A Victorian gem …


So much to do, so many things to know.

If it’s tough, in our busy world to keep up with all the new stuff going on (and it is), how much harder is it to catch up on all the brilliant writing, ideas and art from the past. But it’s well worth it to make an extra effort now and then to broaden your horizons; hear about other people’s experiences and learn from other points of view.

A few years ago I made the resolution to read some of the great authors who were passing me by. I started by making sure I read the Booker prize winners, and so got to know Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan, Peter Carey and the like. I also branched back into the past to catch up with Graeme Greene, Doris Lessing, Angela Carter and others. Now I make sure I read the short-listed Booker titles every year and loved this year’s crop, particularly For the time being by Ruth Ozeki, The Luminaries by  Eleanor Catton and The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. Such great books, full of wonderful ideas. They open new worlds and shine lights on different ways of thinking and being, which I can only be the better for absorbing.

I am learning more about art every day too. I was always poorly educated in art, being of the “I know what  I like” school, and as a result I was only ever aware of the best known old masters and modern artists. That is something I am trying to remedy too, as there is so much excellent artistry that I am only now beginning to appreciate. Lesser known but skilful illustrators and artists from times gone by, as well as innovative and imaginative artists working today.

An example of  a Victorian illustrator with a bit of a cult following is Randolph Caldecott. Born in Chester in 1846 he died at just 40 years of age in Florida, where he was on a holiday for his health, having produced a prodigious amount of art in his short life.

According to Wikipedia, Maurice (Where the Wild Things Are) Sendak said: “Caldecott’s work heralds the beginning of the modern picture book. He devised an ingenious juxtaposition of picture and word, a counterpoint that never happened before. Words are left out—but the picture says it. Pictures are left out—but the word says it.” Sendak also appreciated the subtle darkness of Caldecott’s work: “You can’t say it’s a tragedy, but something hurts. Like a shadow passing quickly over. It is this which gives a Caldecott book—however frothy the verses and pictures—its unexpected depth.”

We are auctioning a book of his – the Graphic Pictures, Complete Edition, 1898. This is a reflection of the life and style of the English middle/upper middle classes in the Victorian era. There are eight stories:

  • Mr Chumley’s Holidays
  • Flirtations in France
  • The Rivals
  • Our Haymaking
  • Mr Carylon’s Christmas
  • The Wychdale Steeplechase
  • A Hunting Family
  • A Visit to Venice

All consist of a short story, illustrated with Caldecott’s fine work, and lots to look at and think about. At the end there ia a collection of black and white illustrations and notes.

This is a hefty book, measuring about 15″ by 11″ 1″ thick. The 161 pages are gilt edged and the colour plates are printed on one side of the paper only to give an extremely high quality finish. The book itself has slight damage to the spine, and marks to the cover which you’d expect in a book that is 116 years old.  If you are interested, please do have a look at our ebay auction. Because it is such a heavy book, we are planning to offer it only in the UK, but if you are interested and prepared to pay the considerable overseas postage do get in touch for a quote.

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