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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

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The amazing work of Thomas Hodgkin

One of the great privileges of being an antiquarian bookdealer is the chance to deal with a volume that, while at first sight unassuming, turns out to be of rather gobsmacking importance. One such book came our way recently, a copy of Volume 17 of the  Medico-Chirurgical Transactions of the Medical and Chirurgical Society of London dated 1832 that once belonged to the Richmond Physical Society of Dublin and that has been rebound fairly attractively, fairly recently (see above).

The title page didn't offer any particular excitement either, though it confirmed that the volume was in a very clean condition:

A little bit of further research revealed that the Medical and Chirurgical Society of London - an inelegantly named body if ever there was one - was to become the Royal Society of Medicine in 1907, but at this point was meeting in small rooms in Lincoln's Inn Fields. This does pique the historical interest a little, but what really causes jaws to drop and eyes to bulge is the contents of the volume.

On pages 68 - 114, nestled in amongst other medical tracts, is a short paper that, on its presentation in 1832, caused little remark, Thomas Hodgkin's "On some morbid appearances of the absorbent glands and spleen". One might find that to be a rather macabre title, and indeed it is, for the paper deals with Hodgkin's observations of seven patients with tumours on their lymph nodes, spleens and livers. He was at this point lecturer of morbid anatomy and curator of the museum at Guy's Hospital, and this type of medical observation was nothing new to him. This might be why he missed the significance of his own conclusion that " this enlargement of the glands appeared to be a primitive affection of those bodies, rather than the result of an irritation propagated to them from some ulcerated surface or other inflamed texture". In other words, these patients were suffering something other than a normal inflammatory infection.

Hodgkin more or less left it at that. It was his successor at Guy's, Samuel Wilks, who realised the importance of Hodgkin's discovery. In 1856, Wilks observed patients with the same symptoms and recognised them from Hodgkin's work. In 1865 he published his own paper in which he dubbed the condition Hodgkin's disease, which we now know as Hodgkin's lymphoma. Since then, the crucial importance of Hodgkin's discovery has come to be appreciated: ""The 1832 paper is the beginning of our understanding of the lymphoreticular malignancies and can be regarded as the first step in our recognition of the immune system and its disorders"(Stephen A. Geller, Comments on the anniversary of the description of Hodgkin's disease, Journal of the National Medical Association, Vol. 76 (1984), pp. 815-817.) This paper is one of the founding texts of immunology with ramifications in the present day - Hodgkin's lymphoma is often associated with AIDS - and an important work in the history of oncology.

Like Hodgkin himself - Quaker, social reformer, anti-slavery campaigner - the volume that carries this work looks rather humble, but is really a brilliant gem. It exists in medical libraries throughout the world, and yet it is surprisingly rare on the open market. Only one copy appears in the auction records,  the Meyer Friedman copy which sold at Sotheby's New York in November 2001. That copy sold for over $20,000. The past is another country, alas, and that was a hugely subscribed sale at which many things went for eye-watering prices. Nevertheless, our price of £4000 for this ground-breaking work seems as modest as the author himself.

Friday, 30 September 2016

A Samurai in London

We have borrowed this original 19th Century Samurai battledress to guard over our Exhibition of Samurai Prints

The exhibition runs until 6th October in the Gallery.

Fascinating old receipt unearthed

Spotted on Instagram —  The Pierpont Morgan library recently uploaded this fine engraved receipt from Henry Sotheran & Co., dated February 27th, 1900, detailing a sale made by Sotheran’s to the American banker, financier and collector John Pierpont Morgan of the original manuscript of Walter Scott’s “St. Ronan’s Well”, which he purchased from us for the princely sum of £700.   His library was made a public institution, in 1924, by his son J.P. Morgan, Jr., as a memorial to his father.

Please do consider following us on Instagram: @sotherans_piccadilly where new and fascinating items from our stock are uploaded on a daily basis.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Summer Sale

Summer Sale - up to 40% off

We have a wide selection of books on sale on all subjects, during the month of August only, at up to 40% off the marked prices. Come and browse in the shop, or download the list here.

And some beautiful flower prints by Tanigami Konan (1879 - 1928) also reduced by 40% during August.
View the list here.

Friday, 3 June 2016

NEW STOCK! Studio Ghibli Storyboards, Spirited Away

Something For The Weekend...Studio Ghibli Forever Season

Only Yesterday, 25 Years Later...

The reissue of the 1991 animated film by Studio Ghibli, Only Yesterday, will be screened at the Barbican centre this weekend. The screening is part of an international festival to celebrate the films from the much celebrated Japanese animation and production studio, typically led by the critically acclaimed Oscar-winner Hayao Miyazaki. 

For twenty-five years international fans were led to believe that the film that would only ever be subtitled. The Walt Disney Company had originally bought the US release rights, but did not release the film because a reference to menstruation. The targeted audience of this film is not young children but adults and teenagers, and Studio Ghibli distribution contract prohibited Disney from altering scenes...hence the highest grossing domestic Japanese film in 1991 totalling ¥1.87 billion has only now been released with Daisy Ridley of Star Wars voicing Taeko the heroine.

The story revolves around the life of Taeko Okajima, a 27 year old office worker, who in 1982 has lived her entire life in Tokyo. One decisive evening she decides to take a holiday to rural Japan. It is on this ten day journey that she begins to have a series of flashbacks, she reminisces about her childhood as an 11 year old in 1966 visiting an ageing Grandmother at a hot springs resort. The story is powerfully evocative of life for a young woman in 1960's Japan, and also provides a platform for a woman's narrative voice as cultural commentary or reflection during this exciting era.

The Barbican screening of Only Yesterday is Sunday 5th June 2016, so be excited about this charming available here!

Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Mayfair Flower Show - An exhibition of antique Japanese botanical studies, 2016

The Mayfair Flower Show starts today at Sotheran's with a private view this evening, 

Thursday 26th May 2016 at 6-8pm

 RSVP to Róisín O'Connor

with a talk and Q&A with Dr Brent Elliot from the Royal Horticultural Society.

To coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show, the exhibition titled, The Mayfair Flower Show, seeks to highlight the long heritage of fair-going in the West-end. The original fair took place within a stones throw of Sotheran's on St James's, later Haymarket, and was an annual fortnight long May Fair.
In this exhibition we are able to showcase are vast collection of Japanese Botanical woodblock prints, bringing our very own flower show to the heart of Mayfair once again.

For more information or request a catalogue 
contact the Prints Department at 

Thursday, 5 May 2016

The Bard of Avon, 400th Anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare

The world has been celebrating the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Never has there been a more apt time to revisit the works that are the cornerstone in English Literature. If you have not seen our celebratory catalogue view the digital version here.

For more information regarding this catalogue please contact the Book Department at

Also...Do not miss the latest instalment of the BBC's The Hollow Crown acted by the best of contemporary British talent.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Revisiting Classic Stories, Disney's The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling 2016

Classic stories are an eternal source of inspiration for the makers at Disney, and innovations in digital animation are a tour de force in this version. Yet, the frightening Disney interpretation of character of Shere Khan, has a strong resemblance to that of the classic illustration by Maurice and Edward Detmold. It should be noted, that this visual similarity demonstrates the wonderful artistic heritage of the story, to which contemporary artists are indebted.

View our beautiful collection of Rudyard Kipling books here, a collection that includes this 

Latest News...Children's & Illustrated Books, Spring 2016

The latest catalogue of Children's and Illustrated Books has arrived...
In this collection of fine and rare books, there can be found a charming addition to any collection.

For more information on this catalogue please contact Rosie Hodge 

or call on 0207 7439 6151

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Need for Speed...20th Century Motor-Racing Posters

The glamorous world of motor-racing is epitomised in the posters of the day. To have seen the agile vehicles in their prime, coursing the perilous European tracks at breakneck speed, would have been a true marvel. At Sotherans we currently have a selection of posters that are an exciting addition to any poster collection...

Thursday, 21 April 2016

An exhibition of original works by Charles Cundall,

A Working Method

Enquiries to Roisin O'Connor

Friday, 15 April 2016

München 1972

The series of posters designed for the advertisement of the 1972 Munich Olympic games have an iconic status in design history. The employment of artists such as Josef Albers, David Hockney and the Allan Jones, to create imagery that endorsed individual sporting categories, was also successful in creating striking autonomous artworks. Inherent in the commission of international contemporary artists, is the artistic-cultural exchange synonymous with the spirit of the Olympiad.

The Munich posters currently in stock in the Sotheran's poster collection is currently located at our 2 Sackville Street shop, in the basement gallery. The series of twenty-nine posters were well received at the time, and are as popular today as they were in 1972, highlighting the enduring appeal of these works.

 Please follow this link to see the collection.

Friday, 11 March 2016

New Acquisitions, Original Travel Posters.

Sotheran's hosts an annual original travel posters selling exhibition, and this autumn will be its tenth consecutive year! It is an exciting exhibition with around forty new posters advertising locations and resorts across the world. It is however an ongoing passion of ours, and new acquisitions are a weekly occurrence, one could argue we are a little addicted to the imagery of this form of ephemera...These are four of our current favourites London, Spa, Monte-Carlo, Paris...

Check our website regularly or subscribe to our newsletter for latest news.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Sotheran's for Ski Posters Season 2016

Click here to see the latest...but visit our shop to see the most recent acquisitions!

If you are getting ready for skiing this half-term you may find at many resorts you are surrounded by the original advertising posters. In recent weeks the records were set at the annual Christie's Ski Posters Sale, with a poster for Gstaad reaching a staggering £62,000, not bad for what can be described as ephemera.

For many artists of the twentieth-century, commercial advertising commissions were readily accepted as bread and butter money. However, if Man Ray were able to see his modernist design for a London Transport realising the sum of £50,400 in June 2007,  he would perhaps be quite surprised. Thus, it is not speculation to suggest that travel posters are experiencing a revival of importance, and a growth in intrinsic financial value like few other antiques. The collection on view at Sotheran's not only represent popular resorts but are exceptional lithographic designs from notable artists.