Monday, July 21, 2008

David Butcher - Lowestoft 1550-1750



Boydell & Brewer of Woodbridge has just published Lowestoft (Suffolk) author David Butcher's latest book, a 354 page hardback entitled 'Lowestoft, 1550 - 1750 : Development and Change in a Suffolk Coastal Town', with 24 in text half tone illustrations and six line maps, the book is priced at $US 95.00 or £50.00.

Lowestoft has grown from a small urban community to become Suffolk’s second largest town; and this book provides a vivid picture of the town and its inhabitants during the early modern period. Making full use of surviving documentation, in particular the parish registers, it begins with an overview of Lowestoft’s medieval history, then proceeds to investigate topographical development, demographic features, occupational structure, social geography, house-building and interior d├ęcor, wealth and inheritance, maritime pursuits, agriculture, local government, education and literacy, religious affiliation, and urban identity. Wherever possible, the town is set into a national and European context, and its maritime nature fully brought out.

David Butcher is a retired Lowestoft schoolteacher and is a lecturer in Local History topics for the Continuing Studies Department at the University of East Anglia.

His other published works have included:
1975 - Waveney Valley (East Anglian Magazine, Ipswich)
1979 - The Driftermen (Tops'l Books, Reading)
1980 - The Trawlermen (Tops'l Books, Reading)
1982 - Living from the Sea (Tops'l Books, Reading)
1987 - Following the Fishing (Tops'l Books, London)
1995 - The Ocean's Gift (Centre of East Anglian Studies, UEA, Norwich)

A quick trot around Ibooknet

Ibooknet is a co-operative with dealers from all over the UK and Ireland. As a group we have many and varied specialities, from music, languages and linguistics, through to modern firsts and fine bindings, but nearly all of us have a stock of books relating to the areas we live in.

This post provides a quick gallop through the highlights of a few of our members' stock. Karen Millward, who is based in West Cork, Ireland, has in stock Hidden Gold, a record of people's experiences in a rural community in West Cork. It was produced in 1998 by The Coomhola Borlin Community Development Association, and is a social history with something of interest for everyone. For the visitor, it includes maps and local legends, while for local residents it has verbatim accounts of local history and personal photographs and anecdotes. It gives an insight into a way of life which is fast disappearing.




Catherine Hawley is based in Yorkshire, and has the wonderfully florid volume below in stock. I particularly like this supremely confident style of Victorian decoration. Skipton, and indeed the book's author, have plenty of which to be proud, it says. The History of Skipton is by W. Harbutt Dawson, and was published in London by Simpkin, Marshall & Co. and Edmondson & Co. in 1882. This is a very good tight copy: it has blue boards with a gilt illustration to the front and gilt titles to the spine. The endpapers are lightly browned, and there is a hint of wear to the points. It is priced at £60.00.




Based near Peterborough, Peakirk Books specialise in children's books, but also have a good stock on the Northamptonshire poet John Clare, as well as a facsimile of a book originally published by Richard Chiswell, London in 1686: The History of the Church of Peterburgh, by Symon Gunton. This edition was published by Clay, Tyas, Watkins and Clay in 1990, and has an introductory essay by Canon Jack Higham of Peterborough Cathedral. Both book and dustjacket are very good indeed throughout. This copy is the numbered limited subscriber's edition bound in bottle green cloth, and is no. 86 out of 200 copies produced. It costs £50.00.

The flatlands of the Fens inspire some and make others desperate to leave. Without man, they would not exist in the form they are today. Dorothy Summers wrote The Great Level: a history of drainage and land reclamation in the Fens: specifically the Bedford Level. Peakirk have a copy of this for sale for £50.00. This book, a first edition, was published in London by David & Charles in 1976. illustrated with plates, maps and diagrams, both book and jacket are near fine.

If you are interested in any of these books, you can either find and order them via this page, or contact the dealers direct.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Books are Alive

You would think that being a bookseller was a pretty tame occupation, one that exercised the brain a bit, perhaps, as you searched through obscure bibliographies to find an obscure title you have just bought, or compiled your catalogue, or researched the lesser known aspects of an author's life.
What few booksellers ever admit is that books have a strange life all of their own; and dealing with the odd habits of the species can take many painful hours.

They breed.

They do.

And they move.

Many well-run households make the justifiable mistake of supposing that books should be corralled on bookshelves; neatly ordered - at least all facing the same way.







This, alas, is akin to assuming your Exmoor pony is happiest living in a stable all day and all night. He is not. It is not fair; and it is not fair to books either. Many of my books have to be firmly corralled, but all, when they come into the house, are free range. They live in the book's natural habitat: the heap. Books enjoy that closeness and feeling of pressure that you cannot get from the average bookshelf (unless horribly overstuffed; and that allows no room for movement, about which more anon). To replicate this habitat in your own home, I would suggest you cultivate your own heaps: beside the bed or a sofa are good and useful places which most books enjoy.



Hardbacks enjoy larger piles - paperbacks, being frailer creatures, prefer smaller heaps. Both types however, prefer some air space around each pile. This facilitates movement. I have seen this in the wild; my study. Heaps I have carefully arranged, with close attention to stability, will suddenly subside, pony book mingling with text book, and children's illustrated with modern first edition. I like to think of this as an illustration of the sociable, herd instinct of the book, and its natural attraction to chaos. Heaps arranged hurriedly, with scant attention to stabilty; progressing at strange angles are very unlikely to subside.







I try in my own study to aim for a compromise between my desire to maintain a vague idea of where a book is, and its own longing for chaos. It all comes down to careful herd management.

Careless herd management; with too much movement, seems to lead to breeding. When building piles up again, it is surprising how many books will emerge you never knew you had. The genetics of book production would provide an interesting study for someone.

Unfortunately for my books, natural herd management has to be curtailed after their early life with me; free to explore the floor, and the neighbouring piles. Although they might spend some weeks; in some lucky cases even months in this state of freedom, they eventually have to be broken in to a life of docility in the bookcase or storage box. Although I, like most bookdealers, try and manage this process carefully; treating the book gently at all times there are alas a few titles I fail with. The book appears just like its other herd members: docile, easy to handle - but beneath the covers its wild soul still rages.

An order comes in. I know I have not sold the book. The book is not where it was..... inadequately broken, and still longing for the freedom of its earlier experiences it has moved off in search of less ordered pastures. Like a careful shepherd losing its sheep, this worries the bookdealer, not least because of the awful prospect of having to write a grovelling letter to the orderee admitting you have lost the book, which is gadding about you know not where. Not all clients appreciate the volatile nature of the creatures we have to deal with.

And so, we spend hours (sometimes days) searching for the lost soul.
So sympathise with your bookdealing friends. Behind closed doors, they are dealing with much, much more than you ever thought possible.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Books of Local Interest




This heading covers quite a wide area and, on reflection, those books that could be considered 'of local interest' fall into a number of categories. Off the top of my head I can think of:

  • Books by local authors, not necessarily on any local matter, but collected because of the authors connection with the area.
  • Travel guides describing aspects of the local area as a tourist destination.
  • Tourist souvenirs, usually packed with beautiful colour photographs of the area, taken on sunny days with smiling sheep (countryside) or with yellow lines air-brushed out (towns).
  • Early accounts (pre 20th Century) of the local area.
  • Local ephemera - local newspapers, parish magazines, event programmes, local authority publications, etc.
  • Illustrated (mainly 20th Century and later) and usually photographic accounts of the local area 'in days gone by'.
  • Memoirs/reminiscences/diaries of local characters/dignitaries.
  • Scholarly modern histories of aspects of the history and development of the area.

I'll expand on these in the same order but I think I need first to establish that my local area is centred on Lowestoft, which is in North-east Suffolk close to the border with South-east Norfolk.

There is bound to be some cross-over between some of the above categories. The writer Adrian Bell, for example, could be included in at least two. His work is read as a literary author on country matters but much of his writing is about Suffolk, where he lived and worked for many years, and so the incidents related tell of our social history. George Borrow and H. Rider Haggard both lived in the area but I don't think either could be said to be generally collected because of their local connections, except in this area.

Travel Guides and tourist souvenirs can also overlap but the guides are probably of more interest to the general collector of local books. Those that appear regularly, such as the Ward Lock Red Guides, which first appeared in that format in the 1890's, form an account of the development of the area in their own right.

Early accounts are interesting but can be quite expensive. Because of high production costs and the limited nature of their appeal many were published by subscription and so are relatively few in number. Edmund Gillingwater's 'An Historical Account of the Ancient Town of Lowestoft.....' published in 1793 is one such but one has to be wary of the accuracy of some of the content. Gillingwater lived in Norwich and (it is understood) one of his researchers for material was his brother, a barber living in Lowestoft, who heard many stories of local interest whilst plying his trade and which were passed on to his brother!

I'll come back to ephemera. Local historians are lucky to have visual records of many aspects of their area from the mid 19th Century onwards. The collections of some early local and travelling photographers have been preserved and form the basis of modern publications providing pictorial records of local areas. Memoirs, reminiscences and diaries form another useful source of local history, the last being the most reliable. Memoirs and reminiscences are, by definition, written in later life and facts can be distorted over time.

Modern histories range from large published books to papers privately circulated amongst members of an archaeological or local history society, on periods from the earliest times to the present, but they are nearly always the product of specialists in particular aspects of local history. You are likely to note printed acknowledgements to university research departments, local libraries and county record offices but those bodies are equally likely to refer to the authors on other occasions for their specialised knowledge.

Coming back to ephemera, most useful collections will usually, because of the volume and indexing involved, be found in libraries and record offices but ephemera forms a very useful source for the local historian. Many relatively insignificant events go unrecorded in any permanent way but ephemera relating to it can provide information and help put facts and events into context.

Finally, a plea. In this digital and ephemeral age it is essential to ensure continuity of source material for future generations of writers about local history. One picks up talk of 'downsizing' and 'de-cluttering' by those in later life and if younger family members have no interest in your history please don't just shred old records and mementos. Remember your local library or record office and offer the material to them. If they are not interested think of your local bookseller!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

And the winner is ...

Thank you very much to everyone for entering, and to those of you who linked back here too. A swirl of little bits of paper in the hat and I drew out...

Oxford Reader!

If you let me have your address, Oxford Reader, I will pop the book into the post for you - clh@clhawley.co.uk

Thank you again to everyone for entering.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Birth of the NHS, or a Family Guide to the National Insurance Scheme







5th July 1948




Tomorrow is the 60th birthday of the NHS. Not that I would usually mark such events in my diary, but today an item came into the shop to remind me of this diamond jubilee, and that must surely have pride of place in the window.


It's a small pamphlet of 32 pages 138 x 110 mm. (or five and three eights by four and a quarter inches in old money), prepared by the Central Office of Information for the Ministry of National Insurance, and published by His Majesty's Stationery Office.


A real little piece of history, it explains how much everyone has to pay, and what the benefits are (I doubt we'd get such a concise document today).

Perhaps my favourite part, is the last two lines of the forward by The Rt. Hon. James Griffith M.P., Minister of National Insurance. "This scheme is, therefore, more than an Act of Parliament; it is an act of faith in the British people. That faith I know is not misplaced."

60 years. Happy Birthday. Let's hope she's not yet looking to retire.
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