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Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Our Little Shop, This Year and Next Year

Looking through our books today this particular illustration leapt out. The artist is one of my personal favourites, Harold Jones, and the poem described is called 'The Little Shop'. The book, a collection of children's verse by Walter de la Mare, is called 'This Year, Next Year'.

Our 250-year-old business is going to see some changes over the coming year due to the pressure of unsupportable rent increases in the West End. We are embracing this as a challenge and are determined to protect our piece of London and the history of bookselling in our capital city and have made the decision to sublet a portion of our space.

This will see us pulling in our waistline and streamlining our stock to ensure that we continue to offer the very finest books in our field, all individually chosen to suit our customers tastes - and our own!

Structural changes to our listed building are inevitable and we will be in flux for months but will do all we can to preserve our usual ambience as far as is possible, sailing calmly on above water as we paddle furiously beneath the surface.

Sotheran's has seen many changes over its long history, with 10 or so moves over that time. We are thrilled, most importantly, that we are going to continue to occupy the same site (which we moved to in the 1930s) and are looking forward to refining the business to make it stronger.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

1066 and all that

To help mark the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, Sotheran has donated a copy of Daniel Maclise's wonderful 1866 work The Story of the Norman Conquest to Battle Museum in East Sussex where it all happened. To commemorate the 800th anniversary of the battle Maclise reworked the Bayeux Tapestry as a frieze in a neo-Classical style. He clearly favoured the Normans, as they are seen praying righteously on the eve of the battle while the Saxons are drinking mead and larking about. It's very difficult to defend a hill with a hangover. Still, they played their part in the birth of modern Britain, and the nation's fondness for the underdog may well have started with an arrow that pierced Harold's eye and flew on to become a Spitfire in the Battle of Britain, a tennis ball from Tim Henman's racquet and a towel thrown in by David Cameron. Duke William of Normandy changed everything - our language, our governance, our sense of identity - and that seems worth commemorating.

(l-r) Trevor Wayne, curator of Battle Museum, receiving Maclise's The Story of the Norman Conquest from Sotheran's Chris Saunders.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Feathered friends

Birds Catalogue
Looking out of the window this morning Mr Sotheran couldn't help but sniff back a melancholy tear as he saw the geese beginning to pack up for the winter and fly south. So we have decided to cheer him up by putting together a small catalogue of choice and lovely books on birds, which we'd like to share with you here:

Give the link a quick peck, hover over the lovely books and if there's anything you'd like to take home to your nest, give us a call.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Old Catalogues Unearthed

I've only worked here a few years producing catalogues, and often wondered what some of our earlier offerings were like. Well, amongst other interesting items, a recent trawl through our cellars has uncovered a pile of various old copies of our roughly annual Piccadilly Notes. This includes two copies of the first issue of which one remains untrimmed.

Published in 1933, this dates from just after the death of the last Mr Sotheran to own the business. After a year or two of uncertainty, a new owner was found and the General Manager, John Stonehouse, at last gained the freedom he had long felt he deserved to run things as he saw fit.

The general format of Piccadilly Notes, then as now, is a general mixed catalogue of interesting items currently in stock, sometimes given over to an entire collection of, for example, fine bindings. Unlike its modern counterpart the catalogue entries are interspersed with Mr Stonehouse's whimsical anecdotes and slightly self-indulgent "Random Thoughts" on aspects of the book trade. I suppose nowadays he would be our most avid blogger and social media advocate!

While I'm feeling whimsically self-indulgent I can tell you that having compared the description in the catalogue to Google Maps, the view of Piccadilly on the cover (then 121 years old and now 204) is still more-or-less recognisable.

This may turn out to be the start of a series of Random Thoughts on the Mysterious Contents of Sotheran's Cellar. Watch this space …

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Four Princes — Book Launch

John Julius Norwich was at the shop to launch his new book:

"Four Princes
Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V, Suleiman the Magnificent
 and the Obsessions that Forged Modern Europe"

Four of the greatest rulers in history were born within a few years of each other and their reigns overlapped. Altercations were bound to arise; and some surprising alliances. This is the product of ten years research after John Julius Norwich became fascinated with the idea of how the effects of this unique alignment have percolated through history to affect us all.

JJN's introductory speech

Book signing