An Antiquarian and Rare Miscellany from Forest Books
Miscellany Four from Forest Books.
By Michael Stillman
UK bookseller Forest Books has issued a new catalogue headed Miscellany Four. Naturally, a catalogue so titled does not have a specific focus. What we can say is that these are books that qualify for the label "antiquarian," they were mostly published in England, and many are very rare, often being the only known copy. Here is a look at the over 200 items presented in this latest catalogue.
Here is one of those very rare books: The Compleat Servant Maid's Guide; or, the Lady's Delight in Cookery. This is a 1796 printing without a stated location. A single copy of a different edition is all that is otherwise known. It includes 60 short recipes, and perhaps this helps explain the rarity. Among the recipes are calf's head hash, swine's head, calves feet jelly, and other delicacies. Maybe it's rare because no one wanted a book of recipes like this in the first place? Item 40 £1,250 (or roughly $1,714 in U.S. Dollars).
Here is another ridiculous one-of-a-kind item, only this time it is the subject of the book, rather than the book itself: Delineations of Fonthill and its Abbey, by John Rutter, published in 1823. Fonthill was the massive gothic estate of William Beckford, an eccentric heir to a fortune who became a writer, Member of Parliament, major book collector, and wastrel of his father's fortune. Beckford commissioned the most fashionable architect of his day, James Wyatt, to design the palace. Wyatt was evidently careless in the design or overseeing of construction, as Fonthill was not built for the ages. The most prominent feature was a 225-foot tower, which had to be built three times after collapsing twice. Money seemed no object to Beckford who continued to build his massive estate, surrounded by a six-mile wall. However, financial reverses at his inherited Jamaica sugar plantation forced Beckford to sell Fonthill and his library in 1823. It was just as well, as the tower collapsed for a third time two years later, and the rest of Fonthill quickly deteriorated. Within 20 years, it had to be demolished. Item 158. £975 (US $1,338).
Item 135 is an item whose behind the scenes intrigue is undoubtedly more interesting than that within its pages: Ianthe, or the Flower of Caernarvon, a Novel, in Two Volumes. Dedicated by Permission to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. By Emily Clark, Grand-Daughter of the late Colonel Frederick, Son of Theodore, King of Corsica, published in 1798. Her grandfather was the "late" Colonel Frederick because he had shot himself in the head the previous year, unable to find a better way of escaping his debts. However, he was evidently a fraud anyway. Theodore had served briefly as King of Corsica, a German adventurer who helped temporarily free that island from Italian domination. He, like Frederick, ended up in debt in England. Still, it is dubious that Frederick was the son of this King. Nevertheless, Mrs. Clark used the epithet honestly, as she, like everyone else at the time, was fooled by Frederick's claims.
An Antiquarian and Rare Miscellany from Forest Books
The only known surviving copy of The Bell-Man's Treasury.
It seems that Mrs. Clark's use of her supposed royal line was helpful in getting her books noticed, though they were never great sellers. Ianthe, her first novel, may have been her best, a decent though unspectacular effort. A contemporary review in the British Critic notes, "the pieces of poetry interspersed are far from contemptible." Not a ringing endorsement, but it could have been worse (such as calling it "contemptible"). As for the dedication to the Prince of Wales, Mrs. Clark carried on an affair with the Prince's brother, the Duke of York. Likewise, carrying on an affair with the Duke was nothing special, as lots of women did. This one ended in a messy public scene, as the Duke, like her books, did not provide Mrs. Clark with the expected income. She continued to publish books of limited interest for another two decades, though we do not know what eventually became of Mrs. Clark. £2,225 (US $3,058).
Item 14 is a copy of The Cow Doctor, by T. Beamont, published circa 1825 (later editions give his name as Beaumont). The author was not a medically trained cow, but rather some sort of a veterinarian who treated cows for almost 40 years. This is an otherwise unrecorded edition published in York of a book that went through at least four editions, all of which are now quite rare. £295 ($405).
Item 16 is the only known copy of The Bell-Man's Treasury. This is a 1707 collection of poems and humor related to the bell-man. The bell-man was something of a night watchman in 18th century England. He walked the streets of his town and if he spotted a fire or other danger, he would ring his bell to warn the people. Since bell-men were known to give out copies of verses to the people they served, in hopes of receiving a gratuity beyond their meager salaries, perhaps this was intended to serve as a source for such words, these individuals not likely to be accomplished writers. Forest notes that they have only been able to find one bibliographic reference to this work, from 1871, and that was for this same copy. £3,995 (US $5,491).
Forest Books may be reached at +44 1949-842360 or email@example.com. Their website is www.forestbooks.co.uk.