soak the boards.
If you bubble the underlying endpaper, put a sheet of starchy white paper over it and close the book with weight on it - it should dry straight.
If the plate is one of the store-bought stick-on ones, it probably uses an acrylic adhesive that can me removed with an iron on low."

If you want to try it, good luck, but don't blame us if it doesn't work!

Next Month: The feature on Jonathan Cape will be concluded

The Independent Booksellers' Network Ltd
www.ibooknet.org | www.ibooknet.co.uk | www.ibooknet.com
tel/fax: 020 7837 4891

Registered office:
53 Amwell Street
London EC1R 1UR
United Kingdom

member's login