How to keep up with fashion in the early nineteenth century…
Clip art (copyright unknown)
The survival of children’s books is sometimes one of the great strengths of country house libraries. How many of us still have the books we read as kids? How many books survive the rather unpractised handling skills of young children (my favourite book certainly didn’t make it unscathed…) or the pens, pencils, paint, food, bath water to which these books might be subjected?
Chances are that if a historic children’s book hasn’t become part of a museum or library collection, the odds are much against it. In the past, I’ve catalogued small numbers of nineteenth-century children’s books at Calke Abbey and I was really pleased to find some at Erddig. Continue reading
Having just finished another round of cataloguing at Calke Abbey, I thought I’d show you some of my highlights. With the books in the main library fully catalogued (and in the process of receiving conservation treatment – see my last post), I am concentrating on the stores, where there are another ca. 5000 books. Being Calke, when the National Trust took on the property in the mid-80s, there were books everywhere. Some of the spirit of the chaos still permeates the house (posing an interesting conservation challenge of showing a country house in a frozen – permanent – state of decline). Continue reading
Apologies for recycling last post’s image!
As I mentioned the last time, I had not come across a Mills & Boon to catalogue before, although if it were ever to be found in a historic library, it would have to be in Calke Abbey’s weird and wonderful collection of about 10,000[!] volumes.
Gerald Mills (1877-1928) and Charles Boon (1877-1943) met at Methuen, and set up their own publishing house in 1908. Although Mills & Boon is associated today with romantic fiction of a formulaic nature, the firm initially established itself as publishers of high-quality fiction and non-fiction. Mills had a background in education and focused on signing authors who could write text-books to be used in schools (and so ensure a wide distribution). Until the start of World War I, Mills and Boon were hugely successful in this field.
Joan Sutherland’s romantic fiction set in India may be an indication of the reversal of fortune for the firm in the 1920s. Because of its size, it was unable to compete in the field of literary fiction with larger power houses, such as Methuen and Macmillan, and in fact, Desborough also seems to have been published by Hodder and Stoughton. From the mid-1920s onwards, the firm focused more and more on romantic, escapist, fiction for women, issuing between two and four new titles every fortnight in the 1930s.
- Joseph McAleer, ‘Mills, Gerald Rusgrove (1877–1928)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/73895, accessed 3 Jan 2014]
- Joseph McAleer, ‘Boon, Charles (1877–1943)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/73896, accessed 3 Jan 2014]