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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 …


  1. In the course of my research I recently came across some entries from an old Henry Sotheran & Co., Book catalogue, No. 767., which is quoted in an American World War 1 pamphlet from 1917. It appears that the catalogue was providing bibliographical entries with pronounced anti-German comments such as the following:

    HARTMAN (ROBERT: Univ. BERLIN) ANTHROPOID APES, with 63 woodcuts, post 8vo, cl.2s (pub.5s.).
    These would suggest the University-bred German officers who defiled with their own filth the French houses in which they were billeted.

    I am particularly interested in consulting this catalogue (and others) to see if any works by Ernst Haeckel, the German zoologist and populariser of Darwin, are similarly treated?

    I wonder do any of these old catalogues still exist?

    1. with apologies for delay…
      As far as I know we don't have any catalogues that old. But we are still rummaging.


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