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This week’s podcast: books set in London

Charing Cross Road features in one of our recommendations

In our latest AbeBooks Behind the Bookshelves podcast we go beyond Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle to recommend books set in London. From a genre-defining non-fiction book about Arsenal to fictional descriptions of the immigrant experience by Zadie Smith and Hanif Kureishi, we cast our eye across a wide selection of books. For more recommendations, visit our literary tour of London page.


Jamieson’s Heavenly Celestial Atlas from 1822

Sagittarius: Archer in Latin, and this constellation is usually represented by a centaur firing an arrow

Alexander Jamieson was an 18th century schoolteacher who wrote textbooks on the side. His books included A Grammar of Universal Geography, A Grammar of Logic and Intellectual Philosophy and the Mechanics of Fluids for Practical Men, and you can be excused for giving these three a miss. But you cannot turn your back on Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas from 1822.

Born on the Isle of Bute, the son of a Scottish wheelwright, Jamieson became a member of the Astronomical Society of London and is chiefly remembered for his beautiful depiction of the heavens in a celestial atlas. The book’s full and lengthy title is A Celestial Atlas, Comprising a Systematic Display of the Heavens in a Series of Thirty Maps, Illustrated by Scientific Descriptions of their Contents, and Accompanied by a Catalogue of the Stars and Astronomical Exercises.

Cost forced Jamieson to produce a small atlas

Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas contains 30 engraved illustrations by a firm called Neele & Son. The star maps are overlaid with imagery from the Zodiac and ancient mythology. The latest scientific knowledge is combined with artistic craftsmanship. Jamieson wasn’t the first to mix art and astronomy, but his atlas, which was allowed to be dedicated to King George IV (quite the honor), remains memorable to this day.

Twenty six of the plates are constellation maps. Jamieson only displayed stars visible to the naked eye, making it widely accessible to anyone who looked at the heavens.

Pictorial star atlases were popular at this time but these impressive books were often large and expensive. Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas was much smaller and cheaper. Each chart was approximately 9 inches by 7 inches in size. Jamieson explains in the preface that he had originally wanted larger charts, but used smaller ones to reduce production costs.

He printed black and white and hand-colored versions which were offered for £1 5 shillings or £1 11 shillings and 6 pence respectively. These books are now scarce and only one copy can be found on AbeBooks, for £2,350, (NOW SOLD) but individual prints are available.

Orion was a hunter in Greek mythology who was sent to the heavens by Zeus.

Jamieson produced a second edition of the star atlas just four months after releasing first, almost certainly due to demand. In 1824, he published a follow-up called An Atlas of Outline Maps of the Heavens but it did not sell well.

Jamieson’s original Celestial Atlas was so popular that his artwork was copied and used in a book called Urania’s Mirror, which was published anonymously (since it was blatantly plagiarised) in 1824. Urania’s Mirror contains hand-coloured cards depicting mythological figures while strategic pinholes indicate the location of the stars, allowing a viewer to visualise their appearance in the sky when held up the sky. Apparently, these cards had a tendency to catch on fire. It was books like Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas and Urania’s Mirror that helped popularize the idea of the heavens being a blank piece of paper for artists.

Find Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas

Auriga: This constellation was identified as early as the 2nd century AD by the astronomer Ptolemy. Its Latin name means ‘charioteer.’ Illustrations traditionally show a chariot and its driver, who is holding goats and reins.

Cancer: The fourth sign in the Zodiac. This constellation is usually represented by the crab, based on Karkinos, a huge crab that harassed Greek hero Heracles during his battle with the Hydra.

Cetus: A whale-like sea monster in Greek mythology slain by Perseus in order to save Andromeda from Poseidon.

Ursa Major: Also known as the Great Bear, this constellation is in the northern sky and has been known for eons. It was one of the original 48 constellations listed by Ptolemy.

Hydra (SOLD): The largest of the 88 modern constellations and commonly represented as a water snake.

Perseus: A constellation in the northern sky, named after the Greek hero Perseus. Andromeda is also in the north and named after the daughter of Cassiopeia. She was chained to a rock to be eaten by a sea monster.

Cygnus: A northern constellation lying on the plane of the Milky Way, deriving its name from the Latin and Greek for swan. Cygnus contains Deneb, one of the brightest stars.

Taurus (SOLD): A large constellation in the northern hemisphere’s winter sky. Stargazers have looked up to this constellation since the Bronze Age. The association with a bull dates back thousands of years.


Jamieson’s heavenly Celestial Atlas

Alexander Jamieson was an 18th century schoolteacher who wrote textbooks in his spare time. In 1822, he published a memorable Celestial Atlas that contained engraved illustrations of constellation maps overlaid with imagery from the Zodiac and ancient mythology.


20 Pioneering Novels that Paved the Way for Today’s LGBT Literature

Today’s LGBT genre is vibrant, accessible, accepted and intertwined with the likes of memoirs, young adult fiction and graphic novels. It was a long journey to reach this point. At first, homosexuality had to be hinted at and could never be explicit. It was disguised in everything from vampire tales to philosophical fiction. Countless gay authors had to hide their own sexuality when writing about this subject. Many books with gay themes were banned or (worse) simply ignored and allowed to fade into obscurity. When LGBT plots and characters became more common in 1950s pulp fiction, the narratives had desperately unhappy endings, same-sex relationships were portrayed as tragic, and the cover artwork was lurid. Two recommended reads on this subject are Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America by Christopher Bram and the more academic The Cambridge History of Gay and Lesbian Literature.

Our list is in chronological order

Probably the earliest gay novel published in America

Joseph and His Friend: A Story of Pennsylvania by Bayard Taylor (1870)

Taylor was a prolific author of poetry and travel writing. This novel describes a relationship between two men without ever becoming sexual or doom-laden. Considering that it was written in the middle of the Victorian era, Taylor’s book was way ahead of its time.

First editions are very scarce and highly collectible.

Imre: A Memorandum by Xavier Mayne (1906)

An early novel about a homosexual relationship between two men that’s important because of its sympathetic portrayal of gay love. AbeBooks sold a first edition for more than £8,000 in 2009. Only 500 copies were privately printed. The tale describes a love story between a 30-something British aristocrat and a 25-year-old Hungarian military officer who meet in a Budapest cafe. Xavier Mayne was the pen name of Edward Prime-Stevenson, who was an American author who turned away from a legal career to become a mainstream writer for magazines such as Harper’s and The New York Independent. Prime-Stevenson also wrote a 1908 study called The Intersexes that defends homosexuality from numerous standpoints.

Not an easy novel to read due to the complex plots

The Counterfeiters by André Gide (1925)

A complex novel with multiple plots that made little impact on its publication due to its gay characters and their intertwining relationships. Today it’s seen as a book that paved the way for post-modern fiction.

A novel of campus life that is long forgotten.

The Western Shore by Clarkson Crane (1925)

One of the first novels about gay university life. Clarkson Crane (1894-1971) attended Berkeley and this novel probably resulted from his experiences. Cane served in France in the U.S. Army Ambulance Corps during World War I. He returned to France in 1923 where he wrote this novel, which quickly faded into obscurity. At this time, American university life was portrayed in literature as being nothing but heterosexual romance, parties, and sport.

A lesbian novel that sparked controversy.

The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (1928)

Published by Jonathan Cape, the plot sees an Englishwoman find love with another woman while serving as an ambulance driver in World War I only to suffer social isolation. The novel portrays lesbianism as a natural state. It was hugely controversial and put lesbians in the newspaper headlines.

Gender is a fluid thing in this pioneering book.

Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf (1928)

This well-known novel is important because of the fluid way in which Woolf treats gender. The book describes the adventures of a poet who changes sex and meets important historical figures.

A novel about the challenges of coming out.

Strange Brother by Blair Niles (1931)

A platonic relationship between a heterosexual woman and a gay man is at the heart of this downbeat novel set in New York in the Art Deco era. It highlights many of the issues facing people afraid to reveal their true sexuality. Blair Niles was actually Mary Blair Rice, a novelist and travel writer, who made just this one foray into gay literature.

She is a he in this novel that features characters based on real people.

The Scarlet Pansy by Robert Scully (1932)

Horrible title. The main character, Fay Etrange, is referred to as “her” throughout but she’s clearly a man. This is a story of how the androgynous Fay has endless encounters after moving to New York and diving into the queer world of nightclubs, theatres, and street life. It has been surmised that Scully was actually publisher Robert McAlmon, who founded Contact Editions, and the book’s characters are based upon notable figures in the American expatriate community of Paris, ranging from Sylvia Beach to Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Hats off to Fordham University Press who republished this novel in 2016.

This novel was also titled Better Angel.

Better Angel / Torment by Richard Meeker (1933)

Richard Meeker is the pen name of Forman Brown. This novel was also published under the title, Torment. It describes a young man’s gay awakening between the World Wars and, importantly, shows that a homosexual lifestyle can be rewarding rather than tragic. The Torment edition cover blurb reads: “Kurt loved this woman. Did he love her brother more? Is it evil for one man to lavish affection on another?”

Early lesbian fiction.

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes (1936)

An early example of lesbian-themed fiction. Published by Faber and Faber, this novel did not end up forgotten and was praised by several notable authors for its prose. The main character, Nora Flood, is based on the author.

Janes Bowles was married to fellow author Paul Bowles.

Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles (1943)

This novel is about two women who break from their traditional lives. One of them visits Panama, where she meets women working in the city’s brothels. Bowles was the wife of Sheltering Sky author Paul Bowles.

James W. Fugaté had to write this novel under a pen name.

Quatrefoil by James Barr / James W. Fugaté (1950)

A landmark novel because it portrays gay men in a positive light. Two men become lovers and one of them has the choice of financial security or true love. James W. Fugaté wrote the book under the pen name of James Barr. Fugaté served in the US Navy in World War II and rejoined the Navy in 1952 but he was discovered to be the author of Quatrefoil which led to his discharge.

Claire Morgan was Patricia Highsmith

The Price of Salt / Carol by Patricia Highsmith (1952)

First published under the pseudonym of Claire Morgan, this novel has been titled The Price of Salt and also Carol. The story concerns Therese Belivet, a young woman living in New York, who meets Carol, an elegant woman in her early thirties. It depicts a lesbian relationship in a relatively positive light, plus there’s the wonderful prose from Patricia Highsmith. Cate Blanchett starred in a movie adaptation in 2015.

The characters in this novel were based on real people.

A Room in Chelsea Square by Michael Nelson (1958)

A British novel that was originally published anonymously because homosexuality was still illegal in the UK at this time and because the main characters were based on real people, including the poet Stephen Spender.

This is a collection of short stories.

The Keval and Other Gay Adventures by Harry Otis (1959)

A selection of gay-themed short stories spanning the world. One Incorporated, the publisher was a non-profit philanthropic organisation that promoted homosexual literature through a monthly periodical called ONE and other ventures.

Author Christopher Isherwood was well traveled and lived in Berlin during the 1920s.

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (1964)

Set in California, this novel depicts one day in the life of George, a middle-aged university professor, in mourning after the sudden death of his partner. Isherwood lived a full life in the UK and the United States but also spent time in Berlin at the height of its ‘Cabaret’ era of sexual freedom.

A lesbian novel set among the casino culture of Reno in Nevada.

Desert of the Heart by Jane Rule (1964)

Originally published in hardback by Macmillan Canada, the hardcover binding was a landmark because most lesbian novels were being printed as pulp fiction at this time. Set in the 1950s’ casinos of Reno, this novel’s plot concerns two women, one waiting on a divorce, who meet and begin a relationship that becomes complicated.

A lesbian novel about the difficulties of coming out.

Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing by May Sarton (1965)

A novel about a lesbian relationship that sunk like a stone in the 1960s before being rediscovered by the women’s movements of the 1970s. Sarton, an established writer at the time, revealed her own homosexuality by publishing this book which deals with the difficulties of coming out.

This gay novel bucked the trend and became a bestseller.

The Lord Won’t Mind by Gordon Merrick (1970)

A gay novel on New York Times bestseller list in 1970? Yes, this one was popular. Charlie Mills and Peter Martin meet and fall in love. The book follows Charlie’s path from being a closeted gay man. Merrick was an actor who wrote a number of gay-themed novels in a mass market style. Merrick’s first novel, the autobiographical The Strumpet Wind was published in 1947 and concerns a gay American spy in France during World War II.

This novel was published until a year after EM Forster’s death.

Maurice by E.M. Forster (1971)

Written in 1913 and 1914, but not published until 1971, the year after Forster’s death, Maurice is a very English story of homosexual love in the early 20th century. Forster never attempted to publish it because he thought gay love had too many taboos. This novel, also featuring class strife and blackmail, was turned into a film in 1987. Unlike many gay novels from the early decades of the 20th century, Maurice is now widely available and frequently read.


Interview with bookbinder Marysa de Veer

Marysa de Veer of Otter Bookbinding

The latest episode of AbeBooks’ podcast series Behind the Bookshelves features an interview with Marysa de Veer of Otter Bookbinding. We met Marysa at the 2018 ABA Rare Book Fair in London, and she was kind enough to explain how she keeps this traditional skill alive and also describes the skills required to restore, preserve and enhance books. Marysa founded Otter Bookbinding in 1993 and their main workshop is in Midhurst, West Sussex. Details about Marysa’s bookbinding courses can be found here.

You can also access all the Behind the Bookshelves podcast shows via these platforms.

iTunes

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Tunein


Stand firm & carry on: Churchill’s 1940 instruction leaflet on surviving the German invasion

14 million copies were printed but few have survived: Picture credit – Churchill Book Collector

April 1940. Britain’s darkest hour as the country braced for invasion by German forces. Prime Minister Winston Churchill took the extraordinary step of printing and distributing 14 million leaflets, titled Beating the Invader, featuring instructions on what to do when German troops reached British soil.

The key messages were quintessential Churchill – “Stand firm” and “Carry On.”

The leaflet contains more 1,300 words printed on the front and rear. It begins with an introduction from Churchill. Dunkirk would be evacuated in June, meaning Germany controlled mainland Europe and Britain was next in line for invasion. The leaflets were distributed across the country but most were thrown away when the invasion failed to materialize. Surviving copies are now highly collectable as an important example of government mass communication during World War II. They are also appealing to collectors of Churchill memorabilia.

The leaflet speaks to a wide audience, providing guidance to citizens living along England’s south coast where the invasion was expected to occur and to people in other areas. The War Office appeared to have two goals – provide instructions to people who could be caught up in the fighting and ensure people living elsewhere did not panic. The messaging is practical but the leaflet also contains an element of stiff upper lip public relations with reassuring text that describes how the British forces will counter-attack.

When read in its entirety, the leaflet is ominous. The grim instructions include:

If fighting is close by….

“Keep indoors or in your shelter until the battle is over.  If you can have a trench ready in your garden or field, so much the better.”

If living some way from the fighting…

“Stay in your district and carry on.  Go to work whether in shop, field, factory or office.  Do your shopping, send your children to school until you are told not to.  Do not try to go and live somewhere else.”

If you hear church bells…

“It is a warning to the local garrison that troops have been seen landing from the air.”

If newspapers and radio services are curtailed…

“You should not listen to rumours nor pass them on., but should wait until real news comes through again.”

If you have a motor car, disable it…

“Remove distributor head and leads and either empty the tank or remove the carburettor.”

If the enemy attacks ordinary citizens…

“You have the right of every man and woman to do what you can to protect yourself, your family and your home.”

There are seven original copies of the Beating the Invader leaflet for sale on the AbeBooks marketplace, with prices ranging from £170 to £475 depending on condition.

The leaflet includes instructions on disabling cars. Picture credit – Churchill Book Collector

Here is the text of the leaflet in full.

Issued by the Ministry of Information in co-operation with the War Office and the Ministry of Home Security

Beating the INVADER

A MESSAGE FROM THE PRIME MINISTER

If invasion comes, everyone – young or old, men and women – will be eager to play their part worthily.  By far the greater part of the country will not be immediately involved.  Even along our coasts, the greater part will remain unaffected.  But where the enemy lands, or tries to land, there will be most violent fighting.   Not only will there be the battles when the enemy tries to come ashore, but afterwards there will fall upon his lodgments very heavy British counter-attacks, and all the time the lodgments will be under the heaviest attack by British bombers. The fewer civilians or non-combatants in these areas, the better – apart from essential workers who must remain.   So if you are advised by the authorities to leave the place where you live, it is your duty to go elsewhere when you are told to leave.   When the attack begins, it will be too late to go; and, unless you receive definite instructions to move, your duty then will be to stay where are.  You will have to get into the safest place you can find, and stay there until the battle is over.  For all of you then the order and the duty will be: “STAND FIRM”.

This also applies to people inland if any considerable number of parachutists or air-borne troops are landed in their neighbourhood.  Above all, they must not cumber the roads.  Like their fellow-countrymen on the coasts, they must “STAND FIRM”.  The Home Guard, supported by strong mobile columns wherever the enemy’s numbers require it, will immediately come to grips with the invaders, and there is little doubt will soon destroy them.

Throughout the rest of the country where there is no fighting going on and no close cannon fire or rifle fire can be heard, everyone will govern his conduct by the second great order and duty, namely, “CARRY ON”.  It may easily be some weeks before the invader has been totally destroyed, that is to say, killed or captured to the last man who has landed on our shores.  Meanwhile, all work must be continued to the utmost, and no time lost.

The following notes have been prepared to tell everyone in rather more detail what to do, and they should be carefully studied.  Each man and woman should think out a clear plan of personal action in accordance with the general scheme.

Winston Churchill

STAND FIRM

1 What do I do if fighting breaks out in my neighbourhood?

Keep indoors or in your shelter until the battle is over.  If you can have a trench ready in your garden or field, so much the better.  You may want to use it for protection if your house is damaged.  But if you are at work, or if you have special orders, carry on as long as possible and only take cover when danger approaches.

If you are on your way to work, finish your journey if you can.

If you see an enemy tank, or a few enemy soldiers, do not assume that the enemy are in control of the area.  What you have seen may be a party sent on in advance, or stragglers from the main body who can easily be rounded up.

CARRY ON

2 What do I do in areas which are some way from the fighting?

Stay in your district and carry on.  Go to work whether in shop, field, factory or office.  Do your shopping, send your children to school until you are told not to.  Do not try to go and live somewhere else. Do not use the roads for any unnecessary journey; they must be left free for troop movements even a long way from the district where actual fighting is taking place.

3 Will certain roads and railways be reserved for the use of the Military, even in areas far from the scene of action?

Yes, certain roads will have to be reserved for important troop movements; but such reservations should be only temporary.  As far as possible, bus companies and railways will try to maintain essential public services, though it may be necessary to cut these down.  Bicyclists and pedestrians may use the roads for journeys to work, unless instructed not to do so.

ADVICE AND ORDERS

4 Whom shall I ask for advice?

The police and A.R.P. wardens.

5 From whom shall I take orders?

In most cases from the police and A.R.P. wardens.  But there may be times when you will have to take orders from the military and the Home Guard in uniform.

6 Is there any means by which I can tell that an order is a true order and not faked?

You will generally know your policeman and your A.R.P. wardens by sight, and can trust them.  With a bit of common sense you can tell if a soldier is really British or only pretending to be so.   If in doubt ask a policeman, or ask a solider whom you know personally.

INSTRUCTIONS

7 What does it mean when the church bells are rung?

It is a warning to the local garrison that troops have been seen landing from the air in the neighbourhood of the church in question.  Church bells will not be rung all over the country as a general warning that invasion has taken place.  The ringing of church bells in one place will not be taken up in neighbouring churches.

8 Will instructions be given over the wireless?

Yes; so far as possible.  But remember that the enemy can overhear any wireless message, so that the wireless cannot be used for instructions which might give him valuable information.

9 In what other ways will instructions be given?

Through the Press; by loudspeaker vans; and perhaps by leaflets and posters.  But remember that genuine Government leaflets will be given to you only by the policeman, your A.R.P. warden or your postman; while genuine posters and instructions will be put up only on Ministry of Information notice boards and official sites, such as police stations, post offices, A.R.P. posts, town halls and schools.

FOOD

10 Should I try to lay in extra food?

No.  If you have already laid in a stock of food, keep it for a real emergency; but do not add to it.  The Government has made arrangements for food supplies.

NEWS

11 Will normal news services continue?

Yes.  Careful plans have been made to enable newspapers and wireless broadcasts to carry on, and in case of need there are emergency measures which will bring you the news.  But if there should be some temporary breakdown in news supply, it is very important that you should not listen to rumours nor pass them on, but should wait till real news comes through again.  Do not use the telephones or send telegrams if you can possibly avoid it.

MOTOR-CARS

12 Should I put my car, lorry or motor-bicycle out of action?

Yes, when you are told to do so by the police, A.R.P. wardens or military; or when it is obvious that there is an immediate risk of its being seized by the enemy – then disable and hide your bicycle and destroy your maps.

13 How should it be put out of action?

Remove distributor head and leads and either empty the tank or remove the carburettor.  If you don’t know how to do this, find out now from your nearest garage.  In the case of diesel engines remove the injection pump and connection.  The parts removed must be hidden well away from the vehicle.

THE ENEMY

14 Should I defend myself against the enemy?

The enemy is not likely to turn aside to attack separate houses.  If small parties are going about threatening persons and property in an area not under enemy control and come your way, you have the right of every man and woman to do what you can to protect yourself, your family and your home.

GIVE ALL THE HELP YOU CAN TO OUR TROOPS

Do not tell the enemy anything

Do not give him anything

Do not help him in any way


17 London bookshops for true bibliophiles

Take a video tour of some of London’s finest bookshops from Chelsea to Chiswick, from Bloomsbury to Charing Cross Road. We highlight high-end antiquarian specialists, sellers of general used books and community bookshops.


In Pictures: the First American Divorcee to Marry a British Royal

Royal Crisis: The December 12 1936 issue of Weekly Illustrated

Meghan Markle is not the first divorced American to marry into the Royal Family. In 1936, King Edward VIII revealed that he intended to marry an American socialite and divorcee, and this sensational news rocked Britain, taking the country to the brink of a constitutional crisis.

Cover girl Meghan Markle

Wallis Simpson was the Baltimore-born woman at the eye of the storm. Her first marriage to a US naval officer ended in divorce in 1927.  During her second marriage to an American businessman, she met and fell in love with Edward, who was then Prince of Wales and heir to the throne.

Edward became king when his father, George V, died in January 1936. At this point, Wallis began proceedings to divorce her second husband, Ernest Simpson. Edward announced to the UK government that he intended to marry Wallis, who was known as Mrs Simpson. This was controversial for a number of reasons.

  • Edward’s own church refused to marry them. The British king is the symbolic head of the Church of England, which, at the time, would not marry divorced people if an original spouse was living.
  • The British government considered the proposed marriage to a divorcee as morally unacceptable.
  • Many people, including almost all members of the British royal family, saw Simpson as a social parasite who craved power and prestige. She was not from the traditional blue-blooded European aristocratic families who normally married British royals.
  • Most importantly however, the British government would resign, causing a general election, if the marriage went ahead. Britain had been a constitutional monarchy since 1688 and such a challenge from the king would have thrown the whole political system into the air.

A 1939 press photo of Edward and Wallis in their French home, Château de la Croë, Cap d’Antibes

The Edward and Mrs Simpson affair remains the biggest crisis to hit the British monarchy in the 20th century and that includes all the sad events relating to Princess Diana. There were intense negotiations between Edward, the royals, the British prime minister Stanley Baldwin, and the prime ministers of several commonwealth countries.

In December 1936, Edward gave up the crown and abdicated, becoming Duke of Windsor. His brother became King George VI. Edward’s only other serious option would have been to end his relationship with Wallis Simpson.

In an historic radio broadcast, Edward said: “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.” He left the country the next day.

Edward and Wallis were married in June 1937 in a French chateau. No members of the Royal Family attended the wedding. After the marriage, Wallis was formally known as the Duchess of Windsor but the pair were essentially living in exile.

Between 1940 and 1945, the Duke was governor of the Bahamas. After that, the pair lived in France and the United States, and were full-time socialites. The Duke died in 1972, and the Duchess in 1986.

Although the couple succeeded in marrying, this story is more of a tragedy than a romance. Wallis failed to become queen and became an outcast with no real role. Edward lost his family and his crown.

FACTS ABOUT MRS SIMPSON

The 23 September 1936 issue of New York Woman magazine

Although Edward’s relationship with Wallis Simpson was widely known by the British media, they refrained from reporting about it. This was not the case for overseas media, who were less deferential. The above article was printed in New York Woman magazine on September 23, 1936. While never directly referring to an affair, the magazine is blunt about what’s happening. The journalist writes: “Discretion has never marked their relationship. As early as August of 1934, the then Prince of Wales was so entranced with dancing the rhumba with Mrs Simpson is a Biarritz café that he sent back the plane which had come from Marseilles to take him to Paris.”

A pirate recording of Edward’s speech

Edward’s abdication speech on 11 December was an historic moment for Britain, the Royals and broadcasting, but it only briefly mentions Wallis Simpson and then she is referred to as “the woman I love.” The text was vetted by parliament. It was broadcast on BBC radio from Windsor Castle. This record (pictured right) was produced by BBC engineers in defiance of BBC orders. This is an incredibly rare pirate recording, hence the $12,000+ price tag. The speech and other associated documents associated with the abdication were quickly printed as the world craved details on the biggest royal story since the death of Queen Victoria in 1901

Separated from the Royal Family, the Windsors were free to do things that normal Royals would not… like publishing books. In 1951, Edward published a memoir called A King’s Story. Aside from providing his side of the abdication, Edward wrote about his experiences in naval school, studying at Oxford University, serving in the army in World War I and his tours around the world representing the royal family. Wallis Simpson also wrote a memoir called The Heart Has Its Reasons, which was published in 1956. Such was the interest in her life, the book was still being reprinted in the 1980s.

This flag was printed for Edward’s coronation but never flew

Souvenirs celebrating Edward VIII’s coronation were produced in advance of his coronation, which never happened. Edward immediately became king at the death of his father but was not formally crowned. This flag (pictured above) was printed in 1936 in anticipation of the coronation in 1937.

A handkerchief for a coronation that never happened.

Cotton handkerchiefs were also among the coronation souvenirs produced but never issued. Today, they are a curiosity amid the many historic royal souvenirs.

Edward and Wallis continued to be front page material even after their exclusion from the royal family landed them in an odd form of limbo. Famous for being royal and in love, but having no true role in life.

A caricature portrait of Edward by Jack Rosen of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel

The Windsors became full-time socialites after World War II. When in New York, they stayed at the Waldorf Astoria. The hotel’s security director Jack Rosen was a talented artist who often sketched guests. This caricature (above) of Edward was drawn by Rosen in the 1950s. It’s signed by the Duke.

Sotheby’s auction catalogue from Wallis Simpson’s sale of her jewels

Wallis Simpson owned amazing jewelry. In 1987, the Duchess’s collection was auctioned off in Geneva and raised $45 million for the Pasteur Institute, a charity dedicated to the study of biology, diseases, and vaccines. The Sotheby’s auction catalogue, pictured above, revealed the nature of the glamorous rocks worn by the Duchess.

Andrew Morton’s controversial book

Numerous books have been written about Edward and Mrs Simpson, offering a variety of stances and theories. For starters, we recommend King Edward VIII: The definitive portrait of the Duke of Windsor by Philip Ziegler, That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba, and The Last of the Duchess: The Strange and Sinister Story of the Final Years of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Caroline Blackwood.

Another view of the couple is that they were Nazi sympathisers. They had met Adolf Hitler in Germany in 1937, and British fascist leader Oswald Mosley was a friend and neighbour in France. Andrew Morton’s book, 17 Carnations, uses FBI documents, various archives and correspondence from the royals and leading politicians to investigate these links.

Edward and Wallis spent their final years together in a house in Paris provided by the French government. After her death, the Windsor’s furniture and art were given to the French state. Wallis is buried next to Edward in the Royal Burial Ground near Windsor Castle after an agreement was reached with Queen Elizabeth II in the 1960s.

Wallis and Edward are buried together near Windsor Castle

News-Week from 22 May 1937, days before the couple were married

 


Introducing Behind the Bookshelves: A Podcast from AbeBooks

Enjoy bookish podcasts? You’re in luck. AbeBooks has just launched a podcast series called Behind the Bookshelves. The idea of the podcast is to tell the stories behind books and the people who love them.

The first five episodes cover the early days of Penguin, the AA’s Big Book, Literary Oxford, the puzzle-book Masquerade and Mark Twain’s globetrotting. There’s often a fascinating story behind famous authors and their best known books, but the show will also look at obscure and out-of-print titles that may not be so well known. The podcast will appeal to both readers and collectors, and anyone who loves books and a good story.

The host is Richard Davies, who has worked with AbeBooks since 2005. Born in England and now a resident of Canada, Richard will bring a personal touch to the podcasts so expect a broad mixture of weird books, unusual stories, and memorable moments in book history. The initial format sees audio from Richard alone but the show will expand to include guests and interviews later in the year.

“I’m interested in ordinary people doing extraordinary things and how this can relate to the world of books,” says Davies. “A good example is Allen Lane who founded Penguin and shook up the worlds of reading and publishing by introducing affordable paperbacks. Other people in the publishing business thought Lane was crazy but he was a true visionary. We look at how Lane did this in our first episode.”

Behind the Bookshelves is designed to complement AbeBooks’ existing activity on blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Our first episode is embedded below. Find Behind the Bookshelves on….

iTunes

Google Play

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10 Trailblazing Environmental Books for Earth Day

Earth Day is April 22. It began in 1970 and is now celebrated in more than 150 countries. The day is intended to raise awareness about the environmental issues facing the world. Writing on the environment and nature has a long legacy. A History of British Birds by Thomas Bewick, published in two volumes in 1797 and 1804, was the first field guide for birds. In 1854, Walden by Henry David Thoreau sparked the back-to-nature movement. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin founded evolutionary biology in 1859.

The genre took a dramatic turn in the 20th century with the publication of a series of books that highlighted the dangers faced by various environments and species. The 19th century themes of appreciation and understanding were joined by concern for the environment’s future and demands for conservation and preservation.

Silent Spring resulted in DDT being banned

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962)

Subject matter: Carson documented how unregulated use of pesticides adversely affected the environment and also humans, and, in doing so, she challenged America’s chemical industry at a time when environmental activism was unheard of.

Impact: The book was met with fierce criticism from major chemical producers. However, it sparked the start of the US ecological movement, and led to major media coverage about the harmful use of pesticides. The use of DDT was eventually banned in the US in 1972 and a worldwide ban followed. The book is still controversial today with many critics blaming Carson for hampering agricultural production around the world and allowing millions to die from malaria. DDT was originally intended to control malaria among soldiers in World War II. This book is worth reading today in order to discover how far corporations can go when unregulated.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas started campaigning at age 79

The Everglades: River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1947)

Subject matter: Published in same year as the opening of the Everglades National Park, this book describes how the Everglades were suffering and in need of restoration and preservation. The book positions the Everglades as a national treasure at time when many people thought it was just a swamp.

Impact: Douglas lived to 108. She campaigned for women’s and civil rights before becoming an environmental activist at the age of 79. Douglas was a relentless campaigner who used her skills as a freelance journalist to get her messages across. Her work was attacked by businesses looking to develop the Everglades. She spent five years researching the fragile and unique ecology of the Everglades for the book, which sold out within a month of being published.

Farley Mowat was accused to exaggeration

Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat (1963)

Subject matter: Mowat describes his experiences after being assigned to the Canadian sub-arctic in 1948 by the Dominion Wildlife Service to investigate the declining caribou population and whether wolves were to blame. He discovered wolves existed mostly on small mammals such as mice. He found that when wolves did hunt caribou, they killed the weaker, older and sick animals, which benefited the herd by allowing the fittest animals to breed and increased the speed of the herd’s migration. He blamed human hunters for the decline in caribou.

Impact: This book has been widely published and has been credited with discouraging the practice of culling wolves. As with most environmental books, Never Cry Wolf has its critics, who claim Mowat exaggerated the facts in order to deliver a good story. Several Canadian government bodies saw Mowat as a disruptive influence at the time. Today he’s regarded as an environmental pioneer. This book is highly readable and ideal for young readers brought up on children’s fiction where the wolf is big and bad, and eats Grandma.

John Muir first observed the Sierra Nevada as a shepherd

My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir (1911)

Subject matter: Muir describes his first trip to California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains in what is now Yosemite National Park in 1869. The young Scottish immigrant joined a crew of shepherds and kept a diary while tending sheep over four months. He details vistas, flora and fauna, and other natural wonders.

Impact: No-one has advocated more for the preservation of wilderness in the United States than Muir. His 12 books and hundreds of articles mark him out as a key naturalist and nature writer. This book has helped to bring numerous visitors to Yosemite with four million people now visiting the area each year. The Sequoia National Park was also created partially thanks to his work. Muir co-founded the Sierra Club which campaigns on conservation issues.

Aldo Leopold advocated for a “land ethic”

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold (1949)

Subject matter: Leopold describes the land around his home in Sauk County, Wisconsin, in a series of essays. He advocates for a responsible relationship between the land and people. He writes about striking a balance and reveals the negative effects of removing one species, like a predator, from the natural order.

Impact: The author coined the term “land ethic” and asked that humans develop a new ethic in order to preserve ecosystems. The book’s influence has mostly been in the United States.

Gavin Maxwell’s book was turned into a film

Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell (1960)

Subject matter: Maxwell describes his experiences with otters at his remote house in Scotland. It’s an account of humanity living with wildlife, and coming to understand nature.

Impact: The book was turned into a film starring Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna in 1969. Ring of Bright Water shows that no matter how advanced we feel that we can always learn more about nature and animals.

This diary was never intended for publication

The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden (1906/1977)

Subject matter: This is an amateur naturalist’s diary for the year 1906 where the changing seasons are shown by changes in plants and animals in the English countryside. Holden uses text, including poetry, and illustrations of birds, plants and insects.

Impact: The book was first published in 1977 and became an immediate publishing sensation. It was a personal diary and never intended for publication. But this book shows almost anyone can have an appreciation for nature if they just take the time to look carefully.

Edward Abbey was against national parks where visitors could drive everywhere

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey (1968)

Subject matter: Desert Solitaire is a collection of essays about life in the wilderness based on Abbey’s activities as a park ranger at the Arches National Monument in Utah in the late 1950s. He writes about damage caused by over development and tourism. The book is also philosophical as Abbey dwells on the power and ruthlessness of the desert such as when a search and rescue team are required to recover a dead body.

Impact: Abbey’s book put the Arches National Monument on the map. He heavily criticized the US Parks Service for developing parks filled with highways where visitors could drive-in and drive-out without truly experiencing the surroundings. He revealed how a desert area can be as fascinating as a forest or coastline. He showed how modern American culture was not in the least aligned with nature.

This book was inspired by John Cheever’s fictional short story, The Swimmer

Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey through Britain by Roger Deakin (1999)

Subject matter: Waterlog describes Deakin’s experiences of wild swimming in British waterways. It was inspired by John Cheever’s short story, The Swimmer, which was eventually adapted into a film starring Burt Lancaster. Deakin’s mission was to swim across Britain from Cornwall to the east coast, and he swims through bays, rivers, canals, lakes, ponds and one swimming pool.

Impact: Deakin advocates for open access to the countryside and waterways. Waterlog was the only book that Deakin published in his lifetime, but it was a bestseller in the UK and helped create the wild swimming movement. The book goes beyond swimming and looks at English history, woodland, rights of way and ancient hedgerows.

Dian Fossey was murdered… almost certainly for her work against poachers

Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey (1983)

Subject matter: Fossey’s book describes her efforts to study and preserve mountain gorillas in Africa from the mid-1960s to her death in 1985. She strongly opposed both tourism and poaching.

Impact: Fossey was murdered, almost certainly because of her efforts to protect gorillas. Slain in her bedroom, no valuables were taken from the room leading to the conclusion that poachers killed her. She highlighted that poaching was a major problem and started the movement for African parks to do more to protect their animals. She wasn’t just a campaigner but also raised money for her own anti-poaching patrols in Rwanda. Fossey made numerous scientific discoveries about gorillas and their complex social hierarchies. No-one did more to highlight the problem of poaching. Her critics accused her of loving gorillas more than humans.