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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.

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