Monday, 24 July 2017

I opened a book ...


and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.


I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.


I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.


I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in a bottomless ocean.




I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter


And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.


I finished my book and out I came.

The cloak can no longer hide me.


My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.


Poem:  Julia Donaldson, from Crazy Mayonnaisy Mum, first published 2004 by Macmillan Children’s Books, an imprint of Macmillan Publishers International Limited.  With thanks to Willie for sharing the poem and to Pexels for the images.  (All images licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license).


Monday, 17 July 2017

Personal Inscriptions in Words and Pictures

Kate Greenaway
Kate Greenaway

When I first got into book collecting I only looked for children’s books published during the so called ‘Golden Age of Children’s Literature’ (the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries).  This was when picture books came to the fore mostly due to the improvements in lithography and early photolithography. Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway, Randolph Caldecott and Arthur Rackham are the people most readily associated with the ‘Golden Age’.Other names you may be familiar with are Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen, Willy Pogany and Ida Rentoul Outhwaite.
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite - Elves & Fairies
Ida Rentoul Outhwaite 

Now I collect books of all kinds, new, old, with or without pictures, fiction or non fiction.  All are precious to me, but those with a little 'added extra' in the form of an original drawing or personal inscription must rate highly on my list of favourites.


The Dragon Whisperer Lucinda Hare
The Dragon Whisperer Lucinda Hare

I’ve yet to read The Dragon Whisperer, but it doesn’t stop me drooling over this wonderful hand drawn dragon. To be honest I’m rather loath to read it because I would like to keep it pristine. I may well buy a second unsigned copy to read.

Katie Cleminson Box of Tricks
Monty the polar bear from the Box of Tricks by Katie Cleminson

In The Box of Tricks by Katie Cleminson Eva is given a very special present. She Opens it, jumps in and becomes a master magician. TA-DAH! This is a truly beautiful book, and the original drawing and signature make it that extra bit special.

I have a large collection of books by my sweet friend, author and illustrator Nicole de Cock

Nicole de Cock Het Jaar Yan de das

They are all very dear to me made more so by the sweet messages from Nicole. 

Nicole de Cock


Nicole de Cock

Nicole de cock Zullen we spelen, Bout?

Nicole de Cock

The one that follows is extra special because Nicole sent it after our much-loved little dog died.
Nicole de Cock Bout en Moertje

When I opened the front cover, I found this and wept happy tears along with the sad ones. 

Nicole de Cock

Emily Gravett has written and illustrated numerous children's books, and I have many of them on my shelves. When I spotted this one at a car boot sale, I was more than happy to pay the seller the asking price of 10p. I didn’t realise it was signed until I got it home. A bargain I think you will agree.

Meerkat Mail Emily Gravett

Meerkat Mail Emily Gravett


26a Diana Evans
In 26a identical twins, Georgia and Bessi live in the loft of 26 Waifer Avenue. Their Nigerian mother puts cayenne pepper on Yorkshire pudding, and their father roams the streets of Neasden, prey to the demons of his Derbyshire upbringing. Forced to create their own identities, the children build a separate universe. Older sister Bel discovers sex, high heels, and organic hairdressing; the twins prepare for a flapjack empire; and baby sister Kemy learns to moonwalk like Michael Jackson

I love the story and the inscription by Diana Evans. 
Inscription in 26a Diana Evans

The final book in this selection is special because of the dedication. I can't tell you how excited I was when I first saw it.  Fame at last! đŸ˜€ 


Kongomato Roger Lawrence
If you've not read Kongomato you are missing out on a treat. I loved it as did this reviewer on Amazon: 

"Roger Lawrence's Kongomato is horror most primal. Scary, vivid, quite horribly brilliant as you are carried on and on into the terrifying adventure a young scientist is forced to take, not only by his conscience when his friend disappears but also by The Prime Minister of England himself. Dinosaurs in the 21st century? How can we take it seriously? Read this book and find out why for yourself...if you dare! This reader is still shaken from the experience. Theresa Dawn Sinclair"

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If you are considering collecting signed books as an investment, it's worth remembering not all inscriptions add value.

For example, to a collector of a specific author, a signed presentation copy inscribed to them will be a unique item and of special value. Previously, this type of inscription may have been seen to be of greater value and interest as there may have been a story behind the inscription. But, with the increase of book signing events, these items are more common today. If you are interested in collecting signed books as an investment, then look for copies without personal inscriptions.

However, there is an exception to this rule: A book signed and inscribed by an author to a person equally famous or more famous than the author is likely to have significantly more value. 

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Do you collect signed books?  If not is that because you have no interest in them, or because you prefer your books to be unmarked?

If you are an author do you enjoy signing books or find it a chore? 

Monday, 10 July 2017

Perfect Little Works of Art: Dog sketches by Mabel Gear, Vernon Stokes, Sidney Barrett and Persis Kirmse.

This is another of those unusual things I seem to accumulate. I'm not exactly sure what it is but my best guess is some kind of tradesman’s sample book? Sketches & Designs is written on the spine and the front cover, and the pages are filled with black-and-white images by familiar and not so well-known artists. The images have been pasted in as has a business card for The Photochrom Company. Most of the pictures measure 3.5 x 2.5” (about half the size of a postcard), although some are postcard size or even larger. They all have individual reference numbers, and/or titles. If you would like to see more images, please visit these previous posts:


This time I’m going to share several dog sketches by different artists. 

Mabel Gear;
Photochrom Mabel Gear Dogs

The one and only image by Vernon Stokes; 
Vernon Stokes image from salesman's sample book

Sidney Barrett;
Photochrom Sidney Barrett Dogs

The following page has a mixture of dogs and religious images. The dogs are by Persis Kirmse and the other images are by Enid Warne Brown. 

Dog Studies from an album of images



These are also by Persis Kirmse but this time they are drawn on a single sheet of paper. 



Photochrom Persis Kirmse Dogs


Another Persis Kirmse design this time titled: Cover design for dog studies on opposite page.
Photochrom Persis Kirmse Dogs

These are the images from the opposite page;
Photochrom Persis Kirmse Dogs

I know it's difficult to read the words in these small pictures, but together they make up a well-known nursery rhyme;

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for its living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is fair & wise & good & gay.

From the mention of a cover design, I assume the images might have been used in a book. I’ve tried to find it but have had no success. If you happen to know of it, please share the information as I would love to find a copy. 

The day of the dog E. V. Lucas
I thought it could be The Day of the Dog by E. V. Lucas published in 1932. Persis Kirmse certainly did the illustrations but having now found a copy it’s obvious the cover is very different from the image above. It's possible the cover design was changed prior to publication, or perhaps there is more than one edition.  Again if you happen to know I would love to hear from you.

E. V. Lucas and Persis Kirmse also collaborated on The More I See of Men - Stray Essays on Dogs, If Dogs Could Write and No-Nose at the Show but as far as I can tell  the above cover has not been used on any of them.

I’m a Thursday’s child who has a long way to go - all the way to New York if this picture is to be believed!
Persis Kirmse Dogs Thursday's child (dog in basket on way to New York)

Do you know which day of the week you were born? If you are unsure, you can check here but be prepared for some surprises!  According to the site, I’m approximately 2,173,350,469 seconds old (or I was when I was putting this blog post together). My birth flower is Poppy or Gladiolus (who knew?) and in dog years, I’m 476!  Harry S. Truman was President of the USA and Clement Attlee was Prime Minister here in the UK. Gosh that makes me feel old.

If you are interested in any of the following artists, please click on the links.


J. Francis Smith


Thanks for visiting,


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Notes & References 


Mabel Gear painter of birds and animals: Born at Ashby Rectory in Surrey, 1900. She studied at Colchester School of Art and under Septimus Power at Bushey. Gear exhibied at the Royal Academy; Royal Institute of Oil Painters; Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours; the Royal Society of British Artists, and abroad. She married Ivor I.J. Symes.
The Dictionary of British Artists

Persis Kirmse british artist born in Bournemouth, England, best known for her drawings, paintings and prints of animal subjects, especially dogs and cats.  Her sister, Marguerite Kirmse (1885-1954), also an artist, emigrated to the U.S. and was especially well known for her etchings of dogs.  Persis Kirmse stayed in Britain, and produced both fine art portraits and illustrations, usually in pastels, sometimes in oils.  Some of these were reproduced on calendars and sets of postcards.  She also made dog portraits for members of the European aristocracy.  She authored and illustrated several children’s books, including a series of animals enacting scenes from Shakespearean plays, which included Shakespeare at the Kennels (1934), Shakespeare with the Pets (1935), Shakespeare at the Zoo (1936) and Shakespeare and the Birds (1938).  She also illustrated animal-themed books by Frances Pitt and E.V. Lucas.  Kirmse exhibited her work, including a show of pastels at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1916.

George Vernon Stokes (printmaker; British; Male; 1873 - 1954): Painter in oil, watercolour and pastel, draughtsman and colour printmaker; who devised his own method of printing in colour. Noted for his animal subjects. Born in London and was privately educated. Exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1907; Royal Society of British Artists, Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour, the Fine Arts Society and provincial galleries. He illustrated magazines on natural history and dogs and with his sister, Cynthia Harnet: ' In Praise of Dogs', Country Life, 1936; 'Getting to know Dogs', Collins, 1947. He lived near Carlisle and latterly near Deal, Kent.



Tuesday, 4 July 2017

A Very English Pastime

I’m not sure pastime adequately describes our obsession with tea. Terry and I always wake up to a ‘nice cup of tea’ and drink several more throughout the day. On holiday, we like nothing better than afternoon tea with all the trimmings. What could be nicer than a plate full of traditional finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones with jam and cream and a selection of handmade cakes? It might not be good for the waistline, but it’s certainly satisfying. 

We are quite partial to the odd glass of wine too, but more of that later!

The Tea Terrace, Guildford;

How could I say no to an Eton Mess?  

“All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but 
like it a little stronger with each year that passes.” George Orwell


“You can never get a cup of tea large enough 
or a book long enough to suit me.” C. S. Lewis


“Tea is the elixir of life.” Lao Tzu, Ancient Chinese Philosopher 

The Terrace Pavilion, House of Commons, London;

This tea came at the end of a fascinating visit to The Houses of Parliament. We booked our tour before there was any talk of a General Election, and we were initially disappointed thinking we would miss out on all the hustle and bustle that usually goes on. As it turned out it was probably the perfect time to go because we got to peek into bits not normally open to the public. 


This spread might look small, but I can promise you it was delicious and more than adequate. Terry managed to eat everything, but I left half of the scone and most of the Millionaires Shot because I was too full to finish it. I wanted to ask for a 'doggy bag', but I don’t think they would have let me leave with a shot glass full of chocolate!


We took tea under the green and white striped awning, and then it was out onto the terrace for a glass of wine.  


The views along the River Thames are quite spectacular. 




With the thought of terror attacks on everyone’s mind, armed police are never far away.


Here river police give us a cheerful wave as they patrol the river. We felt very safe, which makes it even harder to comprehend the attack on London Bridge just two days later.


Taking a quick snooze just as many British politicians do.



The decision as to who would win the election was still seven days away making this the most popular seat in the house with people queuing to have their photo taken.  



I’m not sure why Big Ben looks drunk maybe it has something to do with the wine we enjoyed on the terrace!


After a very enjoyable day in London, we returned to our hotel in Horsham and later found a lovely Sicilian restaurant where we enjoyed a delicious meal and another glass of wine. 

Are you a tea drinker? Or perhaps you prefer a nice glass of wine?
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