Saturday, 19 January 2013

Good Book Hunting

It is very cold outside, and has been all week with snow on and off - and more expected.

So what better way to spend a cold Saturday morning than with a nice cup of tea, the occasional peppermint cream and/or white chocolate and raspberry biscuit, and a big pile of 'loot' bought back from our holidays.

By loot I mean books:

The first step was to put them in to piles:

And then came the infinite pleasure that is browsing. . .

First up:
'The Art of Dining' by Sara Paston Williams
'Italian Cooking' by Nella Whitfield
'100 Cocktails' by 'Bernard'
Nella has a recipe on how to cook 'Chicken as served in Rome' and I make a mental note that I could try making this myself later on.
'Bernard' intrigues me.  Who is he?  Or she?  I see that Bernard knows how to make a Florida Cocktail which might interest Mark Ruffner over at All Things Ruffnerian . . .  There is a Champagne Cobbler (I always wondered what was in those).  No 'Blue Witch' though (I had this at a hotel AGA and I were staying in while holidaying at Wernigerode some years back and really liked it) perhaps it hadn't been invented back in 1958 when this book was written. . . 

Suddenly I remember that I must get the parmesan and rosemary biscuits out of the oven. 

I only bought one 'old' gardening book this time.
'A Book About Roses' by Dean Hole.
Dean Hole was the Rev. Samuel Reynolds Hole, Dean of Rochester.  An avid gardener, he wrote many books.  An expert on roses, he was also incurably romantic and he tends to veer off into flights of fancy when describing flowers.  Sellars and Yeatman in their book 'Garden Rubbish' make fun of both him and Beverley Nichols.
I am pleased to have finally found this book to add to my collection.  Here he is writing about why the rose should be in every garden:
Erika over at Parvum Opus would love this book because the pages were hand cut and some were missed out so that when I cut them myself (using a paper knife) I am the first person to touch the page since it was published back in 1903.

I also picked up some works of fiction:
'The Father Brown Stories' by G. K. Chesterton
'The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow' by Jerome K. Jerome
'Uncle Fred in Springtime' by P. G. Wodehouse
'Unnatural Death' by Dorothy L. Sayers
'Stories from Froissart' by Henry Newbolt
'With Moore at Corunna' by G. A. Henty

I enjoy reading the Father Brown stories: short, very clever, and with results that are not always guessable.  Wodehouse and Jerome always make me laugh and these two books are missing from the collections I inherited from my father.
Lord Peter Wimsey is a hero of mine.  Dorothy L Sayers was such a skillful writer of crime fiction.  I think that I now have the 'set'.
Henry Newbolt (of 'The Highwayman' fame), later Sir Henry Newbolt, is someone I could read a lot of and never get tired.  I think I shall enjoy his book too.
And as for G A Henty - when I start reading his books it is difficult to put them down: filled with historical facts, plenty of daring-do, lots of scrapes and mishaps but always a happy ending for the hero.  What more could I want?

'Seeing that he was alone, several men armed with clubs and picks came out.
"I am an English officer," he said, "and I desire". . .'

I have to close this book otherwise I shall sit reading it and not finish the work at hand.

Look at this frontispiece for Henry Newbolt's book:

Isn't it wonderful?

AGA likes buying books on interior design.  I do too.  We found a goodly number among which are these:

This one looks very interesting:
It is the sort of book to lay on the settee with, and browse though when one should be doing something else.  The picture in the bottom right shows the beginning of the chapter on wallpaper in America.

Now, these two books are quite a find as far as I am concerned.  They form part of a series called 'The Picture Guides' published by the Medici Society back in the early 1930s.  These two are 'Florence' by Pierre Gauthiez and 'The Country Round Paris' by Edmond Pilon
Poetic in their description, these books are enchanting to read.  I already have two others (including The Land of St. Francis Assisi) and I see that there are still nine more for me to get.

I was very pleased to get these books too:

'The Celtic Border Land' is of course the Welsh Marches where we spent our holidays.  It made a nice souvenir to take away with us - especially considering the fact that after having purchased it, I saw a copy for sale is another shop, but at an higher price.

'The Story of Venice' is part of a series entitled 'Medieval Towns'.  Part history and part tour guide I think that this edition on Venice would get Jane and Lance Hattatt's immediate attention. I intend to take it with me next time AGA and I go to Venice:

'The modern visitor arriving by train is like one who should enter a stately mansion by the stables.  Once however, in his gondola, the 'black Triton' of the lagoons, gliding along the waterways to the strangers' quarter by lines of house and palaces, whose walls timeworn or neglected, sometimes degraded, will be mellowed under the dim light of the infrequent lamps, he will be caught by the spell which Venice casts over those who come to her.'

This book caught my eye:
Written by the brother of the artist, Rex Whistler, it is a book that explores the history and origins of English festivals.  The picture of your right shows Christmas decorations in England prior to the introduction of the Christmas Tree.  That might be something to experiment with next year!

Now the book on your left is on a subject dear to my heart: The Early Georgian Period.  I have already browsed through this and I can tell you that it is a very good read.  On your top right is a series of books on English Cathedrals.  The books, often written by the Cathedral Deans or the Bishops themselves, provide a fairly in-depth history of the buildings as well as explaining the layout, design etc.  Look at the detail on the cover of the volume on Exeter Cathedral.  I really like this sort of thing.  These will join the others that I have in the same series, back in Melbourne:

Last but not least are these two books about Melbourne.  If you care to take the time, Melbourne is an absolutely fascinating city to study.  I love it!  AGAs ancestors were among the first settlers of Melbourne back in the late 1830s so I have a vicarious link to the place.  Whenever I am book hunting I keep an eye out for anything on Melbourne that might interest me.  These two did.  Printed in the 1950s they are pictorial essays on the city.  These are the sorts of books I can imagine my blogging friend Faisal having in his book collection.  One in particular I consider quite a find: Tasmanian born Jack Cato was a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, an historian and a world renowned photographer.  His black and white portraits of the city of Melbourne are excellent and to think it was located in the depth of the Welsh countryside.

Sometimes you get into such a book hunting frenzy that when you get home you find you bought something you already have!

I shall send the second one to my nephew, William!  He loves reading and I am hoping to encourage within him a love of old books, just as my father did in us.

Many of the books shown in this post came from the Great Book Hunting Expedition that we undertook here:

Others were tracked down at various locations throughout the Welsh Marches.

So, I don't care that when I look out of the sittingroom window I see this:

I am more than happy to sit comfortably, ensconced in a corner with my books!


  1. Dear Kirk,

    A man with his books is never alone. And you have found a diverse selection to keep you company! Like AGA, I am fond of design books, always hoping to be inspired to tweak the interior of my own house.

    Thanks for the call-out to my site! I'm guessing a Florida cocktail would include a citrus ingredient, and I'm betting it would taste a lot like a Margarita (which I enjoy on occasion).

    P. G. Wodehouse and his Jeeves is a favorite of mine, and I keep one of his books on my shelf.

    Of your whole lot, I would gravitate, at least at the moment, to the history of papered rooms. I have a fascination with the way designers of wallpaper achieved 3-D effects within such limited layers of color. Think of me when you get to the chapter on Mr. Zuber!

    Best wishes, Mark

    1. Dear Mark,
      How right you are. I cannot understand it when people say that they either don't like books or don't like to read.
      The Florida cocktail was orange, lemon, and angastura bitters among other things. And I found out later that 'Bernard' was a woman named Mary!
      Mr. Zuber. Got it. I shall indeed think of you.

    2. That is fascinating! The pseudonym lends a speak-easy feel - as if the author is doing something illicit by sharing the recipes.

    3. Funny you should write that MW because the next recipe after the Florida Cocktail is one called 'The Gangster'!

  2. With me it's that I find I've bought a CD that I already have, so large is my collection of symphonic music, vocal recitals and operas that I began collecting on LP (still have them all) as a relatively young boy.

    I love reading, history and biography for the most part. My husband and I have to be very firm with ourselves when buying books or accepting them from others who want to get rid of theirs. I buy most of my books from Amazon used. If I pay a couple of dollars for a book (a surprising number have cost me one cent, with shipping costing 399 times that amount) I don't feel an obligation to it after I read it and can put it in one of the charity boxes with no compunctions. We limit ourselves to a very few that are placed in the permanent collection (Alan Hollinghurst's novels are in this elite class).

    1. Dear Will,
      AGA also began collecting LPs in his youth and I remember a friend of mine years ago having one whole wall in his house lined with shelves full of LPs. I had never seen anything like it!
      For me it is books. My family were always reading. I can't say how many books AGA and I collectively have but it is a lot. When we build our house we are hoping to have a study/library so we can display them in all their glory!

  3. Well done, you two! Look at all those glorious treasures. I just love vintage / old books. Wouldn't mind that stash of design / decorating books. And that sweet one on roses: divine!
    Enjoy ~

  4. Dear Loi,
    You are a man after our own hearts.
    I don't think that one can ever have enough design/decorating books do you? There is always something interesting to learn about, and ideas to be obtained, from such books. And even if some of them are way too extravagant for one's purse then one can daydream about what it would be like if one's house and bank account were big enough!

  5. Wonderful post, cozy, cute, lovely, beautiful, I love books. Do you know I work in a library?? A Really Beautiful Saturday. RBS


    1. Thank you Marina.
      Anyone who likes books is a friend of mine.
      You work in a library? I do too!

  6. Hello Kirk, Nothing like bringing home a nice haul of old books. I could happily settle down to read any of the choices you feature here, and I am an especial fan of Wodehouse.

    Lately because of shipping considerations, I can't indulge too much in books, but I sometimes "cheat" anyway, especially for out-of-print books at good prices, in the realms of architecture, fruit-growing, and history.
    --Road to Parnassus

    1. Hello Jim,

      The nice thing was that I having purchased the books I kept them in their plastic bags and taped them down for ease of transport. I hadn't looked at them for a few weeks since returning from hols so I had the added pleasure of seeing some I had forgotten about!

      Wodehouse is an extremely funny writer. The one where Gussie Finknottle gets drunk at the school prize giving day is priceless and makes me laugh out loud every time I read it.

      Books on fruit trees - that sounds interesting!

  7. Hello Kirk:
    What an absolutely wonderful post which makes an excellent read in its own right. Such an eclectic mix of titles and not a single one that we should wish to overlook although, as you rightly surmise [and how sweet of you to give us a mention and provide a link], we should most likely be drawn to the Venice one immediately.

    Collecting books surely has to be one of life's greatest pleasures and you and AGA clearly are building up the most interesting of libraries covering a wide range of subjects, each one more fascinating than the last!

    We were so often in the bookshops of Hay-on-Wye as it was only some twenty miles from where we lived and could be reached via back roads through some of the loveliest of countryside.

    1. Dear Jane and Lance,

      It was my pleasure to link to you in this post.

      We were staying, at that time, at Newtown St Margaret: Thus we also travelled the delightful, albeit often waterlogged, back roads to get the Hay.

      I agree with you wholeheartedly. Book collecting is indeed one of life's greatest pleasures. I started when I was about six and would go 'book hunting' with my father. Needless to say my collection is somewhat 'large'.

      Pre 1960 are my books of choice - and always hardback.

      It is snowing 'like crazy' here at present!

  8. Hello Kirk,
    Great finds, I am a bit jealous! Love old books especially cookery and architecture. Marc (my better half!) loves all that is law, apiculture, history, geography and music (not much left!!). There are some really beautiful antique book shops in Rouen. I see you have a Normandy book also! Hope you are both doing well.
    Best wishes,

    1. Hello Ivan,
      I love old cookery books too - it is fun to read them and try out the recipes. I have a weakness for 'Countess Morphy' and her cronies.
      Yes we bought the Normandy book for some friends who are coming to visit. We are taking them on a trip to your part of the world to show them how beautiful it is around Easter time.
      Having been there a few times we like to think that we are armchair experts!
      I hope you are not minding the cold too much. It snowed a lot here today and a work colleague frightened me by alleging that on Thursday we are expecting a low of -19. I hope she is wrong!
      All the best

  9. Dear Kirk,
    Where do I begin? I'm in such a swoon over all of your new treasures that I can hardly write! It really is one of the great things in life to explore new towns, spend hours in antique book shops, and discover new books for one's library.... And then, the pleasure of unpacking the (hopefully) huge pile, organizing the stacks, and diving in to all of them at once....You've captured that exhilaration perfectly here!!! When I'm stuck at home due to the cold and snow (as I am now), I have to make due with online shopping, which is not nearly as satisfying... But coincidentally, I've just discovered that Medieval Towns Series (J.M. Dent, is it?) and have a few on their way to me as we speak! Now I'll be searching for the Dean Hole book so it can sit next to my Beverley Nichols collection--perfect companions and such fun to read, no matter what Sellars and Yeatman say! Perhaps I'll be as lucky as you and find one with uncut pages, or a beautiful bookplate inside... What a wonderful stack you've amassed-- and with your delicious parmesan rosemary biscuits, and copious amounts of tea, I'd say you're guaranteed a cozy winter's worth of happy reading. I shall get some biscuits in the oven, settle in with my own stacks and join you in spirit!
    Warm regards,

    1. Dear Erika,
      I had a feeling that you would like these books.
      Yes that Medieval Towns series is by Dent. I have Cairo and Winchester already but there are quite a few. Which ones are you going to get? I am feeling a little envious already at the thought of it!
      I raise my teacup in your direction!
      Kind regards

    2. Dear Kirk,
      Your trip to Hay-On-Wye is one that my best friend and I dream about taking one day... For a bibliophile, it really is the ultimate, isn't it? I shall have to hire a huge van when we go! So far in my own Medieval Towns series, I have Florence, Paris and Avignon making their way to me as we speak... A series like that is addicting, isn't it? So many medieval towns, so little time... I love the early Dent books, so perfectly sized and with their lovely bindings. I hope you're still enjoying all of your beautiful new discoveries!
      Warm regards,

    3. A very nice selection! Are these places that you have visited?
      I have been to the first two and Avignon I first visited last Easter. I love those early Dent books too.
      Yes Hay is indeed the ultimate. Even though it rained heavily on both days that we visited we cared not a fig because there were so many welcoming book shops at hand!
      Thanks for your warm regards - in this cold weather we need them!

    4. Dear Kirk,
      I'm so sorry for the delay in responding-- I've had some computer troubles these past few days!

      I have visited Florence and Paris, but I confess, I just purchased these titles at random with the intention of collecting them all...! But you bring up a good idea: perhaps a visit to each town is in order, with the book taken along for some on-site reading... Yes, this is definitely the way to go...
      More warm regards,

  10. Kirk, you came home with quite some book treasures! I love buying books when I am on vacation, because later they bring back the memories of the vacation itself. Of course, as a passionate rose lover I am most interested in "A Book About Roses" by Dean Hole ;-)! If I were you I wouldn't mind either snuggling up with one of your great books on the couch and let winter be winter! Have a great start into the week!

    1. Thanks Christina,
      I am going to start with the rose book after my current reading - I am looking forward to it.
      It is so cold and snowy here that a hot chocolate wouldn't go amiss!
      Bye for now

  11. Such a fascinating collection of reading material, while here I sit with my latest murder mystery. I'm so much less sophisticated. But, I'm also much warmer. No snow here.

    1. Dear Mitch,

      You know that I am jealous. It is freezing here and snow is everywhere. WHat would I give for a piece of blue sky

      My choice of books isn't so much about sophistication actually, its more about a love of reading. Thats me: a lover of reading - on all sorts of subjects.

      Murder mysteries - I love them! What are you reading? My favourites at the moment are the Phryne Fisher mysteries. Set in Melbourne albeit in the 1920s - I eagerly away each new one that comes out. And I have just heard that a new one is in the pipeline.

  12. Your weekend sounds absolutely delightful Kirk! I think I would have been sitting on the floor will all these books around me for two days, not being able to decide which one to read. What an impressive and varied collection you have. There are several books among them that captured my attention. Especially the book on roses. I quite liked the words on one the pages 'the queen of beauty'. If the rest of the books is written in the same way, it must be lovely!

    Enjoy your time indoors! Stay warm,


    1. Dear Madelief,
      Thank you for your kind comments! Yes Dean Hole had a very poetic way with words. His books are quite lovely to read and at the same time give a lot of information.
      I hope you are also keeping warm. a 'top' of -5 tomorrow!
      I think we both deserve a big cup of hot chocolate!

  13. Hello Kirk

    My heart is rapidly beating as I look at your collection of books. I say let it snow and I could think of nothing better than being snowbound with such richness in choice of books.

    Thanks for sharing

    Helen xx

    1. Thank you Helen,
      I totally agree with you! If one is going to be barricaded inside one's house because of snow then one may as well be comfortable, and ensconced with books!


  14. Dear Kirk
    I can imagine your happy when you came at home with these treasures !
    A lovely way to relax is for me the reading books ! I love books ,I have many and i can't find any place to put another more books ! But always I
    find !Have a nice day !

    1. Dear Olympia,
      Me too. I think I have no more room for books but I always find a spot somewhere to put them!

  15. What a haul! There's always more room for more books - somehwhere, somehow, you make them fit. Isn't that always the way? There's just no such thing as too many books.

    1. Absolutely Yvette. There will always be room in our house for books even if some of them end up hiding under the armchairs!