Posted on

The Unique Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter 8 July 1866 -December 22, 1943

2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter, the writer and illustrator of books of the Peter Rabbit series books. Her 23 children’s books remain as popular today as when they were first published – Peter Rabbit has never been out of print since it’s publication in 1902. What makes her books so unique?

Beatrix Potter had an extraordinary flair for storytelling.

As a young child Potter was fascinated by Edward Lear’s Nonsense Rhymes and Limericks as well as the whimsical writings of Lewis Carroll’s, ABeatrix Potter The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouselice in Wonderland. She really understood a children’s delight in the sounds of meaning and words. Potter paid great attention to the words and descriptions of her animal characters. They had to have human emotions and habits that complement the animal’s natures. Beatrix believed that ‘all writers for children ought to have a sufficient recognition of what things look like’. In a letter she criticized Kenneth Grahame’s description of The Wind in the Willows’s Toad as ‘combing his hair … A mistake to fly in the face of nature – A frog may wear goloshes; but I don’t hold with toads having beards or wigs!’ (letter to Mrs M.E. Wight, 26th June 1942). Mr Jackson, the toad in her Mrs Tittle-mouse’s tale sat and water dripped off his coat tails and she had to wipe his large wet footprints off the parlour floor.

Potter was a prolific writer

Throughout her life Beatrix Potter was a letter-writer and keeper of a journal. Her image is often as a rather sombre and ‘unamused’ person. In her letters however, her sense of humour comes across. She often sent “mini-letters” written on tiny pieces of paper folded tightly and posted in small hand made mailboxes. Her letters and tales often contained sketches of the animals and wild life of her beloved Lake District. Her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was initially written as a letter to the poorly son of her former governess Annie Moore.  She commented that it was was addressed to ‘a real live child … not made to order’. Her tale about “four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter” became one of the most notorious children’s letters ever written and launched her career as a storyteller and illustrator. As her fame spread around the world  Potter continued to write letter to her fans.

Potter was a self taught artist.

Beatrix Potter was  home schooled and it maybe that her lack of formal education ensured that she maintained her originality. She was surrounded by the culture of The Golden Age of Illustration, Pre-Raphelite and the exploration of science of the time. In her youth Potter was a regular visitor to the Royal Acadamy of Arts and the Natural History Museum in London.  She described the museum as ‘the quietest place I know – and the most awkward’ (journal entry, Friday 20th December 1895). Potter’s fascination with natural history ensured scientific accuracy whilst maintaining a fantasy like quality to her illustrations. Although Potter was mindful of the artistic trends of her time, her style of drawing and writing remained uniquely her own.

Potter was a shrewd business woman.

To earn some money in the 1890’s, she and her brother designed and printed Christmas and special occasion cards. Typically the illustrations were of animals she saw in her home of the Lake District.  These drawings of rabbits and mice were sold to illustrate books of verses.  Her success in selling these drawings gave her confidence. After her illustrated story of Peter Rabbit was turned down, she had 250 copies privately printed in 1901 for distribution to her friends. It proved so popular that another 200 copies were required in the next year. The publications caught the eye of the publisher, Frederick Warne. He agreed to publish eight thousand trade copies  with colour illustrations in 1902. These were quickly followed by a further twenty one illustrated story books. Beatrix Potter showed a keen interest in the design of her books, and designed deluxe bindings for her books. These were sold at a higher price than the regular trade edition. Potter quickly recognised the need for marketing merchandise to promote her books. In 1903 she made and patented a Peter Rabbit doll. Other related merchandise such as painting books, board games, wall-paper, figurines, and china tea-sets were produced. Frederick Warne licensed the products earning immense profits for himself and for Potter. 

Beatrix Potter’s books are notoriously difficult to date.The-Tale-Of-Two-Bad-Mice-Beatrix-Potter-1904 (16)

First editions of Potter’s books are highly sought after, especially the deluxe versions. However, it can be difficult to determine the authenticity of a Potter first edition book. Frederick Warne used a dating process which is not easily decipherable. As a result reprints can resemble the original book. First editions are usually dated at the foot of the title page in the imprint or publishers details. Later editions have no date in the imprint. A copyright date on the back may show the first date of publication, but this does not confirm a first edition status. The publishing company, Frederick Warne, became a limited company after 1917. This means any book with “Limited” or “Ltd” in the company name are printed after 1917 and are therefore reprints. Issues of her books after 1967 bear an ISBN or International Standard Book Number. Being rather fragile books, and generally given to young children, surprisingly few early copies of Peter Rabbit survive intact. They are highly sought after collector’s items.

Beatrix Potter is generally considered to be “one of a kind”. Her love of nature extended to the conservation of land. She is credited with preserving  much of her beloved Lake District by leaving almost all her property to the National Trust. Her original illustrations and letters are housed in several museums including the Beatrix Potter Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum and the Free Library of Philadelphia. Quite a legacy for the writer and illustrator of “the little books”.

To see more books of Beatrix Potter go here.





Posted on

Rudyard Kipling – A Very British Author

Captains-Courageous-Rudyard-Kipling-first-editionRudyard Kipling  A Very British Author

Arguably one of the great 19th Century British authors is Rudyard Kipling. He was born in 1865 in Bombay, India to British parents. After an education at the United Services College, Bideford, England he returned to India pursue a career in writing. Kipling was an avid writer producing his first book, Schoolboy Lyrics, at the age of 16. This was followed by the book of verses, Echos, published in 1884 whilst he was a journalist at the Anglo-Indian newspaper, The Lahore Civil and Military Gazette. Kipling’s career was launched after the publication of Departmental Ditties in 1886, which became successful with the British in India. He then achieved his own fictional column at a larger newspaper. His stories were taken and published in an inexpensive paperback production called The Railway Series Library. Kipling drew inspiration from the Indian and colonial influences in his writings, and many of his tales draw on the experiences of the British soldier. His short stories, Plain Tales from the Hills (1888), and Soldiers Three (1888) are particularly careful reflections on the life of the military and the common soldier.

To further his career as an author Kipling moved to England  where he wrote an astounding number of poems, stories and essays. He married Carrie Balestier in 1892 and moved to Vermont. Over a span of four years, he produced many literary works which have remained popular today. These include The Barrack Room Ballards (1892) containing the now famous poems of Gunga Din and Mandelay. The Jungle Books were written a few years later (1894, 95) to international success. The Seven Seas (1896) and Captains Courageous (1897) followed shortly afterwards. After a family feud Kipling returned to England and went on to produce two more recognised works, Kim in 1901 and Just So Stories in 1902.

During the First World War Kipling released some propaganda material. Following his son’s death in combat he released a history of his son’s regiment,  The Irish Guards in the Great War in 1923. Kipling continued to write up until his death in 1936. His final work was a collected edition of his works, The Sussex Edition. His publisher, Macmillan, limited the production to only 525 pre-signed sets and it was published posthumously in 1939. Kipling’s ashes are buried in the Poet’s Corner in the south transept of Westminster Abbey next to the Graves of Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens.

Rudyard Kipling was the recipient of many honorary degrees and other awards during his life. At the peak of his career in 1907  he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. This was followed in 1926 by the Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Literature, which only Scott, Meredith, and Hardy had been awarded before him. Kipling is known as a romantic imperialist for which there has been criticism, yet his stories have endured over time and they remain classic literature today.  The American Poet Laureate and critic, Randall Jarrell, summaries Kipling’s success eloquently.  “After you have read Kipling’s fifty or seventy-five best stories you realize that few men have written this many stories of this much merit, and that very few have written more and better stories.”

Take a look at a selection of First Edition books by Rudyard Kipling on our book site here.Collected-verse-of-Rudyard-Kipling-Limited-edition


Jarrell, Randall. “On Preparing to Read Kipling.” No Other Book: Selected Essays. New York: HarperCollins, 1999.

Posted on

The Fascination with Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective with powerful observation and deductive qualities, is dramatised on the BBC television again over the festive period. The famous detective stories have stood the test of time and remain as popular today as they were when first published between 1887 and 1926 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. To own a first edition of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his partner, John Watson, is quite special.

The-Memoirs-Of-Sherlock-Holmes-The-Adventures-Of-Sherlock-Holmes-First-Edition-Arthur-Conan-Doyle (2)Conan Doyle created 60 detective stories between 1887 and 1927. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, His Last Bow and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes contain 56 of the stories and the remaining four stories were published as stand alone novels. Conan Doyle was a prolific writer and his medical, political and spiritual interests provided an ample source of material for publication.

Sherlock Holmes was created in 1887 whilst Doyle was combining writing with his struggling medical profession. His first script, The Study In Scarlet, was rejected by several publishers and was finally bought for a mere £25 for publication in Beeton’s Annual Christmas Annual to little acclaim. His second detective story, The Sign of Four, did little better in the Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1889. Conan Doyle tried again with The Strand Magazine proposing new adventures for the detective. Conan Doyle secured a contract for an additional 6 stories at a rate of one per month. The public response to his stories was meterioc and he was able to renounce his medical career and focus entirely on his love of writing.

The success of the Holmes stories however, came at a price as the public and his publishers demanded further detective plots. Doyle wanted more public recognition for his notable other literary works and is reported to have commented to his mother, “I plan to kill Sherlock-Holmes-Conan-Doyle-MemoirsHolmes in the sixth adventure. He prevents me from thinking to better things.” Doyle moved to Davos in Switzerland in 1892 for reasons of his wife’s health. After writing a further 12 new detective mysteries there the final and dramatic end of Holmes was set in the Reichenbach Falls. Against public opinion Holmes was finally killed off there by Professor Moriarty in The Adventures of the Final Problem. Doyle spent the next few years pursuing his literary career in political and historical works, earning him a knighthood.

However, the public would not forget Sherlock Holmes and The Strand Magazine continued to publish the detective adventures. An American publisher persuaded Conan Doyle to resurrect the detective for aThe-Memoirs-Of-Sherlock-Holmes-The-Adventures-Of-Sherlock-Holmes-First-Edition-Arthur-Conan-Doyle (2) considerable sum of money. Thirty four new stories were published between September 1903 and March 1927. Conan Doyle seemed to have satisfied the public thirst for Sherlock Holmes and was he able to pursue his political and spiritual interests for the remainder of his career.

What seems remarkable is the public appetite for the detective adventures continues and has never waned. The images and stories from the books are as compelling and as fresh as they were when first published.

The-Memoirs-Of-Sherlock-Holmes-The-Adventures-Of-Sherlock-Holmes-First-Edition-Arthur-Conan-Doyle (2)The-Return-Of-Sherlock-Holmes-Arthur-Conan-Doyle-1st-editon (10)His-Last-Bow-Arthur-Conan-Doyle-1st-edition (6)




To see our first edition publications of Arthur Conan Doyle click here.



Posted on

A Christmas Carol Tradition with Rackham and Dickens

A-Christmas-Carol-Arthur-Rackham-1915 (2)A-Christmas-Carol-Arthur-Rackham-1915

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with illustrations by Arthur Rackham.

The story of Scrooge is arguably one of the most famous stories that is retold over the festive period. Written by Charles Dickens, it was published just before the Christmas of 1984 and sold out immediately.
A-Christmas-Carol-Arthur-Rackham-1915A-Christmas-Carol-Arthur-Rackham-1915 (2)The novel describes the wealthy miser, Scrooge, whose unsociable and mean temperament is transformed after several ghostly visitations. The book has proved to be an enduring success. It has never been out of print and has been published in various formats and styles since it’s release.

Arthur Rackham, a leading illustrator of children’s books at the time, worked on one of the most famous editions in 1915. Rackham was very selective about the books he worked on generally only illustrating one a year and for this year A Christmas Carol was chosen. His vision of the characters completely captures the intentions of Charles Dickens. Rackham employs a novel use of bold outlines and colour washes to vividly portray the pre and post spirit of Scrooge. In addition, Rackham employs the popular technique of silhouette for his black and white illustrations within the book.

A publisher’s marketing ploy at the time was to publish two versions of a book. One was regarded as a “trade” edition with a simpler and cheaper use of paper and material for the covers. The other edition, made for the gift market, comprised of finer paper and was usually limited in numbers and signed by the illustrator.

Looking through the images of the book transports the reader to a Victorian Dickens Christmas. A rare festive treat!

Posted on

The Story Behind A First Edition Book – The Time Machine.

Often the story behind a first edition is untold – how a novel ever reaches publication can be a story in itself! The Time Machine has an interesting start in life. The author’s, H. G. Wells, childhood was spent reading extensively yet he was only able to pursue his literary career in young adulthood. He had been thinking and writing about time travel long before The Time Machine was ever published. His plot about an English scientist, who develops a time travel machine, explores social and scientific topics, from class conflict to evolution. When he was 22 years old he serialised his ideas of time travel in his own college newspaper, “The Science Schools Journal” as “The Chronic Argonauts” in 1888. Two further drafts were postulated from Wells’s writings and memoirs and from external sources. Apparently these texts were lost but six years later, in 1894, a fourth text caught the eye of William Ernest Henley from The National Observer. He published the story in a series of seven editions under the title of “The Time Traveler’s Story”. It was a simple version, undramatic and rather flat. The final conclusion was never published as Henley moved positions to become the editor of The New Review before it was released. In his new position at the New Review Henley asked Wells to adapt and enlarge the story for a five part serial. He renamed this improved draft as “The Time Machine” and published it in 1895 paying H. G. Wells £100 ( a considerable sum in today’s terms!) for the story.

Serial publication was a well-established format for novels to be launched at the time. In addition, the climate for stories of time travel and science was ripe and the stories were well received.  A good background for launching a novel about time travel. Wells was keen for a book publication of the story and approached an American publisher, Henry Holt who printed the novel in May 1895, the same year as the New Review publications. (By the way, if you have the first edition of this book the author is stated as H.S Wells – an error that was amended in the second printing!). Wells was also pursuing the London publisher, Heinemann to publish his story who finally released the first UK copy in May 1895. Heinemann produced 6,000 soft bound and 1,500 hard backed editions of “The Time Machine, An Invention”.

The Holt and Heinemann editions of the Time Machine were published within three weeks of each other and yet are noticeably different. Wells edited and took pieces from his earlier stories in the National Observer and The New Review serials for each publisher. The Holt edition is shorter having only twelve chapters against Heinemann’s sixteen chapters plus an epilogue. These two editions are commonly referred to as the “Holt text” and “Heinemann text”. Nearly all modern reprints reproduce the Heinemann text.

Books of the time were often in a large format with illustrations so Well’s short, 40,000 word story and half inch thick novella looked small on the shelf making initial sales a little slower than expected.  To improve the size and look of the  book Heinemann and Holt added a catalogue at the end of the book of later publications. Apparently some of the first edition books that were not selling were printed but not bound. When the stock levels were low these first editions were bound with catalogues of books from 1899 included at the end of the novel. This meant that the actual publication date of these books was later than the 1895 date printed on their pages.

The-Time-Machine-H.G.Wells first editionThe Time Machine proved to be a successful story touching upon the emerging scientific and sociological topics of the time. The novella became popular and was published with further amendments in 1924 along with “The Wonderful Visit” and other Stories by H.G. Wells in a 28 set volume titled “The Atlantic Edition of the Works of H. G. Wells”.  The Time Machine has been since published in many formats with several film and comic productions. It remains a cornerstone of science fiction novels and Wells is traditionally known as the “Father of Science Fiction”.

Knowing the historical journey of a first edition of “The Time Machine” makes the possession of such an antique book quite unique.

To view the first Heinemann edition (rare without a catalogue) go to The Time Machine 





Posted on

Who needs a reason to read Babar books?

Who needs a reason to read Babar books?

One of the delights in dealing in children’s first edition books is having an legitimate reason to dip into the children’s literary world for a short while. Allowing time to relish the humour of a well written children’s story and enjoy the colourful and charming pictures is a real pleasure. Babar the Elephant is one of those classic characters from the twentieth century who never fails to tempt adults and children alike. His creator, Jean De Brunhoff, produced definitive works of children’s writing and artwork that remain popular with all ages today.Le-Voyage-de-Babar-Jean-de-Brunhoff-first-edition (2)

Brunhoff wrote and illustrated a series of six Babar books plus an Elephant alphabet book. The books are often considered a personal reflection of Brunhoff’s life events. They depict birth, loss of a family member, a journey to a large city, education, marriage and the development of a kingdom (although the latter clearly not played out in Brunhoff’s life!). Brunhoff stories included tales of death and war yet he managed to portray these unpleasant topics in a straightforward and understandable manner. When they were published in 1930’s their large format and double page spread was considered distinctive and instantly appealing to children. In addition, the use of a cursive writing text encouraged an intimate relationship with the story. Primarily however, Brunhoff’s talented watercolour illustrations in detailed and bright colours were an instant attraction for children and his simple yet poetic prose spoke directly to his audience.The-Story-Of-Babar-with-preface-by-a.a.Milne-Jean-De-Brunhoff-First-edition-Methuen

Brunhoff had many life experiences to draw upon in his portrayal of Babar’s life. After graduation Brunhoff joined the French Army at the end of World War 1 and engaged in warfare on the front line. After studying with Othon Friesz, at the Acadamie de la Chamiere in Montparnasse he became a professional artist. He excelled in works of portraits, still lives and landscapes. Brunhoff married a talented pianist, Cecile Sabourand, in 1924 and they had three sons, Laurent, Mathieu and Thierry. It was Cecile who initially invented a bedtime story about a little elephant to amuse Matthieu who was ill at the time. The child and his brothers so loved the story of the little elephant who left the jungle for the big city that they encouraged their father to illustrate the story and make a book about the elephant. Brunhoff’s artistic skills turned the story into a picture book, with text, which became The Story of Babar.

Jean de Brunhoff came from a family of successful publishing professionals and his father actually ran a publishing house. His brothers were the editors of Paris Vogue and Le Decor D’Aujourd’hui. His sister was a photographer who was married to the chief of Conde Nast’s Le Jardin Des Modes. The familial influence no doubt encouraged the formulation of a book of the bedtime tales. The result was Histoire de Babar, le petit elephant which was published in 1931 by his brother in law’s publishers at Editions du Jardin Des Modes. The first USA publication was in 1933 by Harrison Smith & Robert Hass.The-Story-Of-Babar-with-preface-by-a.a.Milne-Jean-De-Brunhoff-First-edition-Methuen An English version was presented in the Daily Sketch and later published in 1934 by Methuen with an introduction by A.A. Milne. The Babar character was an instant success and Brunhoff was encouraged to write more stories about the elephant. He wrote a succession of Babar books over the next few years. Le Voyage de Babar (1932), Le Roi Babar (1933), Le ABC de Babar (1934), were  published by Jardin Des Modes. The last three stories, Les Vacance de Zephir (1936), Babar en Famille, (1938) and Babar et Pere Noel (1941), were all published by a different publisher, Hachette. English versions of all these books were soon published and the Babar character became internationally popular.

Unfortunately in the early 1930’s Brunhoff was diagnosed with tuberculosis and he was required to spend long periods of time in a Swiss sanatorium. Despite his illness Brunhoff was able to continue his work, yet he died at the age of 38 in 1937 before he was able to see his last few books published. Fortunately his son, Laurent, has safeguarded the style and writing of his father’s Babar books and continued to publish the Babar stories ten years after his death. There are now over fifty Babar titles and sales of the books are in their millions. Laurent De Brunhoff has ensured the success of the Babar character continues to this day.ABC-of-Babar-Jean-de-Brunhoff-first-edition-methuen (2)

Reviewers have praised the uniqueness of Brunhoff’s approach to children’s literature from the first publication date to today. John Piper (1903-92) from the Spectator commented that Brunhoff “had that power of careful observation that allowed him again and again to hit on ideas so simple and obvious that nobody has thought of them in that way before, although everybody wishes they had.” The children’s author, A.A. Milne, was an admirer of Brunhoff who wrote a fond introduction to the first UK edition of The Story of Babar in 1934. Milne’s charming words stated, “If you love elephants, you will love Babar and Celeste. If you have never loved elephants, you will love them now. If you who are grown-up have never been fascinated by a picture book before, then this is the one which will fascinate you…I salute M. de Brunhoff. I am at his feet.” More recently Roger Sale examined the enduring fascination of English children’s literary books and characters in his edition of “Fairy Tales and After: From Snow White to E.B White”. Of the Babar stories he commented they “rightly rank with the Beatrix Potter books as the best ever made for very young children.” The artwork of Burnhoff and his son has received similar acclaim. There have been many major exhibitions of both father and son’s illustrations in Paris, New York, Japan and Toronto plus many others. The Morgan Library and Museum, New York holds the original The Story of Babar manuscript and artwork. The manuscripts and artwork for The Travels of Babar and Zephyr’s Holidays are held in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

Jean De Brunhoff clearly meets the critieria for creating a significant literary children’s character and his son secured the legacy of his father’s work. Babar continues to bring delight to many children’s (and if we will admit it, adults!) lives. Who needs more of an excuse to dip into a Babar book?

Rare and Antique Books holds many first editions of his early works, including those with introductions by A. A. Milne (UK – Methuen and American – Smith & Haas).

Posted on

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – The fascination continues

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde:

The UK television of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde has started with dramatic scenes of horror and intrigue. Holding the early edition book of this tale prompted a re look at the origins of the story and it’s publication. The plot recounts the investigation by a London lawyer into strange occurrences between his old friend Dr. Henry Jekyll and the evil Edward Hyde who, as we probably know, turn out to be the same person. The themes of the two extremes of good and evil run throughout the story.

The Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson, was interested in the personality traits between good and evil at an early age. In his teenage years he produced a play about the double life of the thief, Deacon Brodie. In 1884 he wrote “Markheim” another plot about a respectable murderer. His family members included a religious minister, a professor of philosophy, engineers and scientists and they all influenced his thinking about ideas of how personalities can affect a human. In addition, the scientific and religious climate in England was ripe for his macabre tales.

In 1859, when Stevenson was nine years old, Charles Darwin published “The Origin of Species” introducing the Theory of Evolution. The idea that all humans had evolved from more primitive forms challenged the belief of God creating the world in seven days. Many believed that science was dangerous. It was meddling with the natural order of things which only God had control over. This pull between science and religion was the backdrop in which the characters of the Jekyll and Hyde were set.

In addition, the Victorians increasing conflict between science and religion was compounded by the ideas that humans have a dual nature. On one side was the calm and rational way of life and on the other was violence and destruction. A split between the supernatural and nature; the good versus evil. The famous Jack the Ripper struck in 1888 igniting these issues. The stories of the murderer being of Royal blood or highly educated fueled ideas of the Jekyll and Hyde double nature of mankind yet further.

Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was first published by The New York firm of Charles Scribner’s Sons on January 5 1886. Four days later the first UK edition was published by Longmans Green Company. A Times review of 25th January 1886 gave it a favourable review and after that the book became an instant success. Over the next six months over forty thousand copies were sold. By 1901 it has sold a reputedly 250,000 copies in the United States. Stevenson’s biographer, Graham Balfour, commented in 1901 that the book’s success was probably rather to the “moral instincts of the public” than to any conscious perception of the quality of the writing. “It was read by those who never read fiction… quoted in multiple sermons and in religious papers”.

The Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde novella is a remarkable tale set in remarkable times. Ratings for the first UK television production are high, proving that the fascination of the divide between good and evil continues to captivate people now. Holding an early edition of this intriguing story is a reminder of the Victorian interests and social issues of the time.

Dr-Jekyll-Mr-Hyde-3rd-Edition-R.L.StevensonStrange-Case-of-Dr-Jekyll-and-Mr-Hyde-R.L.Stevenson-1895 (2)

Rare and Antique books holds two copies of the early editions of The Strange Case of Dr Jeykell and Mr Hyde. The first is a third edition by Longman in 1886 and the second book is a twentieth edition dated 1895, both in very presentable condition.


Posted on

Collecting Ian Fleming First Edition Books

Collecting Ian Fleming First Edition Books:

Fleming’s Bond books are perhaps the most popular and iconic thriller series ever produced. There remains some attraction in identifying with the character and his lifestyle – how many men don’t secretly desire to be Bond at least in some small way! The James Bond “product” has generated all manner of associated gadgets and memorabilia, yet a Bond first edition book holds genuine authenticity and cudos over other merchandise. It would be hard to believe there are any around the world not proudly displayed in cabinets or on shelves.

With the launch on Monday 26th October of the new James Bond film, Spectre, focus on the collecting Ian Fleming’s first edition Bond books will be re-ignited. They have always remained consistently appealing to collectors of modern fiction but here are some interesting facts for the novice.

  • Ian Fleming only published fourteen James Bond novels so collecting them is a manageable task.  Anyone starting off a collection already has some boundaries set so there is no chance of getting carried away and going off piste!
  • Dr-No-Ian-Fleming-First-Edition-Collection-2Identifying the novels is relatively straightforward and so is an ideal way to start off collecting modern literature. Jonathan Cape published all the UK versions of the novels so recognising the publishing details are relatively clear. They should all say Jonathan Cape on the title page. Also they should state “First Published …” with the correct year on the back of the title page. Any second or later impressions will be clearly stated.
  • James-Bond-first-edition-collection-Ian-Fleming-Live-and-let-dieIdeally a good collection will consist of books with their original dust jackets and some of the fun in collecting them is to seek out such books. Beware of jackets from later editions being placed on original books. As a rule of thumb, knowing the sequence of books in the series and then checking to make sure a later book is not mentioned on the jacket of an earlier book, should help determine whether it is the correct jacket for the book or not. Identifying a first edition dust jacket can also be done by checking that no reviews from newspapers or journalists are included on the dust jacket flaps. Later impressions of the book will naturally have these reviews included. Those that have retained their pricing on the front flap are called ‘not price-clipped’ and will be more valuable. The only other point to note is that “Live and Let Die” had three ‘issues’ of the first edition, first impression. The first and most valuable edition has no reference to the jacket designer at all; the second edition has the reference centered in the white space below the text on the inside front flap of the jacket; for the third edition it is placed just below the text. They are all valuable books but decrease in cost from first to third.
  • James Bond novels can be relatively affordable especially for the later books. It is certainly best to start with the more recent and affordable publications. First editions become more expensive as you start moving toward the earlier books in the series. Of course, as ever, condition is the key but even poor condition copies of the earlier books can fetch a reasonable sum. Fine and pristine copies can be worth several thousand pounds but it is perfectly possible to build up a good collection of reasonable books priced at a few hundred pounds each.
  • James Bond books remain a beautifully designed set of books which look great on You-Only-Live-Twice-Ian-Fleming-1964-First-Editionthe shelf. Everyone has their favourite jacket design. The dust jacket designs by Kenneth Lewis, Pat Marriotand, of course, Richard Chopping, all have special attributes that set them apart from each other. Choppping’s  Trompe L’Oeil style was distinctive and menacing. He could even make a toad with a captured dragonfly seem menacing as he did for “You Only Live Twice.”
  • Collecting James Bond novels is especially fun when a new Bond film comes out! The release of the Casino Royale film in 2006 considerably increased the sales of the book of the same name. What was additionally great for book collectors was that the dust jacket for the book inspired the opening sequence of the film.
  • Casino-Royale-Ian-Fleming-rare-authentificationAdding to the fun of collecting Ian Fleming’s novel is the hunting down of the earlier copies of the Bond novels. These earlier titles were initially published in smaller quantities. The first novel, Casino Royale, had a print run of only 4,700 copies. Many of these went to libraries so were well used and invariably lost their jackets. The later books, such as Octopussy, had a run of 50,000 so great copies of these editions are more easily affordable.

Once started, a first edition collection of Ian Fleming books can become compelling! Finding a finer and better copy of a James Bond book is the new challenge. The subtleties of the condition of the book and dust jacket become more intense and it becomes a little like building up a fine wine collection! If you start on the quest of collecting Ian Fleming books we wish you good luck in your adventure! The thrill of completing the collection is amazing.

James-Bond-first-edition-collection-Ian-FlemingRare and Antique books holds the complete collection of James Bond books. See more Ian Fleming novels here.


Posted on

Five of the Best Books for Children

Five of the Best Books for Children

Someone recently challenged Barbara Chalk, the proprietor of Rare & Antique Books, to choose five of the best books for children from the Rare and Antique booksite. This is what she had to say.

Where do I start as I love them all! However, in the spirit of the task I have endeavoured to narrow them down to the following five which are of particular interest to me at the moment.

Miniature Editions of Through the Looking Glass and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Illustrated by John Tenniel 1907 & 1908

Of course I am cheating here as this is actually two books but they make such a charming pair I couldn’t separate them! The reason for their appeal is their size – they look like they have been given some of Alice’s size reducing potion! The original Tenniel’s illustrations are intact and in their original black and white format. In 1907 Macmillan marked the expiry of the copyright of Alice’s Adventures by issuing several new editions, publicising them with a Punch cartoon captioned ‘Tenniel’s Alice Reigns Supreme’. “The Sixpenny Series” was the first of these in December of that year. In 1903 they issued the “Little Folks Edition” with new colour pictures of Tenniel and an abbreviated text. The “Illustrated Pocket Classic” followed in 1904. This miniature edition published in 1907 was a real success and remains a highly collectable edition. A charming pair of books.

A Gallery of Children A. A. Milne

A selection of the best children’s books must surely include an A. A. Milne book. The well known Winnie the Pooh books are very endearing and an easy choice. However, Milne produced a wide range of novels, plays and short stories which merit celebration. One of these is this charming collection of children’s fantasy stories written between A-Gallery-Of-Children-A.A.Milne-First-EditionhisA-Gallery-Of-Children-A.A.Milne-First-Edition poetry book of “When We Were Very Young” 1924 and “Winnie The Pooh” 1926. It was his first book of prose for children. This hardcover book was first published in 1925 by the Stanley Paul & Co. London and the David McKay Company in Philadelphia. The illustrator Saida, otherwise known as H. Willebbek Le Mair, was initially famous for her illustrations for toothpaste advertisements in magazines. Her delightful pictures complement Milne’s twelve stories making this edition a wonderful demonstration of the writing talents of A. A. Milne.

The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman 1901

The-Story-Of-Little-Black-Sambo-Fifth-Edition-Helen-Bannerman (2)Chosen for its perfect condition this little book is absolutely charming with delightful illustrations. Much of the appeal of the book lies in its size as the book measures only 5-5 3/4 inches in size making it appear like a toy book. Reading the book has an element of anticipation of what is to come as the writing and images are only one side of the pages. The book was initially published by Grant Richards as a series of small formatted books called The Dumpy Books for Children between 1897 and 1904.  The classic and well known story is of a little boy and of course the terminology within the test is now obsolete and outdated. Yet in it’s time the book was a children’s favourite for more than half a century and so serves as a reminder of historical social change.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis 1950-1956

Again I think I am cheating by including more than one book! Yet this set of seven fantasy stories have featured in thousands of children’s bookshelves – over 100 million copies published in 47 languages. It remains a classic children’s work of literature covering themes of religion, race and gender and has been a source of controversial literary debate. Pauline Baynes’s fine pen and ink original illustrations, especially the maps of Narnia, are still used in publications today. ThThe-Chronicles-of-Narnia-C.S.Lewis-first-editione Chronicles tells of several children who are magically transported to the world of Narnia to protect the lion, Asian, from Evil and restore him to his rightful place on the throne. The adventures cover the entire history of Narnia ending in The Last Battle. The first five books were originally published by Geoffrey Bles over a few years. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe published first in 1950 and , although complete, the next books Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Horse and His Boy, were issued one at a time from 1951 to 1954. The Silver Chair was written after The Horse and His Boy but published after it in 1953. The Bodley Head published the last two books, The Magician’s Nephew and The Last Battle in 1955 and 1956. Again the Magician’s Nephew was written after, but published before The Last Battle. There has been much discussion over the years as to the order of reading the books as some publishers have produced them in chronological rather than first published order. Whichever way they are read they still remain an enchanting read!

The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant, with a preface by A. A. Milne 1934

Babar the elephant is one of the most delightful children’s illustrated books. This edition has the added value of an introduction by the author of Winnie the Pooh, A. A. Milne. In fact it was A. A. Milne who initially brought the little elephant to the attention of the British children’s book market. Milne first saw the French edition of the book at a friend’s house in 1932. He was so enthralled by the detailed illustrations and story that he persuaded his publishers, Methuen, to produce an English version. A. A. Milne wrote a charming introduction which helped to make the first edition an immediate success.
The-Story-Of-Babar-with-preface-by-a.a.Milne-Jean-De-Brunhoff-First-edition-MethuenThe-Story-Of-Babar-with-preface-by-a.a.Milne-Jean-De-Brunhoff-First-edition-Methuen“If you love elephants you will love Babar. If you have never loved elephants you will love them now. If you are a grown-up and have never been fascinated by a picture book before, then this is the one that will fascinate you. If you are a child do not take these enchanting people to your heart; if you do not spend delightful hours making sure that no detail of their adventures has escaped you; then you deserve to wear gloves and be kept off wet grass for the rest of your life. I can say no more. I salute M. De. Brunhoff. I am at his feet. A. Milne”. Enough said I think!

Five of the best books for children? Well, they are my choice form the Rare and Antique book store today. As I love them all if you ask me tomorrow the list may well be different.

See other Children’s books for more choices.

Posted on

Five Facts about J.R.R. Tolkien books

Rare and Antique Books hold some of Tolkien’s most famous and rare first edition novels – the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. These fantasy stories are not written purely from Tolkien’s imagination – here are some of the biographical and historical influences to his writing.Tolkien first edition

The Impacts of War: Tolkien reluctantly enlisted into the Army in 1915. He was ordered to France where he helped capture the German stronghold at Ovillers, two weeks after the first Somme assault. At the time he comments “It was like death”,  yet he witnessed courage and reliance which was expressed as a perpetual conflict between good and evil in his fantasy battles in Middle Earth. Of The Lord of the Rings he comments, “But I should say, if asked, the tale is not really about Power and Dominion: that only sets the wheels going; it is about Death and the desire for deathlessness. Which is hardly more than to say it is a tale written by a Man!” Humphrey Carpenter ed. (1981) The Letters of J.R.R.Tolkien

Romantic Influences: J.R.R.Tolkien married Edith Bratt in 1916 and their relationship was a source of inspiration for Tolkien’s writings. The separation of Beren and Lutherin mirrored their own time apart during the First World War. A walk in the woods with his wife Edith in 1917 inspired the love story of the fugitive warrior Beren and the elven-fair Lúthien – their names are even on the Tolkien’s Oxford gravestone. Following Edith’s death, Tolkien wrote the following in a letter to their son Christopher. “I never called Edith Luthien – but she was the source of the story that in time became the chief part of the Silmarillion. It was first conceived in a small woodland glade filled with hemlocks at Roos in Yorkshire (where I was for a brief time in command of an outpost of the Humber Garrison in 1917, and she was able to live with me for a while)Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 340, To Christopher Tolkien.The Fellowship of the Ring First edition
The Two towers J.R.R.Tolkien first editionThe Return of the King first edition



The Experience of Loss: Tolkien was orphaned at an early age. His father, Arthur, died when he was only 3 years old and his mother, Mabel, died from diabetes eight years later. Tolkien and his siblings were fostered by Father Francis Murray of the Roman Catholic Church. Several characters in his novels experience the loss of a loved one. Feanor, Prince of the Noldor, first loses his father and then his greatest conceptions, the Silmarils, through the conspiracies of the wicked Morgoth. The Return of the King explains how, after more than two hundred years of life, Aragorn dies leaving behind a sad and now-mortal Arwen. She then returns to one of the few places of pure happiness she knew in her life to die peacefully by the river, Nimrodel.

Tolkien Loved Languages: Tolkien was a professor philologist of ancient GermanicThe-Hobbit-J.R.R.Tolkien Languages specialising in Old English. His love of the Finnish Language led to the constructed of the Elvish language in his stories, such as Khuzdul the tongue of the Dwarves, and the Black Speech used by Sauon in the Second Age. Tolkien used Old Norse names for the Dwarves, but the name of Bilbos’s home was inspired in a more concrete manner – by his Aunt’s Farm, Bag End.

Influences on Publication: After the success of the Hobbit, his publishers, Allen and Unwin, requested a sequel The-Hobbit-J.R.R.Tolkiennovel- Tolkien obliged with a 200,000 word script written in 1949. However, Tolkien wrote complicated and lengthy scripts with detailed appendices, edits, and maps which inevitably created a delay in publication. Paper costs rocketed in The Second World War also affecting publication. As a result Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novel was redrafted into three separate books. The first of these books, The Fellowship of the Ring, was finally published in July 1954. This was followed by The Two Towers later the same year and then The Return of the King in October 1955 – a long publication journey indeed!

J.R.R. Tolkien’s books are complex and intelligent works of imagination –and our blog only retells a fraction of the influences upon his writing. Holding and reading the first edition of these wonderful books gives a real thrill of excitement knowing you are in possession of a classic!

See our Tolkien books – Lord of the Rings  The Hobbit  The Return of the King