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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Shelf Life 3

View the contents of the entire display case for this weeks Shelf Life, follow the link below:

This week's shelf-life should actually be called display-case-life, as it is that of a rather large and splendid case, referred to by Sotheran's staff as Linnean Case, because of its provenance,  the Linnean Society. It should house natural history items, but 'for historical reasons' it serves the Travel Department in displaying unwieldy, aesthetically pleasing and unusual items. The Linnean Case stretches over 230 cm from the centre of the shop towards the Children's Book Department and standing in front of it, from left to right it contains a rather curious mix of books and objects, beginning with what I jokingly used to call Stanley's salad servers. I almost forgot that tiny volume which sits in the corner, a little manifestation of European orientalism.

Above these two rather diverse objects, we see an almost fully opened and rather beautiful Swiss panorama on display, produced at a time when Alpine tourism took off. Above two books of North American interest are propped up against the back panel of the display case. Further along to the right of this back panel are Churchill's My African Journey with the author next to a dead rhinoceros on the illustrated cloth binding. Another journey, this time an imaginary one, conjured up by a Victorian Liverpool 'inventor,' accompanies the truly colonial Churchill. In addition to the first-mentioned item, the Linnean Case holds two further 'non-books,' a signed photograph of the the great Swedish explorer Sven Hedin, which might accompany one of the about a dozen of his books we acquired fairly recently and which can be found on our website. The other object is an extremely rare plate depicting an important 19th-century Navy vessel, when she was moored in Dartmouth as a training ship. More diverse material can be explored in this display case, such as a Russian version of - again - Stanley's adventure book My Kalulu, a Samoan dictionary, and as a highlight at the far end of the case, a splendid, large and rare work on Indian Zoology, published to depict all hitherto unillustrated animals of the Sub-Continent. On our journey from salad servers to Indian wildlife we encounter mementoes of the Crimean War, a celebration of the British and Allied victory over Napoleon with hand-coloured aquatint plates, the first exhibition catalogue of the first Zionist book and poster designer, a Polar rarity, and many more books, only related to each other by proximity in this display case.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Shelf Life 2

Our second Shelf Life feature sees us opening the door of the science cabinet and taking a look at the top row of books. There, in the middle, is a run of books that, taken together, tell a story of intellectual revolution, argument, friendship and rivalry centred around the learned societies of nineteenth century Britain.

What we might call the era of evolution – the period in which science has largely rejected the Biblical Creation – can be said to have started in 1858, with the delivery of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace’s joint paper to the Linnean Society. This event was the catalyst for a radical adjustment in how people see the world, and it is only fitting that we try to stock works by these two great men. After recent catalogue sales, we are without copies of Darwin’s two greatest works, The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man, but we do have a lovely early edition of his book on insectivorous plants and a number of reprints and biographical works that represent his enormous contribution to modern thought. As he did in life, Wallace has receded into the background, for now at least -   we often have his books in stock, and his influence is seen in Hickson’s A Naturalist in North Celebes, in which the author retraces some of Wallace’s steps through the Malay Archipelago.

Yet it continues to be Darwin who is the icon of the theory of natural selection, and this is reflected in titles by John Fiske, an early American disciple of evolution, and by Edward Aveling, the son-in-law of Karl Marx who co-opted Darwinism to the socialist cause (and also caused scandal in the Marx family through his womanising and spendthrift ways, though that’s quite another story). It seems right that they should be rubbing shoulders with Robert Chambers, the Edinburgh publisher who paved the way for the theory of natural selection with his Vestiges of Creation, which propounded an early version of evolution. So professionally dangerous were his ideas that his books on the subject were published anonymously during his lifetime, and therefore on this shelf he is incognito.

His reticence is understandable when we look at the neighbours to the right on the shelf. William Buckland and John Kidd, both stars in the Oxford firmament and guardians of geological and biological science, are here represented by their contributions to the Bridgewater treatises, works commissioned in the 1830s to uphold the Biblical view of the Creation through science. Beyond them lie four even more problematic characters: Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Winchester who led the Church’s attacks on Darwin; Philip Gosse, the wonderfully talented naturalist whose strict beliefs led him to concoct a theory that saw God placing fossils in the earth to make it look older than it really was; Richard Owen, the difficult man who coined the term ‘dinosaur’, founded the Natural History Museum, and regarded Darwinism as a personal slight; and the Swiss Louis Agassiz, another hugely gifted naturalist and geologist who dismissed natural selection as humbug.

A modern book by Adrian Desmond, Darwin’s biographer, on dinosaur anatomy divides this quadrumvirate from another mid-nineteenth geologist, Gideon Mantell. This is perhaps just as well, for Mantell fell foul of Richard Owen in the fight to claim precedence as Britain’s foremost palaeontologist. Owen took the credit for Mantell’s discovery of the iguanodon and spent the rest of his career dismissing the other man as mediocre, even after Mantell’s early death in 1852. Such personal conflict was common in the intellectual circles of the time; there were many battles being fought on many fronts, scientific, religious and personal. Yet from that time of uproar great advances emerged, and these can be seen in the work of scientists who came afterwards, such as Archibald Geikie, who continued the work of Darwin and Lyell into the early twentieth century, and Alfred Kinsey, whose controversial studies in the 1940-50s on human sexuality were born out of a Darwinist desire to examine and understand Man as an animal.

Right at the end of this section is a reminder of where it all started. Before Darwin, before Owen and Buckland, there was Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern biology, and here we have his autobiographical sketches, in his native Swedish, to show us that this very British revolution of ideas had its origins far across the sea.

For full descriptions of these books, please follow the link below:

Monday, 1 December 2014

Shelf Life 1

Welcome to Shelf Life - a weekly blog featuring a randomly chosen shelf from the inside of the world's oldest antiquarian bookshop Henry Sotheran.

The aim is to give a glimpse of what is in the shop and why we think it is interesting.

Shelf Life 1 features the top shelf in a large walk-in cupboard on the right-hand side of the shop with a full height glass door.  Affectionately known in the shop as the Grand Cabinet (pronounced a la francais) this is in fact the original lift shaft from the interior of our early premises on Piccadilly itself.

List of Books in Shelf Life 1

The books in the Grand Cab come from various departments but tend as a rule to be either more expensive, more fragile or simply things that we don't quite know where else to put.

The range is typically Sotheranesque and eclectic.  Charles Dickens first editions jostle with Kylie Minogue, facsimiles of the Gutenberg Bible and illuminated manuscripts rub shoulders with a book on military camouflage. There's a little bit of 1920s French erotica, some signed Walter Mosley detective fiction, a few Rubaiyats of Omar Khayyam, and amongst all this Spike Milligan and Barry Humphreys vie for position with a John Martin illustrated edition of Paradise Lost. To top it off there is an album of original photographs which form part of a diary kept by a young New Yorker on his tour of Europe in 1913, including an account of his voyage over on the Carpathia, only a  year after she had collected survivors from the Titanic.

Sotheran's is proud to be a shop where you can come and browse books and prints from a very wide selection of subjects and at a similarly wide choice of prices.  Not everything costs hundreds of pounds - indeed prices start from about £10.  Something for everyone - we hope.

Shelf Life will try to show you a weekly snapshot of the shop.  We hope that you find something of interest in each shelf. 

This shelf was chosen by Andrew McGeachin

Next week Chris will be sharing his selection for Shelf Life 2.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Sotheran’s annual exhibition of Vintage Travel Posters returns this winter with another selection of posters, evocative reminders of the golden age of travel. Stylish, exuberant and exciting, the posters illustrate an extraordinarily wide range of destinations including the Galapagos, New Zealand, India and Europe

The exhibition also boasts the first travel poster for Norway and a rare promotional piece for South Africa’s ‘champagne’ region.  The exhibition illuminates the whole spectrum of poster modes and graphic styles by prominent commercial designers of the time. Before the electronic age, travel posters were the means by which an astonishing range of exotic locations were brought home to the man in the street. Sun-drenched bathers, every means of transport, flora and fauna, historic landmarks, technological advances and emblems of national identity are all to be found in the travel poster.

The exhibition will run from Thursday 13th November - Thursday 4th December 2014. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

William Blake: Rare Books and Prints

This Autumn Henry Sotheran’s will hold an exhibition on the works by the remarkable artist William Blake. We will be showcasing rare books and prints of the highest quality. Unlike upcoming exhibitions elsewhere on Blake, at Sotheran’s work can be selected for private collections.

William Blake (1757-1827), engraver, poet, painter, and visionary, was the creator of a complete mythology that is expressed most perfectly in the poetry and imagery contained within his illuminated books: Jerusalem, Visions of the Daughters of Albion, The Book of Thel, The Book of Los, Milton, and Songs of Innocence and Experience. These and his other illustrated books, his engraved contributions to the publications of others, as well as watercolours and paintings bear witness to a volatile, creative genius. Printed in exceptionally small numbers, study of the illuminated books was for many years the preserve of a small circle of scholars and historians. However, in the last sixty years, due in large part to landmark exhibitions and the publishing endeavours of the Trianon Press, Blake’s extraordinary world has been made available to a much wider audience.

For only a few short weeks the selected works will be on display and available as listed in our catalogue. Join us on the opening night so as not to miss what could be the perfect acquisition. 

Exhibition Dates

16th October – 8th November

Henry Sotheran Print Gallery
2 Sackville Street, Piccadilly, London, W1S 3DP

Opening Hours

Monday – Friday 9.30 – 18.00
Saturday 10.00 – 16.00
Admission: Free

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Rat Factory

Craig Cabell, Bellack Productions, and the Chairman and Directors of Henry Sotheran Limited are pleased to invite you to a party to launch virtual biographies of

James Herbert
Iain Banks
Craig Cabell

On Thursday 23 October 23
6.00 – 8.00 pm


2 Sackville Street
London W1

Cabell pays tribute to two departed friends and launches a new way of publishing


0207 439 6151

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

First World War Posters: 100 Years On

Henry Sotheran’s First World War Posters exhibition has been a resounding success. The posters to have remained so well conserved upon the centenary of their production, that it has largely generated an immediate reaction of awe and wonder. The original lithographic prints have retained their splendid colour and visual lustre, however, the posters were designed by artists who understood of the ephemerally quality of the medium. We cannot know if the artists involved in poster design could foresee the resonance of their work extending into the 21st Century, nor, that the posters could become highly regarded artefacts of modern history. 

Almost miraculously the posters have retained their quality and there are few overt signs of wear and tear expected from a century of physical history. To such an extent, that it is easy to imagine the poster in situ and location of the original purpose, across the country in train stations, recruitment offices or town halls. This is perhaps testament to the care for these objects not as posters, but as sincerely important artworks of national heritage importance. Aside from acid free linen backing the posters have not undergone any restoration.

The posters in the Sotheran’s exhibition relate to recruitment drives, important events, battles, characters of military history, regimental category, financial policies and are of international origin. Although the posters refer to the aforementioned themes, and were designed to reach specific cohorts to convince, inform and educate, the importance of the posters and weight we attach to them has not changed though the ages and they still demand deference. For though the images demonstrate types of period specific propaganda, they are now viewed with knowledge of the historic outcomes of the First World War; coinciding with the ability to view collectively in one location, what were international posters, seeing this exhibition provides a sincere understanding what constitutes a First World War poster.

Propaganda posters have various aims and objectives whether to mobilise, convince, declare, agitate, evoke reaction, and the posters are useful tools in understanding the social commentary of the age. “Corn. The Food of the Nation”, was a poster designed to enlighten the American domestic as to the benefits and diverse uses of the most bountiful crop in US agriculture. Whereas, the “Wounded Allies Days At The Caledonian Market, Islington”, demonstrates  the extent of the home-front efforts, and charity shown for soldiers in some of the poorest areas in London, not only for Allied soldiers from Great Britain, but internationally.

The exhibition selection is unique in its variety. This is a posters sale from a collection rarely available in the UK. All backed on conservation linen and protected for the future centenary. These posters are heirlooms, already being collected by museums; these works of art are an important part of modern history. The exhibition ends on Saturday 11th at 4pm, whilst we are open Monday to Friday 9.30am - 6pm, so do visit whilst these fantastic objects are in the UK for perhaps the only occasion for the next one hundred years!

Friday, 3 October 2014

“His name is synonymous with high style.”

[HORST]. LAWFORD, Valentine. Horst. His Work And His World.
New York, Alfred A.Knopf, 1984.
4to. (300 x 252 mm). Black cloth, photo-illustrated dust jacket; pp. [14], 396, [6], illustrated throughout with b/w photo plates; a fine copy in a near fine dust jacket.

First edition. Signed in ink to the the half-title by Valentine Lawford and Horst. From the library of Barbara Turk, fashion editor and stylist for publications such as Vanity FairHouse and Garden, and the New York Times, with her signed book label to the ffep.

Valentine Lawford was the chronicler of the world renowned artist photographer for more than thirty years. As one of the artists closest friends Lawford wrote this definitive book detailing all aspects of Horsts’ colossal creative output. The current exhibition at the V&A celebrates his reputation as the tour de force and industry leader, with esteemed colleagues of the international beau monde found in his characteristically composed photographs. Very few photographers fall into his rank, with his sitters and subjects including almost all the influential people of his period.

Sotheran’s holds a copy this principal text on Horst, that bears both the signature of the artist and his friend biographer. Through Lawford we are taken on a journey, exploring the impact Horst made in his native Germany, and then to Paris, New York. The chapters of this fine books contain the smallest details, that can only be observed my dear friends.

Throughout his long career, evident in this illuminating chronicle, Horst had an unrivalled visual appetite. The expression of his talent was unconventional and entirely unique to his vision. This is a powerful book for those interested in the history of dress, fashion or photography to have in their collection, a book that comprises of scholarship carried out by first had observation of genius. Given the recent exhibition at the V&A, many will have been exposed to the brilliant work of Horst. One of the only places in London that holds this special book is Sotheran's, so pop by and see it, for it would be the most splendid rare books acquisition. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

An Exhibition of Fashion Books & Prints

An original cover for the Spanish magazine Nuevo Mundo, dated 1922.

To coincide with London Fashion Week SS15, Sotheran’s is producing a colourful digital catalogue of books and prints showcasing fashion and textiles from the French Enlightenment to the present day. Displays of both the prints and books will be exhibited in the shop during the week and all exhibits will be available for purchase.

Original woodblock print by Yamashita Kose from the Hanakata series, 1900.
Historically the catalogue will start with prints taken from Denis Diderot’s Encyclopédie, showing the techniques and materials used in 18th century France. From there we work through the 19th century with a catalogue showing what fashionable Chicago ladies were wearing in the 1880’s, a book of lace samples and early 20th Kimono design illustrations. Thence to the charm of French pochoir fashion prints, onto Cecil Beaton and finishing with more contemporary photographic fashion books.

Original hand-coloured pochoir print, c.1931.
Also on display will be a collection of 20th century vintage magazine covers and retro advertisements including New Yorkers, Harper’s Bazaar and Spanish women’s magazine Nuevo Mundo.

Original magazine cover for 'Harper's Bazaar', February 1937.
The exhibition is open to the public and all artworks will be available for acquisition. The range of material will provide an interesting overview of fashion historically with prices to fit all pockets (£15 - £5,000).

Fashion Books & Prints
12 – 24 September

Henry Sotheran Print Gallery
2 Sackville Street, Piccadilly, London, W1S 3DP

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday 9.30 – 18.00
Saturday 10.00 – 16.00
Admission: Free

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Brighton Rock, British Film Noir from 1947

Arguably the greatest of the many fine adaptations of Graham Greene's literary thrillers, a chilly and unforgiving look into the life of a small-time Brighton thug, Pinkie Brown. Anchored by a seminal performance by a young Richard Attenborough.

The screenplay was written by Greene and Terence Rattigan for the 1947 film adaptation. The film is set in the 1930s, a period known for notorious race-track gangs. After the Gambling Act of 1845, gambling was only legal in England at the race tracks. The film is a dramatisation of this aspect of British criminal history, where gangs fought violently with straight razors in their competition to control the racecourses. Inter-war Brighton, a popular southern seaside resort is the location for the psychological thriller,a tale of murder and intrigue. The protagonist Pinkie, played by Attenborough, is a devilish character who is characterised with psychopathic tendencies.

 He is exceptionally cruel in his treatment of Rose whom he only marries to dissuade from providing the police with a witness statement regarding his heinous crimes. It seems that no act of cruelty or deception is beyond the hoodlum Pinkie, and Attenborough gives a chilling performance that secured his reputation as one of the most insightful and skilled British actors of his generation. Attenborough went on to have a career in film and theatre spanning many decades. His contributions to his craft gained him several honours, notably his CBE in 1967 and in 1993 when he was made a life-peer as Baron Attenborough. Henry Sotheran’s has on offer a complete set of eight original black-and-white British front-of-house cards for this outstanding example of British film noir. A fine set for any collector of classic cinema and British film history.

 Brighton Rock. Original set of  UK front-of-house cards for the film, 8 x 10 inches.
Associated British Picture Corporation, 1947. £998

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Contemporary Etchings: Freddy Theys

Sotheran's are delighted to have a collection of etchings by contemporary artist Freddy Theys on display as part of our Fine Prints & Maps exhibition. Freddy Theys was born in Antwerp and he originally studied Electronic Engineering and then Life Drawing at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp. He still spends the majority of his time in Belgium, visiting Scotland regularly for inspiration for his intricate etchings.

THEYS, Freddy. Trunk's Close, Edinburgh.

As well as taking inspiration from Scotland, he has also turned his attention to London, Russia, Antwerp and produced a series of ornithological hand-coloured engravings.

THEYS, Freddy. Palm Cockatoo (probosciger attermus).

His etchings and engravings are almost photographic in the precision of his observation and the drawing is truly impressive. Over the many years he has been visiting Scotland he has built up a remarkable portfolio of imagery inspired by the Highlands, Shetland, Orkney, Skye and the Outer Hebrides. 

THEYS, Freddy. Yesnaby, Orkney.

THEYS, Freddy. Cramond Ferry, Edinburgh.
His work is featured in numerous private and public collections world wide including those of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, National Portrait Gallery in London, City of Antwerp Portrait Gallery and Inverness Museum and Art Gallery.

Prices range from £50 - £300. View the full collection in the gallery and on our website.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Pictorial Cloth (and one wrapper)

Georg Kastl discusses pictorial cloth in the first of our series of illustrated essays.
It is not London Fashion Week yet, and I don't want to talk about fashion.

What is 'pictorial cloth' in our - bookdealers', collectors' and librarians' parlance? A publisher's binding of illustrated cloth (linen or cotton, usually), not only lettered and ornamented, but actually a binding which depicts something, usually related to the contents of the book.

The origin of cloth bindings is somewhat murky. It seems that in the late 18th century, probably for schoolbooks, the method of using cloth as an alternative to expensive leather, whilst still remaining more durable than boards or only paper wrappers, was applied. Cloth for the fashion industry was used by a few innovative binders from the 1820s onwards, one later example being the stylish, however not pictorial, binding of Which is Best? (1849):
Which Is Best? Being Stories About The Five Divisions Of The Worldand Stories Of The Five Senses.
 London, Thomas Dean And Son. [1849].
The book is illustrated in Ruari McLean’s magisterial Victorian Publisher’s Bookbindings of 1974 (p. 38, a variant in yellow; the reference work, based on a collection is sadly not bound in pictorial cloth; the cover illustration is printed on thick paper and pasted down, which illustrates best how the technology for these bindings had vanished in the later 20th century). The simple and striking pattern of the sage green cloth still would make some stylish clothing today. 

Talking about today, only very few books are being published in pictorial cloth at present, with one remarkable exception, The Folio Society, who always had to source binders who had kept up the standards, technical skills and facilities. Sadly enough this publisher, a British institution, be it due to cost implications or simply a lack of compaines with the relevant expertise, now has to resort to the binders Lachenmeyer in Reutlingen (founded in 1872) and even a printer in Germany.  

The Folio Society, 2009.
Returning to the nineteenth century, soon lettering, usually in gold and blind, as well as ornamentation appeared on spines and front covers. With the development of book-marketing (shop windows!), the increasing visualization, furthered by mass distribution of imagery, illustrations and the advances of colour printing techniques and the textile dying industries (aniline dyes in the 1860s) publishers started to compete for buyers with even more evocative, beautiful and colourful bindings, culminating and slowly petering out in the early Edwardian era with the advent of the illustrated dust-wrapper around the cloth binding. There are some interesting transitional cases of books being produced with both illustrated cloth bindings and illustrated dust-wrappers, the latter obscuring the first.  The mainstream of later books was published with more colourful dust-wrappers, which were not the dull affairs of the earlier days anymore, when the dust-wrapper had mainly one function, the one indicated by its name - to protect the book from dirt and dust.

In its heyday the pictorial cloth was a playground for designers, their laudanum-fuelled fantasy let loose to adorn the outside of books. Most designers are not known by name, it is however known that many arts-and-crafts artists worked for the publishing industry as a bread-and-butter job, and are not credited. One such case might be the following example: 

EVERETT-GREEN, Evelyn. The Children's Crusade. London, Edinburgh and New York, Thomas Nelson and Sons, [c. 1903].

This book is only recorded in a completely different cloth binding with the motif of a young crusader with a shield on olive green background. The present binding is unknown (unique? a prototype?), as much as the designer and not related to the narrative of the book at all. How - and why -  this beautiful design, bookish and self-referential, was chosen and definitely not mass-produced remains a mystery to us.

Quite the opposite is one of the rare examples of a binding signed by the designer, and not only any designer, but the leading book illustrator of the Victorian period, Gustave Doré himself:

BRASSEY, Annie, Lady. Sunshine And Storm In The East, or Cruises to Cyprus and Constantinople. London, Longmans, Green & Co.,1880.
The book reviewer of the Spectator of January, 3, 1880 was very enthusiastic about the binding and perceived the beginning of a new pictorial movement, finally doing away with the text of a book altogether: 

'Mrs. Brassey has presented us with her magnificent work, called, Sunshine and Storm in the East. Mrs. Brassey has, to - use the reviewer's phrase, already "made her mark " in literature; at all events, her Voyage in the Sunbeam, has been read by thousands of people, and has received the kindly notice of most of the critics of the Press, ourselves included. But it would seem that Mrs. Brassey has been moved to rival, if not to surpass, her first success. In what measure she has realised this purpose, we hope to show.

It is impossible, in the first place, to be silent regarding the extraordinary merits of the binding, - of the pictorial design, that is [...] signed by the hand of no less eminent an artist than M. Gustave Doré. Upon a warm, grey background of sea and sky, picked out with black cloud and wave-lines and gold sun-rays, we have a superb scarlet scroll, which is being unrolled at both ends by two groups of fairy-like beings in gossamer attire, who seem partly to float upon the surface of the ocean, partly to hover above it. On the back of the book, in the foreground, is a small vessel, heeling over under the stress of the gale. What does all this mean? Mrs. Brassey, in her preface, is so obliging as to inform us. The nymphs of Ocean, we are told, flattered by the attention already shown them by the Sunbeam, in her voyage round the world, are unfolding before the vessel's path a long scroll, on which are depicted all the kingdoms of the earth, and the glory of them, hoping thereby to induce Mrs. Brassey to continue her triumphal career. It is surely an encouraging sign to see Art applied to such worthy ends as this. We may now look forward to deriving a twofold enjoyment from our libraries. If, for any cause, the interior of a book fails to please us, we have but to close it, and straightaway our eyes will be captivated by the charms of the outside. Our book-shelves must now be arranged upon a new plan, enabling us to see the whole of the bindings of the volumes at once, instead of only the backs, as heretofore. Or perhaps the covers can be so contrived as to come off, and then, by framing them and hanging them on the walls, we shall be decorating our rooms with one hand, so to say, while we instruct our minds with the other. Ultimately, books may come to be bought and sold on the strength of their exteriors only, and literature will assume the position of a vehicle for the dissemination of bindings. But, in short, there is no telling where this novel idea of Mrs. Brassey and of M. Gustave Doré may land us. Meanwhile, they deserve all the credit they are likely to receive for their initiation of so suggestive a reform' (p. 27 f.).

And on he went for a long time eulogizing. We assume the extremely wealthy traveller and author of the book paid generously to get Doré as artist and the hack to eulogize about it in the Spectator. The idea however, of the binding as the essence of a book which will exist without text could almost have emanated from Derrida’s post-modern think tank.

Lady Brassey’s book went into another edition soon after:

BRASSEY, Annie, Lady. Sunshine And Storm In The East, or Cruises to Cyprus and Constantinople.
London, Longmans, Green & Co.,1881.

Neither of the bindings can be found in Ruary McLean’s 1974 book Victorian Publishers’ Book-Bindings, which is based on his own and others’ collections. Slightly reduced in format the binding carried out by Simpson & Renshaw was changed, but the design, not accredited, is definitely in the style of Doré.

Illustrated bindings naturally lend themselves to books of travel, exploration and on far-flung and exotic places, and were intensely used for marketing and adorning that category of books. A curious case is that of the two following examples: 

DOUGLAS, Mary. Across Greenland's Ice-Fields. The Adventures of Nansen and Peary on the Great Ice-Cap. London, Edinburgh and New York, Nelson, 1899.

Polar bears marching around the binding of a book on Greenland is fine – just what you would expect. But then the publisher ventured south, far, far south:

SMITH,Barnett G. The Romance of the South Pole. Antarctic Voyage and Explorations. London, Edinburgh, and New York, Nelson, 1902.
Oops! Get your basics of zoogeography right: polar bears: Arctic. Penguins: Antarctic, and no polar bears. Never mind, still good bindings, and rather affordable, as I would like to point out: collecting specimens of these beautiful artefacts does not have to be expensive, as can also be demonstrated with the following two examples, both only £58:

Which lets us linger with the cool subject and a sculptural binding replicating the surface of a large stone shaped by the glacial forces of the ice age:

CAMPBELL, John Francis. Frost and Fire. Natural Engines,Tool-Marks and Chips. Edinburgh,Edmonston & Douglas, 1865.

Another good subject to collect are the stunning books produced by A. & C. Black in Edinburgh, all rather bulky tomes with colour illustrations and fine examples of pictorial cloth bindings, such as:

FORMILLI, C.T.G. The Stones of Italy. London, A. & C. Black, [1927].

BAGOT, Richard. The Italian Lakes. London, A. & C. Black, [1912].

But if you have it and are inclined that way, flaunt it, even if this is not strictly ‘pictorial’; but as the early development of modern art goes, depiction fell out of fashion for a while and the re-definition and modification of ornaments laid the foundation of modern, ‘abstract’ design:

OMAR KHAYYAM The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. With an Accompaniment of Drawings by Elihu Vedder. Boston.  Houghton Mifflin and Company. 1884.

This development was culminating in various avant-gardes, most beautifully and radically with Russian constructivism, although paper was the preferred material for the bindings now on display in museums all over the world:

Cover design by Natan Altman, dated and signed with his full name in print.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Fine Prints & Maps: An Exhibition

We're delighted to announce our upcoming summer exhibition ‘Fine Prints & Maps’. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue will showcase highlights from our collection of antique and contemporary prints, featuring a wonderful selection from stunning botanical engravings to witty caricatures. As well as having great decorative appeal, in many cases these are important historic examples of printmaking and therefore highly collectible antiques.

Henry Moore

One artist whose work features predominately in the exhibition is Henry Moore. This special set of contemporary etchings from ‘Animals in the Zoo’ are all hand signed in pencil by the artist and beautifully depict elephants, zebras and antelope to name but a few. Other highlights of the exhibition include our collection of botanical engravings from the early 1600s by Basilius Besler. Historically significant on several levels, our selection includes tulips, peonies, orchids, sunflowers and more.

Basilius Besler

We are very fortunate to be able to offer for sale a superb collection of original maps dating from the 16th to 20th centuries, including Thomas Moule’s attractive county maps to John Speed’s hand-coloured survey map of Surrey.

John Speed's Map of Surrey

Exhibition Dates:
Monday 18 August – Monday 8 September

Henry Sotheran Print Gallery
2 Sackville Street, Piccadilly, London, W1S 3DP

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday 9.30 – 18.00
Saturday 10.00 – 16.00
Admission: Free

Friday, 1 August 2014

Maps (and why we love them)

Informative, beautiful and relatable, it's hard to find somebody who doesn't find antiquarian maps interesting, but just in case you're not convinced, here's a list of some of our favourite map-facts.

1. The earliest known maps are of the stars

The earliest known maps depict the heavens rather than the earth. Dots have been found in caves as early as 16,500 BC which map out the constellations and parts of the night sky. 

2. Christopher Columbus didn't discover the earth was round

It is a much perpetuated myth that Christopher Columbus was the first to discover that the earth was round, in fact, the earth as a sphere was widely accepted by the Ancient Greeks as early as c. 200BC, when the scholar Eratosthenes became the first person to calculate the circumference of the earth by measuring the length of shadows cast by the sun. 

3. Deliberate (and not-so-deliberate) mistakes were often copied

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Surveying in order to make a map is a laborious process, even more so considering the technology available several hundred years ago – perhaps that's why some mapmakers chose to skip the process entirely by copying the maps of others. Some cartographers included deliberate mistakes in order to catch out potential forgers, others simply got it wrong. The most famous of these mistakes is the depiction of California as an island, an error that first appeared in the 16th century and, despite being fairly quickly disproved, continued to pop up on various maps for the next two centuries.

4. The first map to name America was sold for $10 million

In 2001 the Library of Congress paid a whopping $10 million for the Waldseemüller map, the first map to describe the New World as 'America'. America was so-named after Amerigo Vespucci, the man who first discovered that Brazil and the West Indies were part of a separate super-continent, and not Eastern Asia as previously assumed.

5. Francis Drake's route around the world was kept secret for nine years
Francis Drake was the first Englishman to successfully circumnavigate the globe as well as the first captain to return with his ship. He set off in 1577 and returned three years later with enough booty to pay off the national debt (much to Queen Elizabeth's delight) and more than a few stories to tell. However, Drake was not given the opportunity to boast about his discoveries, as the Queen insisted that his route and plunderous activities stay secret from the Spanish. All written accounts of the journey became Secrets of the Realm and his route was not permitted to appear on the maps of the day. When his route was finally described on a map, it appeared on a silver medallion. Only nine known copies of the silver map are known, one of which is in the British Museum.

6. Early maps were often coloured by children

Up until the late 19th century, when significant advances in colour printing were made, the majority of maps were printed solely in black and white. Colour was frequently added by hand at the time, either to enhance the beauty of the map or to make it easier to use by highlighting specific areas. Although there were professional colourists who worked on certain maps to a very high standard, the majority were coloured in production-line fashion, frequently by children. As a result much 'contemporary' colour is a little messy! To make matters easier for the colourist some mapmakers had certain areas (such as armorials) engraved in accordance with a special key or code. Latin initials or a system of dots, lines, and cross-hatching would indicate which colours went where.

7. It was a map that finally stopped the cholera epidemic of 1854

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

In 1854, just around the corner from Sotheran's in Soho, London faced one of the worst cholera epidemics to have occurred in Britian. The cause of such diseases at the time was generally considered to be polluted air, but by talking to local residents, and mapping the pattern of fatalities, the physician, John Snow managed to trace the source to an infected water pump in Broad Street (now Broadwick Street). He later published his findings on his famous spot map of the area.

8. Although it was established in 1593 the statute mile was only put into practice on maps in 1675

OGILBY, John. The Road from Oxford to Salisbury

These days travelling from A-Z is a luxury that many of us take for granted. Even the simple act of map reading is fast becoming left to an electronic device; just key in the post code and the work is done for us. If the thought of pulling up at the side of the road and retrieving the map from the glove compartment now seems a pain, imagine the plight of our ancestors! What can now be achieved in a matter of hours would have taken days or even weeks on horseback (and they would have had to read the maps themselves). To complicate the matter even further different counties used different lengths of mile, a problem John Ogilby endeavoured to rectify, when, in 1675, he published his Britannia, the first ever atlas of British road maps and the first work to introduce the universal use of the statute mile. 

9. Anybody can collect antique maps

VAN DEN KEERE, Pieter.Cornwaile [Cornwall].

Although with certain important maps the sky is the limit in terms of price it is still entirely possible to begin collecting antiquarian maps on a modest budget. Whilst many people have heard of John Speed (arguably the most famous of all the British cartographers) lesser-known are the works of PieterVan den Keere, who engraved wonderful miniature versions of Speed's county maps. As they were so popular in their time, many editions of the pocket atlas were printed, meaning that today it is possible to own an authentic 17th century map for less than £100.

To view a selection of antiquarian maps on our website please click here, or follow our Pinterest board for new stock updates.