After I published the article yesterday about the Victorian book Advice for Single Ladies by Haydn Brown I decided to see what else was available from the British Library Publishing Division.
It seems there are a lot of books available from lost gems to obscure titles. Here I’ve listed a few that I think you may find interesting:
Deep in the recesses of the British Library sits a long oval dining table of plain deal, its battered surface scored with initials carved around the edge. This unprepossessing piece of furniture was once the most famous table in London: the Punch table where the staff of the most successful and influential comic magazine the English-speaking world has ever seen gathered every week. Based on extensive research among unpublished letters, diaries, minute books, and business records, “The Punch Brotherhood” takes the reader inside this Victorian institution, and brings to life the tightly-knit community of writers, artists, and proprietors who gathered around the famous Punch table, and their uninhibited conversations, spiced with jokes and gossip. Highlighting the role of talk in the understanding of 19th-century print culture, and shedding new light on the careers of literary giants Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray and of the many lesser authors who laboured in their shadow, this groundbreaking study vividly demonstrates how oral culture permeated and shaped the realm of print, from the dining tables of exclusive men’s clubs to the alleyways of Fleet Street.
When Miriam Lea falls on hard times, an advertisement calling for private agents catches her eye, and within weeks she finds herself in Mr Bazalgette’s employ as a private detective, travelling on a train to Hamburg in pursuit of an audacious fraudster. What follows is a journey through some of the great cities of Europe – and eventually to South Africa – as Miss Lea attempts to find her man. Miriam Lea is only the third ever British professional female detective to appear in a work of crime fiction. Originally published in 1888, Mr Bazalgette’s Agent presents a determined and resourceful heroine in the figure of Miss Lea, who grapples with some very modern dilemmas of female virtue and vice. Leonard Merrick said of the book, his first: ‘It’s a terrible book. It’s the worst thing I ever wrote. I bought them all up and destroyed them. You can’t find any.’ It seems Merrick was true to his word since copies of the book can now only be found in private collections and in a handful of university and national libraries throughout the world. This new edition offers the modern crime fiction fan an opportunity to rediscover an enticing and rare detective story.
First published in 1900, this is the original comportment guide for the aristocracy. The want of a literature appealing only to those moving in the highest social circles, and practically incomprehensible to such as have not enjoyed the same advantages of birth, fortune and cellars, has long been regretted by the families of the aristocracy. To supply it the authors have written this treatise. Its ethics are adapted alike to throne-room, boudoir and butler’s pantry. During perusal, his Grace or his valet will find it applicable to most, if not all, of the contingencies of a ducal existence. Falling in love, going to sea and making a fortune are accidents that may befall a Policeman; but staying with a Cabinet Minister, taking a Duchess in to dinner and seeing a cockaded hat touched in deferential recognition, are sensations enjoyed by the favoured few. A visit to a country house is the summit of refined gratification and at the disposal, therefore, of the guest travelling towards a twelve-course dinner, the authors have placed this essential guide. Among the areas of advice offered are: the dinner table, hunting, shooting, in the ballroom, the precedence of personages, conversation de societe, and the whole duty of the gentleman. An invaluable guide to manners and mores, and as indispensable to the modern aristocrat as it was over 100 years ago.
Many millions know and love the tale of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, but how many know the original story behind the famous book? It all began one ‘golden afternoon’ in Oxford, in July 1862, when three young Liddell sisters set out on a boating trip, accompanied by the Reverends Robinson, Duckworth and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. To keep the children amused, Dodgson, a diffident young maths tutor, began to tell a tale about an inquisitive youngster, Alice, and her escapades in an underground world. Dodgson spun out the ‘interminable fairy-tale’ until Alice Liddell – the heroine of the tale – implored him to write it down, and two tears later, on 26 November, 1864, he sent Alice an early ‘Christmas gift for a dear child’.In this superb facsimile of Dodgson’s manuscript – now one of the British Library’s most treasured possessions – modern readers can enjoy the expressive script and vibrant illustrations of the original. In an accompanying commentary, Sally Brown sketches a portrayal of Dodgson, and traces the stages through which the story passed as it was revised, expanded, illustrated by the Punch cartoonist John Tenniel and finally published as “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, under the celebrated pen-name Lewis Carroll.
Manners for Millionaires answers the cry for instruction and guidance from the aspiring rich: ‘our readers as still belong to the Pauper, Practically Pauper and Comparatively Pauper strata of society – those, we mean, with less than GBP5000 a year and fewer than seventeen spare bedrooms – will naturally feel grateful for a few introductory directions towards ameliorating their condition.’ Following the course from penury to plenty, this book is intended to help readers ascend the staircase of Prosperity. There is also a special chapter devoted specifically to American millionaires. Originally published in 1901, this humorous guide will be equally valuable for the modern millionaire.
‘Work and sympathy are the two great essentials in the making of a beautiful countenance’ ‘Quite half the effect of one’s appearance depends on successfully “doing the hair”‘ ‘Brushing the eyebrows and eyelashes every morning with a solution of green tea improves them’ First published in 1899, this forthright guide gives fascinating insights into the beauty strategies of the Edwardian age. Startlingly modern advice on the benefits of sleep, exercise and fresh air blends with intriguing techniques for washing hair with egg yolk, brushing teeth with myrrh and borax and improving posture sleeping without pillows to improve an ‘uncouth gait’. Banishing fashion faux-pas with its breezy common sense, How to be Pretty – celebrates our enduring preoccupation with looking one’s best.
‘There was an old person of Ischia, whose conduct grew friskier and friskier; He danced hornpipes and jigs, and ate thousands of figs, That lively old person of Ischia.’ Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense, originally published in 1845, is an exuberant collection of nonsense limericks, illustrated throughout with Lear’s usual sharp eye for the fantastic, the bizarre and the grotesque. This glorious gallery of Victorian eccentrics is now reproduced in a beautiful, full-colour edition that reveals Lear’s imagination at its most fertile.