Join Stephen Reid, our secondhand maestro, every month here as he takes a closer look at a couple of titles from his shelves.
Henry Mayhew - London Characters and Crooks London, 1996. Third printing. Quarto. Hardcover. Edited and Introduced by Christopher Hibbert. Illustrated upper board, silver-gilt spine and upper board titles. Top edge dyed green. 535pp., 19pp. of plates. Index. Near Fine condition in lightly scuffed slipcase. $50.00.
Henry Mayhew (1812–1887) a journalist and social reformer, described himself as a ‘traveller in the undiscovered country of the poor’ who through extensive personal interviews, brought back stories about people ‘of whom the public has less knowledge than of the most distant tribes of the earth’. This Folio edition reprints extracts from the four volumes of Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor (1851–1862). The work—over two million words—was an astonishing compendium of information.
In this work there is to be found information on crossing-sweepers, street hawkers, dustmen, bird-sellers, river dredgers, pickpockets. The voices and scenes of Victorian London return to life: Haymarket prostitutes, Negro Beggars, and Lucifer Droppers: The artfulness of this device trades not alone upon deception, but exciting sympathy with the guilty at the expense of the innocent. A boy or a girl -it is generally a girl - takes up position on the pavement of a busy street such as the Strand. She carries a box or two of lucifer matches which she offers for sale. She artfully contrives to get in the way of some gentleman who is hurrying along. He knocks against her and upsets the matches which fall in the mud. The girl begins to cry and howl. The bystanders exclaim in indignation and the result is that the gentleman, to escape being hooted, or the ignorant passers-by, in false compassion, gives the girl money.
Charles Darwin—The Voyage of the Beagle London, 2003. Second printing. Quarto. Hardcover. Introduction by Richard Keynes.518pp. Decorative green cloth, black and gold illustrations on the spine and front cover. Top edge dyed green. Map end papers front and back. The maps are from a track chart of the BEAGLE’s voyage. Frontispiece full-colour portrait of Darwin by George Richmond, 1840. 518pp., 24 pp. of full-colour reproductions, 12 pp., of b/w reproductions and b/w drawings throughout the text. Index. This Folio edition reprints the 1860, third edition text, with some minor emendations. Near Fine condition in lightly scuffed slipcase. $70.00.
17 January 1836—Charles Darwin is underwhelmed by his first sight of the Blue Mountains: From so grand a title as Blue Mountains, I expected to see to have seen a bold chain of mountains crossing the country; but instead of this, a sloping plain presents merely an inconsiderable front to the low land near the coast…once on the sandstone plateau the scenery becomes exceedingly monotonous; each side of the road is bordered by scrubby trees of the never-failing eucalyptus family; and with the exception of two or three small inns , there are no houses or cultivated land; the road, moreover is solitary; the most frequent object being a bullock wagon, piled up with bales of wool.
Hans Christian Andersen—The Complete Tales London 2005. Two volume set. Quarto. Hardcover. cloth stamped & decorated in gilt. Illustrated by numerous artists. Fine condition in slipcase. $125.00.
Even by the sumptuous standards of all Folio books, this is a truly beautiful set. It contains all 168 stories from the Danish master. “ROUND about the garden ran a hedge of hazel-bushes; beyond the hedge were fields and meadows with cows and sheep; but in the middle of the garden stood a Rose-tree in bloom, under which sat a Snail, whose shell contained a great deal—that is, himself. ‘Only wait till my time comes’, he said; ‘I shall do more than grow roses, bear nuts, or give milk, like the hazel-bush, the cows and the sheep.’ ‘I expect a great deal from you’, said the rose-tree. ‘‘May I ask when it will appear?’ ‘I take my time’, said the snail. ‘You’re always in such a hurry. That does not excite expectation.’ – from The Snail and the Rose Tree.
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