Identifier: 2014040 WONDERS
Wonders of the World and Glimpses of Great and Greater Britain
Wonders of the World, Collins, London, c.1900. Edited by Herbert Hayens. In three parts bound together. 160 + 188 + 40 pages (approx). 183 x 244mm. Many colour plates, with coloured artworks and coloured photographs in halftone. Green bookcloth cover with coloured illustration.
Glimpses of Great and Greater Britain, Collins, London c.1900. Edited by Herbert Hayens. In two parts bound together. 164 + 168 pages (approx) 183 x 244mm.. Many colour plates, with coloured artworks and coloured photographs in halftone. Red bookcloth cover with coloured illustration.
The colour illustrations (despite the description on the covers, not all are photographs) provide an interesting example of what I would guess is a fairly early use of halftone coloured pictures being used in proliferation throughout a volume. The era of glossy chromolithographic plates was giving way to this cheaper method of publishing colour pictures in books.
British author and editor (William James) Herbert Hayens (1861-1844), for some years chief editor at Collins & Co., wrote about the world’s major historical events, and about the Army, Navy, and Scouting. His output over almost forty years also proliferated with boys’ stories and imperial adventure tales with irresistible titles such as The Secret of the Vault, and Beset by Savages. Answers.com informs us: ‘In The President’s Scouts: A Story of the Chilian [sic] Revolution (1904) he gives the boy reader the medicine of history in the jam of battle and adventure. The hero’s father actually exhorts him: ‘Live a clean life, my boy … fear God and remember if you don’t go straight you’ll break your mother’s heart.’’
Hayens ‘came of Devonshire seafaring stock, and with his blue eyes, flowing moustache and greying hair looked more like an old-time Devonshire sea captain than an editor. Even his room, high up in the Glasgow office, was a glass-topped crow’s nest approached by steep and narrow stairs which resembled a ship’s companionway sufficiently to strengthen the general nautical illusion of his surroundings.’ [David Keir, The House of Collins, 1952]
Where will they all go? These books that line the shelves of the last of the secondhand bookshops, and wouldn’t seem out of place in the 50p box at any charity sale. Millions of books that no-one wants. Books like these, Wonders of the World, and Glimpses of Great and Greater Britain. Accepted with pride by their first owners – they’re almost invariably presentation copies given for achievement, or simply for attendance – these reflections of a lost world have survived a century or more, and are now ragged and tanned with time. As more bookshops close down, what happens to these bumped-corner, shaken relics of a past age? First into store, perhaps, then as storage bills mount up, into landfill, or pulped. A few will survive of course, in the world’s great libraries, for future academics to see how generations of young Britons were conditioned by these once ubiquitous tomes celebrating Britain and Empire. Of course they will be there, in the libraries.
Just to make sure I check out the British Library for Wonders of the World, edited by Herbert Hayens. It isn’t there. Only one copy is listed in WorldCat – the catalogue of a billion books in libraries worldwide – and that’s in Australia.
Glimpses of Great and Greater Britain? A few copies show up for sale online, but you won’t find it in the British Library, and not a single copy is listed in WorldCat.
I would guess that a decade or two from now, those last few copies that currently can still be glimpsed on the lower shelves or piled in a back bargain room in the last of the wonderful secondhand bookshops of Britain and its former Empire will be gone forever. With luck, a copy or two will filter into an institutional library, eventually to be digitized, its contents saved for all time. Or perhaps, not. Does it matter? I don’t know. Similar books will survive, for our future academics to ponder over. But still, this possible loss doesn’t seem right, somehow.
This copy of Wonders of the World has seen happier days. The cover is marked and the spine faded. The pages are tanned, and there are small tears, dusty edges, and fingermarks. I have removed the Sellotape, re-glued the back of the text block with new mull and lined the spine, and replaced the acid-browned and grubby endpapers. The presentation plate has been re-placed on the new front endpaper. The book’s still a bit loose and won’t win any beauty contests, but it’s now holding together. It appears that this book was originally planned as a three-volume set. The pagination is chaotic, restarting twice (with missing page numbers where the 2nd and 3rd prelims would have been), and with many of the colour plates bound into the wrong places. I think it’s all there, but this book and the following are sold “with all faults”.
Glimpses of Great and Greater Britain is better, with almost no repairs and a brighter cover and spine, though the pages are tanned and the book cloth weak in places. Old tissue repair to gutter of contents page.
These two sister titles are being offered together,
total price £28.00 plus postage.Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. And if, when you’ve had them for a while you decide that you don’t need them, you might perhaps consider donating them to the BL.
With acknowledgements to Answers.com, and Edwardian Fiction: an Oxford Companion (1997).
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