James Stephens’ Theme and Variations at Mount Stewart

Bird's eye view of Lady Londonderry's sitting room

Bird’s eye view of Lady Londonderry’s Sitting Room at Mount Stewart looking north. This room is part of a private suite which also included a Breakfast Room and Lord Londonderry’s sitting room.

 

 

A couple of months ago, I posted some images of a proof copy I found at Erddig. Recently at Mount Stewart (Northern Ireland), I found another one. This time, it was a gift from the poet and novelist James Stephens (1880-1950) to Edith, 7th Marchioness of Londonderry (1878-1959), whose collection I’d started to catalogue.

Continue reading

Unusual workspaces (2): Mount Stewart

Mount Stewart
This is one of the more luxurious workspaces I’ve had the privilege of working in (even if the temperature inside averages about 13 degrees celsius). Continue reading

Lady Verney’s memoir of John Hawksley (Erddig)

One of the great privileges of being a freelance rare books Erddig compressedlibrarian is of course having access to the amazing range of materials in environments as diverse as university libraries and historic houses. Whenever I find something of interest, I try to find out a bit more about the item (or collection) and post it here.

This week, inspired by a recent post about unusual workspaces, we return to Erddig in the Welsh marches.

Continue reading

Wear & tear… (1)

old_booksA number of factors play a role in causing damage to books. From insects to UV-light, from dust to smoke, from handling or bad shelving, to simply suboptimal manufacturing processes. In this strand of posts, I’ll be sharing images of what this damage looks like.

Continue reading

A cruise to the North Cape

Lithograph (colour) showing Tromso

A few weeks ago, I touched upon the travels of Richard Fynderne Harpur Crewe (1880-1921), the only son of the last baronet at Calke Abbey. In this post, we’ll explore a cruise to the North Cape he appears to have taken in ca. 1913. Continue reading

Return to Calke

By the time you read this, I will have gone back to Calke Abbey for a few more days. The cataloguing of the books in store was always going to take a while: there are about 5000 items. And not just books and journals, but also many, many music scores. But Calke wouldn’t be Calke if there weren’t some very quirky volumes hiding on the shelves. Continue reading

Mills & Boon at Calke Abbey

Apologies for recycling last post’s image!Title page of a 1920s Mills and Boon

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.

 Sources:

  • 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]

 

Famous authors – or not (2)

Title page of a 1920s Mills and Boon

Romantic fiction at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

Sometimes I come across an item which makes me look twice. On this occasion, there were two elements of this, otherwise boring, title page which caught my eye: first, the author: Joan Sutherland. Secondly, the publisher: Mills & Boon – the first one I ever catalogued!

Since this book was published in 1920, the author was unlikely to be the famous soprano 🙂 Instead, she was an author signed to Mills & Boon in the 1910s, and she published with them titles such as The edge of Empire (1916) and Wynnegate sahib (1918). Like these, Desborough is set in India during the British occupation.

Sources:

  • Haiti Trust digital library catalog (http://catalog.haititrust.org)
  • Jay Dixon, The romance fiction of Mills & Boon, 1909-1990s. London: UCL Press, 1999.