Lucius Books Blog

Horrifying short stories for Halloween

“I stepped up to it in extremity of terror, mine own image, but with features all pale and dabbled in blood, advanced to meet me with a feeble and tottering gait.”

– Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination

The season for scaring ourselves is almost upon us, and as much as everybody loves to watch horror films at Halloween, I believe there’s nothing as scary as a good old fashioned horror story straight from a book’s pages or read aloud. Because your imagination must do all the work you end up picturing the worst version possible of what is being described; the monsters and ghosts becomes more terrifying than any amount of CGI or puppetry could ever communicate. The more you read the more your mind plays tricks with shadows and sounds, blurring the thin line between fiction and reality that an image on a screen can never truly cross. And what better format than the short story? The simplest ideas are often the purest and most atmospheric, the lack of wider detail and context intensifying the creepiness of the story, as wonderfully demonstrated in Edgar Allen Poe’s stories. Moreover, you can snuggle down with one on a cold, dark evening (preferably with some hot cocoa for comfort) and be safely out the other side by bed time, with only a whisper of the tale’s horrors still playing on your mind.


Daphne du Maurier

Classics of the Macabre – Illustrated by Michael Foreman

Daphne du Maurier is the 20th century’s queen of gothic fiction, thanks to her often bleak and imposing depiction of the Cornish landscape and her tendency to show reality and sanity as somewhat malleable and unreliable. This gorgeous copy of Daphne du Maurier’s Classics of Macabre, illustrated by Michael Foreman, beautifully bound in burgundy with gilt edges and signed by both Maurier and Foreman, brings together Maurier’s most chilling tales, two of which have adapted into films. The Birds inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film of the same name, while Nicolas Roeg adapted Don’t Look Now into a film in 1973.

From a Cornish farmer who is inexplicably and viciously attacked by hordes of birds, to a woman whose eye surgery comes with grotesque consequences, a man who is convinced his dead wife is haunting a tree in his garden, and a couple who encounter a doppelgänger of their recently deceased daughter; Maurier’s quietly creepy stories steer clear of garish thrills or overt horror motifs. Instead they center on ordinary people in ordinary settings in which something is simply not quite right, creating a strong sense of the uncanny and suggesting that something deeply unsettling is waiting to happen to someone normal and every day; to someone just like you…


Edgar Allan Poe

Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination – Illustrated by Arthur Rackham

Poe has often been named the “arch-priest” of the gothic horror tale,and looking at the intensity of the dark atmosphere and style of his work and the hugely wide reach of his influence, it isn’t hard to see why. He took the beginnings of existing gothic literary tropes and solidified them into what was to become a fully-fledged, modern genre (see doppelgängers in Poe’s William Wilson du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now), with a few of his own additions thrown in along the way.

This copy of Tales of Mystery and Imagination brings together Poe’s horror, suspense, and detective stories, their grim mood reflected brilliantly in Rackham’s murky, haunting illustrations for the first time. The most disturbing of the tales tend to employ an unnamed narrator, often in a circumstance the reader is never given the full details of; this has a disorientating, surreal effect, and guides the reader directly into the narrator’s shoes, focusing their attention on the horrors unfurling before them with no distraction from a wider plot or character details, such as the razor sharp pendulum that slowly descends upon the incapacitated narrator in The Pit and the Pendulum, or the burgeoning madness the narrator experiences in The Fall of the House of Usher.

Poe’s tales have inspired many film, television, and screen adaptations, but perhaps more notably have irrevocably altered and entered the general landscape of horror and gothic culture, to the point that almost every modern gothic horror pays its respects to Poe in some way or other.


L. P. Hartley

The Travelling Grave

While best known for his Edwardian-set drama novel The Go Between, L. P. Hartley was also a prolific writer of short macabre stories. The Travelling Grave (with a striking illustrated dustwrapper from Arkham House regular, Frank Utpatel), was his first collection published in the US, and draws from his previous gothic collections published in the UK, comprising of ghost stories and tales of murder. The stories, often set in grand houses or exotic destinations where the protagonist is a guest or outsider of some sort, give the unsettling feeling of being an eternal stranger; a concept distilled further in A Change of Ownership and The Island, where the protagonists are pushed out of their homes and rendered strangers in their own lives.

Podolo and Three, or Four, for Dinner, like du Maurier’s Don’t Look Now, join their British protagonists on their holidays in Venice, proving that the historic city with its dream-like structure and architecture is the perfect setting for strange goings-on. The Travelling Grave and The Killing Bottle lend a touch of black comedy to their macabre subjects, while Night Fears explores a very dark, psychological variety of horror.


I hope you find something here to frighten and delight you on a dark and stormy night. Have a scary (and literary) Halloween!


Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Classics of the Macabre, and The Travelling Grave


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The Dawn of Science Fiction

While scholars and critics have long discussed and disputed the actual definition of science fiction as a genre, it is undeniable that if someone says that they read a sci-fi book or watched a sci-fi film, the average person will have a good idea as to what they are talking about. Familiar science fiction tropes, concepts, and story lines have been explored and refined time and time again to the point that they are instantly recognisable, yet their popularity never seems to wane. Each new iteration brings a new perspective to the sci-fi framework, and each generation finds fresh metaphors for contemporary issues within its themes and devices.

It could easily be argued that science fiction’s history goes back hundreds, even thousands of years, a whisper of its conception to be found in the work of Ancient Greek cosmologists and philosophers, but, spurred on by the industrial revolution, science fiction as we recognise it today was largely formed in the latter half of the 19th century and the early 20th century. The term science fiction itself, though first appearing in William Wilson’s A Little Earnest Book upon a Great Old Subject in 1951, was not widely used until its popularisation in the 1920s by the hugely influential publisher Hugo Gernsback, when it became firmly recognized as its own genre.

I’d like to share with you today some of our early sci-fi titles. As a fan of the genre I find it fascinating to witness its birth through these novels, and to see just how similar some of the storylines are to those in sci-fi that is being created today. Furthermore, our separation from them in time makes it is easy to see how the political, social, and technological landscape of the period influenced these novelists, which in turn helps us to more easily see how our own lives and times influence the content of contemporary science fiction, even without the clear lens of hindsight.


The Crystal Man

Edward Page Mitchell, edited and introduced by Sam Moskowitz, 1973 [1874-1886]

This is an anthology collection of early science fiction short stories by Edward Page Mitchell originally published in newspapers in the 1870s and 1880s. Mitchell’s stories explored human invisibility and time travel before H.G. Wells’ (undisputedly one of the most influential early sci-fi writers) The Invisible Man and The Time Machine, and it has been postulated by a number of scholars that Mitchell could have been an influence on the legendary author. Also in this collection are extremely early, formative examples of other now-popular science fiction themes such as faster-than-light travel, teleportation, mind transfer, and superhuman mutants. It would be difficult to find a modern sci-fi narrative that didn’t include a concept Mitchell touched on! After his death in 1927 he was largely forgotten until being rediscovered by leading science fiction historian Sam Moskowitz, who collected and published his work together for the first time in this volume, along with his own long and informative introduction which details Mitchell’s personal life and work.




Ceasar’s Column: A Story of the Twentieth Century 

Edmund Boisgilbert, pseudonym of Ignatius Donnelly, 1890

Ceasar’s Column is one of the earliest works of dystopian science fiction in the English language. Compared to Mitchell’s work, Donnelly’s novel revolves less around the futuristic and fantastic technologies and occurrences of science fiction themselves, and instead focuses on the political and social struggles of the world they exist in. That’s not to say it isn’t rich in imagined technology – Donnelly’s portrayal of 1980s New York is filled with advanced tech, much of which, such as television, radio, aeroplanes capable of transatlantic flight, and poison gas really did come to exist, though not quite in the way he imagined them! The plot centres on the city’s ruthless financial oligarchy that rules over a vast, abject working class, and the secret resistance organization that opposes it.

The resemblance to modern works, particularly those created during the dramatic increase in the popularity of dystopian narratives in the late 2000s and early 2010s, is notable. When compared with one of the most popular dystopian novels of recent decades, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, it can be seen that both novels create worlds where the brutality of an oppressive state is matched in barbarity by the violence of the revolutionary resistance, with neither truly earning the moral high ground. The similarity of the climax of both novels, in which the struggle between both sides comes to a less-than-clean-cut conclusion, is particularly staggering.


Last and First Men

Olaf W. Stapledon, 1930

As science fiction matured throughout the early 20th century, more ponderous, philosophical, and cosmically-scaled narratives appeared, including the works of Katherine Burdekin that I discussed in my previous blog post, and exemplified by the groundbreaking works of Olaf Stapledon, all of which helped to form a strain of the genre that still exists today (a favorite example of mine being the 2009 film Mr Nobody, or, more recently, 2016’s Arrival). The recent and anticipated advancements in astronomy and cosmology, which Stapledon followed closely, encouraged a ‘zoomed-out’ view of humanity, and even of the very solar system in which we reside. The First and Last Men, about which Arthur C. Clarke (of 2001: A Space Odyssey acclaim) stated ‘no book before or since has ever had such an impact on my imagination’, takes on the incredible task of imagining the story of the human race all the way up to its demise billions of years in the future. Humanity makes its way through eighteen different forms or species, some of which occur through natural selection, others by human intervention, offering an early example of genetic engineering in science fiction. The narrator, a ‘last man’ residing on Neptune in the last remaining human stronghold, psychically holds the consciousness of a ‘first man’, a stroke of cyclical symmetry which is reminiscent of contemporary and later cosmological and philosophical theories such as the cyclical model, loop quantum cosmology and eternalism. The Last and First Men preceded Star Maker, in which Stapledon took his ideas a step further and traced the birth and death of an entire universe.

Look out for these early works of science fiction among many more like them (so many it was hard for me to choose which to include in this blog post!) in our upcoming catalogue of the legendary Martin Stone’s collection, which is rich in speculative and weird fiction.



Adam Roberts: The History of Science Fiction. Springer, 4 Aug 2016

H.G. Wells: The Invisible Man. Broadview Press, 30 Jun 2018

Ignatius Donnelly: Caesar’s Column, A Story of the Twentieth Century. Wesleyan University Press, 4 Dec 2003

Olaf Stapledon: Last And First Men. Hachette UK, 19 Mar 2012

Robert Crossley: An Olaf Stapledon Reader. Syracuse University Press, 1 Mar 1997 Karina Wilson, accessed 2 September 2019 Gollancz, SFE Ltd., accessed 2 September 2019


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New on the Shelves: Female Writers


While gender inequality still remains in the publishing world today, the challenges that female writers faced in the past, including society’s attitude towards them, were even more severe and impenetrable. Today the majority of classic writers who have become household names are male, but that’s not to say that women weren’t writing in the early 20th century and earlier – we just don’t know about them! That’s why it has been so exciting that while we have been cataloguing the collection of the legendary Martin Stone we have come across quite a few interesting books by female writers, many of which are new to me. I’d like to share a few of their stories, which I have personally found extremely humbling and inspiring.


ANNA KINGSFORD (1846 – 1888)


When I picked up a copy of Dreams and Dream Stories, a beautiful little book (black cloth decorated with silver stars and lettering) containing a collection of Anna Kingsford’s dream diaries, musings, poems, and prose, I was immediately fascinated by her writing and by her story. She was a passionate animal rights activist, anti-vivisectionist, vegetarian, spiritualist, and one of the first women to gain a medical degree (as well as being the only medical student at the time to graduate without experimenting on an animal).

Kingsford had a desire to study medicine in order to give herself more authority in her pursuit of the furthering of the animal welfare-based causes that were so close to her heart. British medical schools did not allow women entry, and so in 1874, aged 27, Kingsford began studying medicine in Paris. Although she was allowed to study, it was not easy: Kingsford recounts in a letter to her husband an incident when, in group of around a hundred students (Kingsford being the only woman), a professor refused to speak or even write her name during a roll call, claiming that she was neither a woman nor a man.

Paris was at the time the epicenter of vivisection-based physiology, and Kingsford had to endure the sights and sounds of live animals being subject to horrific experiments. However, despite the distress this caused her, her refusal to conduct any animal experiments, and her writing her thesis on the medical benefits of vegetarianism (which was initially objected to by multiple professors), she graduated with a Doctorate of Medicine in 1880, going on the give prominent lectures and demonstrations promoting vegetarianism (which was controversial even amongst her fellow anti-vivisectionists) and condemning vivisection, just as she had wished.

What she achieved and withstood in her short lifetime is testament to her incredible strength and determination in the face of a society that was pitted strongly against her beliefs and her sex.




Katharine Burdekin was a truly remarkable writer of speculative fiction with an emphasis on the exploration of incredibly advanced and complex feminist and gender-critical concepts, marking her out as undeniably far ahead of her time. Born into an educated, upper-middle-class family, she was highly intelligent and well-read. She wished to attend Oxford like her brothers, but unfortunately her parents forbade it.

Ten of her novels were published during her lifetime, but fell into obscurity until the 1980s when Daphne Patai, a Professor of Women’s Studies, discovered the true identity of “Murray Constantine”, Burdekin’s pseudonym. Many of her novels were subsequently published by The City University of New York’s Feminist Press and are now of great scholarly interest.

We are lucky enough to have on our shelves two Burdekin first editions. The first, Proud Man, is signed and inscribed by Burdekin. In the novel a completely biologically androgynous human from a peaceful, genderless, vegetarian future society travels back in time to 1930s England, and then gives a critique of this comparatively primitive, “sub-human” society. Through this future human’s eyes, Burdekin dissects our adherence to gender roles and the societal and cultural creation of the masculine identity, theorizing that the male sex assumes that all children are inherently effeminate – that girls naturally become women, while boys must be carefully supervised, taught, and tested into becoming men, and that this is borne out of “a great fear of the suppressed power of the female sex”.

Our second Burdekin, The Rebel Passion, is an early work that the author considered to be her first as a mature writer. It is another time travel-based novel, telling the story of a 12th century male monk who is “born with the soul of a woman” and does not fit into society’s ideas of masculinity. In a series of visions shown to him by a spirit, he witnesses events spanning millions of years from the dawn of life to the creation of a utopian, neo-medieval 21st century society where men and women have achieved complete equality.




Scottish writer Catherine Carswell’s life was lived among artistic and literary circles, and, having little care for playing things safely or for giving up in the face of adversity, was often dogged by drama and controversy. In 1908 she won a historic court case, making her the first woman to have her marriage annulled by proving the insanity of her husband at the time of their marriage. Some years later she moved from Glasgow to London, where she hoped to further her budding career as a journalist and critic. However, after publishing a glowing review of The Rainbow, a novel by her close friend D.H. Lawrence (who was then a contentious figure at best) she lost her job.

Carswell and Lawrence’s friendship is notable for the affection shown on both sides, and for the fact that Carswell, unlike many of his friends, was never the subject or recipient of the criticism for which Lawrence was known. The pair exchanged a huge quantity of letters and frequently and actively encouraged and advised one another on their writing, with Carswell having particular involvement in Women in Love. The two novels that Carswell wrote during this period were eventually forgotten, much like Burdekin’s, until their eventual rediscovery and publication by the feminist publisher Virago, and she is now considered a crucial figure in 20th century Scottish women’s writing.

Deciding to turn her hand to biography, Carswell penned an honest yet sympathetic biography of Robert Burns, who had to many become a legendary, untouchable figure. The book was met with uproar, moving one individual to send a bullet to Carswell in the post and advise her to end her life in order to “make the world a cleaner place”.

The Carswell title that we have to offer is a first edition of The Savage Pilgrimage, a fascinating, intimate biography of Lawrence, written soon after his death. It was withdrawn by Chatto and Windus amid fierce accusations of libel from another friend and biographer of Lawrence, John Middleton Murry. Carswell and Murry had developed a strained relationship prior to Lawrence’s death which only intensified in its aftermath, when their biographies conveyed very different ideas about Lawrence’s character and motivations, as well as about each other.

As a final thought, I believe it is worth noting that these women all come from comparatively privileged backgrounds, yet their paths through writing and publication were clearly not easy, not to mention the fact that they were never able to reach the prominence of some of the most acclaimed – overwhelmingly male – writers. It is sobering to imagine how difficult and practically impossible the act and idea of writing would have been for women from less wealthy, more diverse backgrounds – something that we have undoubtedly not yet entirely overcome.

This is only a very small selection of the many amazing lesser-known women writers I’ve recently come across on our shelves, and I am certain there are so many more out there left for me to discover, which is a very exciting thought! I hope you have enjoyed reading about their lives and works as much as I have.



The Scalpel and the Butterfly: The Conflict Between Animal Research and Animal Protection, Deborah Rudacille, University of California Press. (2001)

Proud Man, Katharine Burdekin, Feminist Press at CUNY (1993)

Anna Kingsford: Her Life, Letters, Diary and Work, Edward Maitland Cambridge University Press. (2011) (2019)

The End of this Day’s Business, Katharine Burdekin, Feminist Press at CUNY. (1989)

Open the Door!, Catherine Carswell, Canongate Books. New Ed edition (2010)

Lying Awake, Catherine Carswell, Canongate Books. 2nd edition (1997)


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Harrogate PBFA Book Fair

Every year in March we exhibit at the P.B.F.A. bookfair in Harrogate, it would be silly not to as it’s only 18 miles away from us in York. A two day affair, actually three if you include the set-up afternoon and (for the last two years) coming the week immediately after the New York Antiquarian Book Fair it makes for a relatively chilled out event and a good opportunity to catch up with the local trade and collectors. This year was no different; we bought a few books, sold a few books, an evening meal and laughs with friends and colleagues. The morning after: an early start, still jet-lagged, a blizzard and weather warnings across the country. A much slower day as only the brave ventured out and then two hours before the end of the bookfair…

Fine gentleman: “How much for the whole stand?”

Grumpy bookseller: “Ummm?”

Fine gentleman: “You have 30 seconds to decide”

Grumpy bookseller: “ok ££££”

Fine gentleman: “done!”

bookseller: “oh! I’ll help you pack”

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Proof and the process

I’ve always loved proof copies, genuine proof copies that is from before the recent publishing phenomena of issuing limited edition “proof copies” as manufactured collectables. To me, manuscript aside (love them too!), the proof is as close as you can get to the author’s warts and all original text in book form. Pre-1970 UK proofs were nearly always in house documents, produced in small numbers purely to edit, polish and finalise a text ready for print and future publication. Despite being a dustwrapper man, in a dustwrapper business, there is something very appealing about the utilitarian drabness of an [often] buff wrapper offering little or no printed clue to the contents, perhaps an ink stamp or manuscript note concerning state (corrected or uncorrected) or proposed publication date and price. Often discarded once they had served their purpose, these ugly ducklings of the publishing trade have long been unappreciated for their importance and comparative rarity.
It is highly likely that fewer than 20 proof copies for the then unknown author John Le Carre’s first book will have been produced by the publisher, and fewer than that will have survived today. We have only ever seen one, and been lucky enough to own it briefly twice. This was the novel that introduced George Smiley and the beginning of a literary career that spans 57 years and 24 novels which have been translated into 36 languages and adapted for film, television and radio.

The author’s best known novel, and first international bestseller, is The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Published in 1963 the book won both the Gold Dagger award (from the Crime Writers’ Association) and the Edgar Award (from the Mystery Writers of America) for best novel, the first work ever to win both titles.

On the 50th anniversary of the Dagger Awards in 2005, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold was awarded the “Dagger of Daggers”, a one-time award given to the stand-out novel among all 50 winners over the history of the Crime Writers’ Association. The novel, in 1965 received early film treatment starring Richard Burton.

This is the uncorrected proof of that breakthrough novel and the only one we have ever seen or are aware of. Interestingly though we have seen the proof dustjacket twice, both times without the book, one turned up at a London antiquarian bookfair wrapped around a regular blue cloth first edition (snapped up by a quicker bookseller than I) and the second was contained within in the Victor Gollancz archive of correspondence between the author and publisher (sold by Rick Gekoski). The proof state dustwrapper is immediately identifiable by it’s colour, it is yellow as with the two previous novels whilst for the first edition they actually went with red.

The author has bequeathed his entire literary archive to the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The archive which filled the space of a Cornish barn includes drafts, manuscripts, photographs, correspondence and one would imagine (although not noted) proof copies.

The importance of proof copies in the publishing process is well illustrated in this copy of Ian Fleming’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Having completed and amended several typescript drafts, his novel was passed to the publisher to produce the uncorrected proof copies. By this time Fleming and James Bond were huge so the print-runs for the proofs and first editions increased massively. In this case Cape issued 500 copies on October 1962 (compared to as few as 20 of Casino Royale, although the exact number is unknown). As with previous novels one copy was sent to Aubrey Forshaw who was head of Pan Books (publisher of the James Bond novels in paperback) but more importantly Ian Fleming’s expert for technical information concerning James Bond’s cars. He was asked by Fleming to read the proof and correct any errors relating to the car.
Aubrey’s corrections appear in pencil to the margins with further corrections, suggestions and typographical errors noted throughout. He then sends the marked up proof back, in this instance to Michael Howard who was head of Jonathan Cape and he sees to it that all of the corrections are adopted into the first edition text of the published book.

So the proof becomes part of the manuscript without which, the book as we know it wouldn’t exist. A grateful author on receipt of his newly published novel sends a copy to his friend and collaborator, inscribing the front endpaper in blue ball point pen “To Aubrey / who wrote some of it! / from Ian”.

There are some instances when a finished book might never make it to publication whether for legal, personal or political reasons. In 1972 London publisher New English Library embarked a book called “Power To The People: The Political Thoughts Of John Lennon” compiled from interviews given by Lennon over 1970 and 1971. The project made it all the way to uncorrected proof stage with original artwork for the dustwrapper and internal illustrations commissioned and print ready and a publication date slated for April 1972. Given John Lennon’s popularity at this time it would have almost certainly been a bestseller but for reasons unknown, publication was pulled at the last minute.

This copy belonged to the NEL editorial director Peter Haining and laid in is a note by him, signed and inscribed “The compiler of this little opportunist book which was never published!”. Of the handful of copies known, this is the only example to have the Tony Lamb proof cover artwork. So there you have it, the best John Lennon book never published!

The proof is a genuine working document, an essential piece of the process in that book’s history and in owning it, to my mind you are infinitely closer to the author and their original text. That’s why I love them.

To see a list of proof copies available on the Lucius Books website click here.

[Gilbert, Jon: IAN FLEMING, The Bibliography]

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Antiques for Everyone Summer Fair At The Birmingham N.E.C.

1920s Children’s Push-Along Toy

It’s Tuesday, and the hottest day of the year so far brings day one of set up at this year’s AFE. We did the fair for the first time last summer in what is usually a quiet time of year for us booksellers, so we are back for another go. Set-up is two days long (including vetting), which makes for a relaxed atmosphere and the opportunity to move things around the stand until you find their place (no, it’s not just me!), and to take time out to wander the venue as other stands take shape.

The frenzy of set-up at a bookfairs often means that you don’t get the opportunity to really look around for fear of missing a bargain in the next booth, so to be the only bookseller here means I can saunter rather than sprint and in doing so a number of things catch my eye.

Louis Wain Ceramic Dog

Top of the list are a couple of children’s toy push carts dating from the 1920s, in entirely original condition, with great paintwork and all the nicks and chips you’d expect from nearly a century of service. They are fabulous, to be found on the stand of Chester based Mike Melody Antiques.

Next up on the stand of Andrew Muir is this Louis Wain ceramic. Years ago I used to collect all things Louis Wain and had several of these futurist / deco ceramic characters; cats, dogs… a pig! but never this handsome fella.

On a similar Marmite-ceramics note, our neighbours at Signed and Designed have an impressive selection of Martin Brothers Grotesque Birds. I’ve always liked these, for similar reasons to Louis Wain’s cat paintings; it’s the character the artists manage to put into the faces. Each one is different, but all have a terrific sense of mischief.

Martin Brothers Grotesque Birds

For the wall, my pick would be this proof linocut “Progress, Road In a Mining Town” by lesser known Grosvenor school artist Ursula Fookes. Although she was exhibited during 1929 – 1931, her works were unknown to members of her family until after her death when a cache of prints, paintings and drawings were discovered in a locked room.

Ursula Fookes Linocut

Ursula Fookes Linocut

The selection of furniture on offer is vast and hugely impressive, not least for the logistics and assembly involved- note the fully operational garden fountain and 7ft carved oak corpus Jesus Christ.

The variety of dealers and stock at this fair makes for a very different vibe to the bookfairs we usually exhibit at. The [relatively] high number of potential customers coming through the doors brings an opportunity to take what we do to a new audience, to inspire new collectors. I know that walking around the fair for the last two days I’ve found numerous items I never knew I wanted!

Our stand is now set up, the vetters are vetting and tomorrow morning at 10am the fair opens to members of the public.


Stand G24

Stand G24


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A Week at Lucius by Polly Moss

This year at school the Head of the Careers department encouraged everyone in my year to take part in a week of work experience after finishing our GCSEs. English and books have always been a great passion of mine, so from the beginning I knew something related to that would be ideal. Luckily I did not have to search too far as my Mum said she knew a family from her work at a school nursery who owned a bookshop that specialised in rare and antique books. I got in touch with James and he and Georgina were kind enough to accept me into the shop for a week following my exams.

I learned a lot of things during my week at Lucius Books about the buying and selling of books and how to judge the value based on the condition of the book. It was a job I knew little about before my week, but one I found to be different to anything I have ever heard of as well as being really interesting.

One of my tasks during the week was to research the life of George Orwell, a topic which was fascinating. I always enjoy learning about the inspiration behind novels, and how the author’s lives affect their writing. Reading about Orwell’s life inspired me to read the works I now knew so much about, and I recently finished reading 1984 (which I found to be extremely eye opening if a little depressing!).

Another highlight of the week for me was a Bonhams auction, in which James was brave enough to let me bid for a couple of items, including one amazing item which after a long and tense battle we won (but am not allowed to say anything more about)!

The week allowed me to learn so much about the antiquarian book business and has opened up a career path to me that I may have never even considered otherwise. I would like to thank James and Georgina once again for giving me the opportunity to help out in the shop, and for their and Monica’s kindness, patience and dozens of cups of green tea throughout the week!

Polly Moss

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Numbers Game

image1   Most booksellers develop a checklist for cataloguing books. Has it got a front cover, a back cover, a spine, some pages in between, are they all attached to each other, what colour is it, when was it published, by whom, is it in good shape… We’ve catalogued thousands of books, each time running through this checklist and noting each point so that someone reading the description can ‘see’ the book without actually seeing it. We always look for bookseller’s labels, library stamps and inscriptions. I must have typed ‘previous owner’s inscription to front free endpaper’ hundreds and hundreds of times. Inscriptions, unless the book is inscribed by or to someone of note, generally detract from the overall condition of a book. Some collectors aren’t keen on them, either for the simple reason that the book is less ‘clean’ when it has been written in, or possibly from a more complicated sense that the book has a hidden story. Most inscriptions are fairly muted, casual, even; ‘for – , with love from –‘, and maybe a date.image4 They don’t paint much of a picture, these unfamiliar names and formal dedications, though buying and presenting a book is so often a careful gesture, one given serious thought and consideration. The handwriting often conjures more of a story than the inscriptions themselves; a rounded, girlish hand but a man’s name, or a deliberate, childish hand, inscribed to a grandchild.

My young daughter has been working her way through the novels of Roald Dahl and is currently engrossed in The Famous Five (she is adamant Enid is a man’s name and thinks I am trying to trick her when I assure her Blyton was a woman.) She chose a book of animal stories from her school library which reminded me of a trilogy of books about a family of foxes I had read while growing up in Ireland. Thinking she might enjoy them but not having come across them in the many years since I read them, I had a look online to see if there were any copies still around. They are out of print now but were reprinted several times so there are plenty of them for sale. I found all the dealers with each of the three books in stock, found the most likely edition that I’d have read and bought the cheapest copies in nice condition.

image6They arrived this morning, not looking like much. I’d managed to buy one in a different edition so they weren’t even uniform and all three, published in the mid to late 80s, are now browned and dog-eared and with the feel of long years in storage in a box in an unheated building. I recognised the cover design of two of the books and felt the pull of my own childhood, but was also a bit professionally disappointed by their condition. Running through my checklist, I noted a previous owner’s name in the first volume. The second was very browned, but with no inscriptions. I opened the third and there, at the top of the page, was my mother’s handwriting.

‘For J- H-, with fondest love from Mummy, Christmas 1988.’ My mum, to my brother, then aged ten. I have bought the very copy I read as a child.

image3We moved to the UK soon after that Christmas and the book must have been donated, or sold, or given away around then and somehow, nearly thirty years later, ended up in a book depository in Milton Keynes to be bought by me for 66p for my daughter. Of course it isn’t impossible, and this isn’t the first time such a thing has happened, but the world swayed for a moment while I tried to account for it.

All the inscriptions in the books I catalogue every day bind two people together. Each formulaic dedication conceals the story of a relationship. My tatty paperback, inscribed by my mum, has no real significance or consequence, but it is strange, it has a force- small, and personal, but I will never catalogue an inscription in a book again without wondering, for a minute, about the story it doesn’t tell.

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Sir Richard Gregory and H. G. Wells

The thrill of the chase has always been a strong motivation in the day to day running of our rare book business. Whether it be attending an auction, studying dealer catalogues or jumping on a train, plane or automobile to follow up a lead, it’s always been the thrill of the chase. But part of the advantage of a very busy fair schedule and having an open shop is every now and again something great comes to you.

NPG x13208; Herbert George Wells by George Charles Beresford

H. G. Wells


Sir Richard Gregory

It started with an email from a gentleman who had inherited some books and was interested in finding out more about them. The collection was formed over a 60 year period by Sir Richard Gregory, and had remained in the family by descent. The name Sir Richard Gregory was not one I was immediately familiar with, but the author of nearly all of the books in the collection was someone most of us would know immediately; H. G. Wells. We were advised that Sir Richard and H. G. Wells had been good friends and that most of the books were copies that the author had given to him. I was invited to view the collection and after a little research and receiving a few grainy images of the shelved books I was intrigued and set off to have a look.


Arriving at the house I was shown to the bookcase where I spent the next hour and a half going through each and every item. Most were indeed presentation copies with H. G. Wells’ penned inscription to nearly every one. There were around 90 books in total including the obvious highlights- The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Island of Dr. Moreau- as well as his lesser known titles and the occasional offprint. Laid into some books were bits of typescript, autograph drafts and a letter. One notable absence was The Invisible Man; well, I couldn’t see it anyway.

11319bWhat was very quickly evident was that each book was a genuine presentation copy, inscribed and dispatched on, before or very close to publication. All of the first editions were in their earliest issue states and where H.G. was unable to inscribe or send the book himself he made sure the publisher sent a copy with his compliments. There was a mix of UK and US editions, not necessarily in the order of first publication but, as some of the UK and US editions differ either in text or illustrations, we assume the copy sent was the edition Wells was most happy with. It was clear that Gregory was someone very important to Wells and vice versa; the books spanned Wells’ entire publishing career. I asked the owner about the missing Invisible Man, wondering if perhaps it had been retained by another family member. He had no idea what had happened to it but was pretty sure the collection had remained as is for decades so it was unlikely to have been removed. 11329I relayed my enthusiasm for the collection and explained that there was almost certainly, although I didn’t know it yet, an interesting and possibly important story around it. I advised that the collection was a valuable one and that should it be for sale, we would love to buy it! I left the house with a bid on the table and wondered as I headed home with rain battering the car whether I would ever see the books again.

HGWellsIt took a while but several weeks later I received word that if our offer of purchase stood then the collection was ours. Thrilled! we collected and the research and cataloguing process began. The only real itch to scratch was this missing Invisible Man. Why wasn’t it here? We searched auction records, dealer catalogues, online, for any reference to a copy of the Invisible Man inscribed to R. A. Gregory, RAGs or even Gigglecrums, but drew a blank. We found reference to Gregory’s papers at the University of Sussex library; no books were held but his documents, letters and manuscripts were all there. We then turned to biographies both of Wells and of Gregory. Nearly all biographies of Wells have significant reference to Gregory and the biography of Gregory a whole chapter dedicated to H. G. Wells so there was a mountain of information to be had. Bingo! In a letter from Gregory to Wells in February 1898 after reviewing The Invisible Man for ‘Nature’ and ‘Academy’ magazine he writes “I have retained the Academy copy of the book so you need not worry about sending me one”. Presumably the copy was later returned to the Academy but as far as presentation copies go, The Invisible Man was never there.

Mystery solved, we set about the details of what proved to be an extraordinary relationship and two exceptional careers.


Sir Richard Arman Gregory FRS, FRAS (29 January 1864 – 15 September 1952)


Herbert George Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946)


11318Richard Gregory and the “small, shabby hobbledehoy called H. G. Wells” first met whilst they were pupils at the Normal School for Science in South Kensington. It was here that Wells co-founded and edited the Science Schools Journal assisted readily by Gregory and a life-long friendship was born.  Gregory was the author of many books including three text-books, the first  of which, Elementary Physical and Astronomical Geography, published in 1891, ran to seven editions. His fourth, a biology course book entitled Honours Physiography [1893] was a collaboration with Wells which, on account of mutual financial embarrassment, they sold outright to the publisher for £20- splitting the proceeds down the middle. Gregory’s enthusiasm for science was rewarded in May 1893 when he was appointed by Norman Lockyer to the staff of the prestigious scientific journal Nature.  As Wells settled down to write essays in the scientific occult like The Time Machine and The Island of Dr. Moreau he would often turn to Gregory for encouragement. That Gregory would take advice and seek the support of Wells for his own work indicates the reciprocity of feelings and interests between the two friends. They were each, in their own way, doing essential work for science; Gregory concentrating on the exposition of the laws of Nature, Wells on their imaginative exploitation.


Nature 18th July 1895

11330Wells, with his romances of science, did for generations what Gregory could never do: he unlocked the imaginations of thousands, and buoyed them with new hope.  In 1919 Gregory took over as editor of Nature, establishing it in the international scientific community. He introduced weekly editorials on social and political issues, so much so that Nature was dubbed “the most important weekly written in English” and banned in Nazi Germany for criticising the expulsion of Jewish scientists.  Memorable moments in science under Gregory’s editorship included the discovery of the neutron and an entire special issue devoted to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Wells wrote for and was reviewed extensively in Nature. He considered it an ideal platform to convey his ideas to an influential audience. Despite decent scientific credentials (first-class honours in zoology and second-class honours in biology), he never managed to obtain a much-coveted Fellowship of the Royal Society and thus wrote as an outsider to the scientific establishment.  From their 1886 first meeting at the Normal School for Science up until Wells’ death in August 1946, Gregory and Wells remained in close contact and the best of friends. Indeed it is recorded that Gregory is the only person with whom Wells never quarrelled. Even after Wells’ death, Gregory worked tirelessly in trying to “keep alive this considerable body of thought”, attempting to form a Wells Fellowship (the Wells Memorial).


The Dedication Copy


The Dedication Copy

It is perhaps best left to H. G. W. himself to sum up their extraordinary 60 year relationship. In his 1895 first book of fiction “Select Conversations With an Uncle”,  the printed dedication reads:

“To my dearest and best friend R. A. G.”



The papers of Sir Richard Gregory reside at the University of Sussex Library (Special Collections). The archive was donated by Lady Gregory in April 1970.

Armytage, W.H.G.: Sir Richard Gregory; Partington, John S. (ed.): H.G. Wells in Nature 1883 – 1946; West, Geoffrey: H. G. Wells

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Various New York Storefronts

Park East Pharmacy, 7308 Matropolitan Avenue, May 1946

Park East Pharmacy, 7308 Matropolitan Avenue, May 1946

James bought the photos but I hadn’t seen them until we collected them in London. We took them to the café on the ground floor of the Royal Academy. The lighting is poor and the couple at the next table were discreetly trying to see what we were looking at: cellophane packs of photos, unmistakably early colour, with the rounded corners of family snapshot albums. They were also unmistakably American. Unmistakably New York. The pictures were printed at a time when mass market colour photo reproduction was so new that developing one roll of film cost the equivalent of an average week’s wages and the film had to be sent away to a lab to be processed.

Haddon Hall Cigars, July 1950

Haddon Hall Cigars, July 1950

They are across-the-street shots of general stores, liquor stores, butchers, pharmacies, cinemas. There are a few chains, like Dilbert Brothers, but mostly they are independent businesses. None, so far as we know, still operate today, although some of the buildings still stand.

There are 57 photographs, no duplicates, though in some cases there are multiple shots of the same store. Laid out on the floor at the back of our shop, I walked away from them and back again, time and again, trying to trick them into giving up their story. This was an expensive project, but the set up for the photos is almost matter-of-fact. Parked cars obscure parts of some photos, passers-by, or their reflections, are captured hurrying past.

One of a limited edition of 75 hand numbered copies

One of a limited edition of 75 hand numbered copies

They were not taken by someone concerned with flawless composition or even deliberately trying for a reportage style. They record information, nothing more. Window displays, cinema foyer, clothing displays. You can make out the sign for the dentist on the first floor of one shop, and the figure of a man hunched over a restaurant counter in another.I can’t help feeling it’s a portfolio concerning metal. The post-war transition to mass production. Aluminium. Aluminium frames around glass store windows and doors. It documents a time where main streets were dominated not by chains of shops or mini-hypermarkets but by small, specialist, often family-run stores.

Laid out together, a narrative of sorts builds. Like Twentysix Gasoline Stations, the photos offer no commentary, they simply present themselves- with the barest details of name and location- and eventually add up to more than the sum of their parts. That’s why we used the format of Twentysix Gasoline Stations- they fit perfectly. We didn’t even change the size of the images.

The edition is limited to 75 copies and will be launched at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair in April.

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