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"

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. 


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,

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?

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Vintage Books from my Bookshelf - The Wasp in a Wig

I didn’t read a lot while I was on my blogging break, but I did take a look at this rather strange “suppressed” episode from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.
The Wasp in a Wig Lewis Carroll Alice Through the looking glass

Back in 1898 Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, a nephew of Lewis Carroll published a biography of his uncle in which he wrote;  
“The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll by Stuart Dodgson Collingwood from The Wasp in a Wig, Martin Gardner and Macmillan 1977.”

A facsimile of the letter also appeared in the biography.; 

“My Dear Dodgson 

Don’t think me brutal, but I am bound to say that the ‘wasp’ chapter does not interest me in the least, and I can’t see my way to a picture. If you want to shorten the book, I can’t help thinking – with all submission – that this is your opportunity.  
In an agony of haste, 

Yours sincerely, J. Tenniel
Portsdown Road,June 1, 1870”

Then in 1974 Sotheby's listed the following item in their auction catalogue of July 3rd;

 “Auction catalogue entry: The Wasp in a Wig; Martin Gardner and Macmillan 1977.”
This was an important discovery. Carroll left no record of his own opinion of the episode, but he did preserve the proofs and after his death in 1898, they were bought by an unknown person. Then in 1974 they were put up for auction at Sotheby's and purchased by John Fleming, a Manhattan rare book dealer, for Norman Armour, Jr., also of New York City. Eventually, the excised passage came into the hands of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, who prepared a private edition of the book for their members. The copy I have was published by Macmillan, London in 1977. 

The excised passage is quite short, but the book still manages to run to forty pages most of which are taken up with notes, a preface and an introduction by Martin Gardner.
The episode itself is all rather odd. In it, Alice meets an elderly and very crotchety wasp who is none too pleased to speak to her. “Worrity, Worrity! There never was such a child!” he declares and feeling rather offended Alice very nearly walks away but being a kind child she stays and gradually the wasp tells her his story. "You'd be cross too, if you'd a wig like mine," the Wasp tells her "When I was young, you know, my ringlets used to wave ---" As the wasp talked a curious idea came into Alice's head. Almost everyone she met had repeated poetry to her, and she thought she would try if the Wasp couldn't do it too. "It aint wat I'm used to," said the Wasp : "however I'll try; wait a bit."

“When I was young, my ringlets waved
And curled and crinkled on my head:
And then they said ‘You should be shaved,
And wear a yellow wig instead.’

But when I followed their advice,
And they had noticed the effect,
They said I did not look so nice
As they had ventured to expect.

They said it did not fit, and so
It made me look extremely plain:
But what was I to do, you know?
My ringlets would not grow again.

So now that I am old and grey,
And all my hair is nearly gone,
They take my wig from me and say
‘How can you put such rubbish on?’

And still, whenever I appear,
They hoot at me and call me ‘Pig!’
And that is why they do it, dear,
Because I wear a yellow wig.”

As I said previously, all rather odd but then much of Lewis Carroll’s writing is. If you would like to read the episode in its entirety, please visit: The lost chapter at

There is some controversy surrounding this ‘missing’ episode with questions raised about its authenticity. I have no idea if it’s genuine or not, but if you would like to read more, please visit Contrariwise; The Blog  

Have you read The Wasp in a Wig or any other books by Lewis Carroll?

Lewis Carroll's The Wasp in a Wig. A "Suppressed" Episode of Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. Preface, Introduction and Notes by Martin Gardner. Published in Great Britain in 1977 by Macmillan London Limited.
Sotheby's auction catalogue for a sale on the 3rd July, 1974.
The Curious Case of the Wasp in the Wig.” Contrariwise: the Blog. Contrariwise: the Association for new Lewis Carroll Studies, 16 Jun 2010.  Web. 28 Apr. 2013.
de Rooy, Lenny. “The Lost Chapter.” Lenny’s Alice in Wonderland Site. N.p., 20 Nov 2010.
Gardner, Martin. The Annotated Alice. Definitive. New York: W. W. Norton, 2000.  


These two little girls probably thought they were in Wonderland the other evening;

This is Lilly our five-year-old granddaughter watching Frozen On Ice at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre

and this is her big sister Zoe 

This (in case you don’t know) is Marshmallow an enchanted snowman, and personal bodyguard of Elsa the Snow Queen.

Elsa and Anna

Kristoff and Sven the reindeer


Face painting and photographs by Karen (our lovely daughter in law and mum to the girls). We are planning a trip to Australia in 2018 and can't wait to see everyone. The photos from their last visit to England are here and here

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