The Casket – instructive (but ‘orrible) tales

identifier: 2014085 THE CASKET

The Casket – consisting of instructive tales, original essays, delineations of character, facetiae, poetry, gems of modern literature &c. &c. &c.
With illustrations. William Strange, London, 1830 .


No.186, 7th August 1830, to No.222, 9th April 1831. (Lacking 212, and 206/207 is a double number); then nos. 224 – 244 (238/239 is a double number). Although there is no number 223, the dates for 222 and 224 are only a week apart, so most likely there was a numbering error. Each issue 8 pages with engraved panel on front page, and occasional extra engravings. Murderous attacks, executions, ghosts and similar attractions for a popular readership appear on every front page. Size: 130 x 217mm.

casket47[click to enlarge]

Bound volumes and disbound issues of periodicals from this period, such as The Mirror of Literature, Amusement and Instruction, and The Penny Magazine, turn up all the time. Some of the lesser known periodicals are quite elusive, as is the case with The Casket. A rare title anywhere. WorldCat finds only copies in the BL, and The New Casket (1831-1833).


Condition: Acceptable-Good. Most pages good, or better. Some brown spots on several pages, the most intrusive (Death of the French King, and The Wizard of Westminster) are shown here. Watermarks to some margins, general slight age browning to some pages. Title page re-attached. An old paper label has been neatly stuck over part of the title page, deliberately obscuring the incorrect text “Volume IV”. Acquired without boards, now with new boards in burgundy book cloth, paper label on spine with manuscript title.

Price: £60.00 plus postage.









casket7 casket8 casket9






and many more!



Chums – and rhinos

identifier: 2014049 CHUMS 1235

CHUMS No. 1,235 Vol.XXIV May 13, 1916. 14-page story paper (pages 615-628). Size: 230 x 300mm. The cover features the story REPAID IN FULL, A Stirring Yarn of Picture-Hunting in the Wilds, By REGINALD C. FRY, which is continued inside. Cover drawing signed Edwd. Martlew.

I had a letter this week from an elderly friend, telling me about his visit as a young boy – almost 90 years ago – to see With Cherry Kearton in the Jungle (1926) at Clifftonville, Margate, with Kearton presenting on the stage. Being shot by a film crew’s camera wasn’t the greatest danger for African wild animals at that time, including the suspicious rhino that appears in Kearton’s film.

Which brings us to Chums…..


“…never fear, we’ll bag the finest wild animal pictures the British public has ever seen!”

And in Chapter 3 – The Greatest Film Ever! – they do … a charging rhinoceros that gets shot and killed in the process. The writer explains that the local men who carry out the white man’s bidding are known as “boys”, which then appears in parenthesis throughout. The ‘n-word’ is also used but the writer doesn’t need to explain to young white English boys what that term means. I’m tempted to write something like “thoroughly non-PC in every way”, but that obvious phrase doesn’t cover it, and in any case the way that the terms PC and non-PC have been used has changed over the years, and in themselves now have no clear meaning. What should we do with this old material? I say keep it visible, so that the present generation can begin to understand how the mess that the world is in today was in part created. And maybe this example could help to highlight the continuing plight of rhinos being killed for their horns. Please feel free to use this cover scan for educational blogs (but: I don’t know the copyright status of this image, which probably cannot be formally cleared).

I think they’ve left the shooting a bit late, given the inevitable inertia of a black rhino weight of 3000 lbs or more (twice that for a white rhino).


Chums was published from 1892 (Cassell) and then Amalgamated (from 1927) until 1941 – monthly from 1932, annually from 1934.

Condition: pages are tanned and fragile, especially at the edges, with nicks and small tears. Centre folds are coming apart (see pictures), where this issue has been removed from a bound volume. Now in an acid-free paper sleeve.

Price: £8.00 plus postage




The Battle of Dorking

identifier: 2014001 BATTLE DORKING


The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer by [George Tomkyns Chesney]. William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1871. Pamphlet, 64 pages and 8 pages of advertisements, plus cover. ‘Price sixpence’ and ‘From Blackwood’s Magazine May 1871’ on front cover, and 1871 date in roman numerals at foot of title page. Illustration By W. Patterson. Size: 111mm x 169mm.

‘You ask me to tell you, my grandchildren, something about my own share in the great events that happened fifty years ago. ‘Tis sad work turning back to that bitter page in our history, but you may perhaps take profit in your new homes from the lesson it teaches. For us in England it came too late. And yet we had plenty of warnings, if we had only made use of them.’

War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells wasn’t the only Victorian fiction to set an invasion in Surrey. The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer is an 1871 novella by George Tomkyns Chesney, starting the genre of invasion literature and an important precursor of science fiction. Written just after the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian War, it describes an invasion of Britain by an unnamed country similar to Germany.

BattleDorking002[click to read]

The Battle of Dorking was first published as a serial in Blackwood’s Magazine. After seven reprints of the May issue, the story was printed as a stand-alone pamphlet in June 1871, and later as a hardback. It went through several editions and engaged the interest of soldiers and politicians, as well as the reading public. ‘..with translations into French, German, Danish, Dutch, Italian and Portuguese [it] had considerable impact across many areas of British public life, spawned an entire genre of “invasion literature,” and presaged science fiction tales of alien invasion, such as H.G. Wells’ 1898 classic The War of the Worlds.’ [Patrick M. Kirkwood] The version offered here is the pamphlet, the first edition as an independent text.

Chesney was a captain in the Royal Engineers and had grown concerned over the ramshackle state of Britain’s armed forces. He used fiction as a device to promulgate his views after letters and journalism on the issue had failed to impact on the public consciousness. The Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) had just demonstrated the speed, superiority and adaptability of the Prussian Army, which meant that Chesney’s depiction of a fast-moving and determined invader hit a nerve.

The story is told as a narrative by an unnamed veteran who participated in the Battle of Dorking and is recounting the final days before and during the invasion of Britain. It is addressed to his grandchildren as an event fifty years past. Beginning sometime after an event similar to the Franco-Prussian War, concerns grow with the mobilisation of armed forces near the Netherlands. The Royal Navy is destroyed by a wonder-weapon (“fatal engines”), and an invasion force suddenly lands near Harwich, Essex, England. Demilitarisation and lack of training means that the army is forced to mobilise auxiliary units from the general public, led by ineffective and inexperienced officers. The two armies ultimately converge outside Dorking in Surrey, where the British line is cut through by the advancing enemy, and the survivors on the British side are forced to flee. The story ends with the conquest of Britain and its conversion into a heavily-taxed province of the invading empire. The British Empire is broken up, with only Gibraltar and Malta being kept by the victorious Germans. Canada and the West Indies are ceded to the United States, whilst Australia, India and Ireland are all granted independence, with Ireland entering a lengthy civil war as a direct result. [adapted from Wikipedia and other online sources]

‘A little firmness and self-denial, or political courage and foresight, might have averted this disaster, I feel that the judgment must have really been deserved. A nation too selfish to defend its liberty, could not have been fit to retain it. To you, my grandchildren, who are now going to seek a new home in a more prosperous land, let not this bitter lesson be lost upon you in the country of your adoption.’

I would encourage you to read the article by Patrick M. Kirkwood, ‘The impact of fiction on public debate in late Victorian Britain: The Battle of Dorking and the “Lost Career ” of Sir George Tomkyns Chesney’, in Graduate History Review (free download)

Kirkwood explains: ‘In this article, I contend that such an approach overlooks the story’s wider political and cultural significance, and that historians have not yet given Dorking its full due.’

He concludes: ‘In re-examining the career of its creator, Sir George Tomkyns Chesney, we find him to be a rather more substantial figure than is often noted. He was a highly competent and decorated military officer, an educational and military reformer of significant standing in both India and Great Britain, a colonial administrator of some ability, an unusually-independent actor in the factious Victorian British and Indian Armies, and a successful politician. These are no small achievements, and should not be so obscured by the literary fame of the “brilliant skit” for which he is remembered.’

Final words from Dorking Museum’s website:

‘Though its notoriety arose from the concerns of its time – the birth of a unified Germany, the unfitness of the army, and the development of new means of transport and communication – the tale had a long life in public consciousness in both Britain and Germany. In the 1940s a German edition was issued to Hitler’s army under the title ‘Was England Erwartet’: What England Expects.’

A pertinent story to read as we commemorate the First World War.


Condition: Generally good. “Chesney” is written in ink on title page. The colour of the paper cover is somewhat faded in some areas, and I have made minor professional repairs to the inside edges. I have repaired one corner of the title page. Small paper loss to lower spine (spine rolled), very small tear on front page at sewing. Now in an acid-free paper wallet, in cloth boards, ready for your bookshelf.

Price: £65.00 plus postage

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The Barnsley Disaster

identifier: 2014005 BARNSLEY DISASTER  SOLD

The Children’s Disaster at Barnsley. (George Cresswell).

In the Public Hall, at Barnsley.
The children went to view
The animated pictures,
As children love to do.



[Poems, including The Barnsley Disaster] pamphlet.

Series No.15. Ombler & Sons, Printers, 26 & 27 Mason Street, Hull.
LEAD THE WAY by Bingley Wilson. The Barnsley Disaster by Bingley Wilson. Tom Jinkin’s Dream of Balaam’s Ass. The West Hull Bye-Election. The Barnsley Disaster by George Cresswell (The Engine-driver Poet), 3 Dorset Street, Hessle Road, Hull.

8 internal pages, plus folded pink paper cover. Size: 128 x 193mm.

The physical dangers of attending a filmshow in the early days of cinema were largely because of the highly flammable nature of early nitrocellulose film, not helped by open-flame illuminants, sometimes including volatile ether as a fuel. The latter caused the infamous Charity Bazaar fire in Paris in 1897, which claimed over 100 lives. But fire wasn’t the only danger.

The Barnsley Public Hall disaster occurred during a penny performance for children in Barnsley, West Riding of Yorkshire, on 11 January 1908. Children from across Barnsley had come to watch a film, walking to the public hall through falling snow. According to news reports at the time, a large number showed up, and the hall quickly became overcrowded. With the ground floor seats full, children packed into the gallery to such an extent that the aisles of the gallery were filled and children were pressed against the lower gallery railing. In order to relieve some of the crowding, and concerned about the press of bodies against the gallery railing, an attendant in the hall called for some of the children to descend the stairs to the main floor. This precipitated a mass rush for the stairs as children pushed to gain access to the ground level. As the crowd surged down the narrow staircase, a number of children fell and were trampled or were crushed. Others, under pressure from the crowd behind them, had to climb or walk over the fallen to escape danger. Even children who had not originally joined the stampede became panicked because of the screams of those on the stairs. Theatre attendants and police who were quickly called managed to keep the children on the main floor safe and evacuate them. They then worked to extricate those who had been injured. According to a wire news report at the time, “When the reserve police arrived they found the narrow stairway practically blocked with bodies.”

16 died and more than 40 were injured. Wire services carried news of the disaster far and wide, and newspapers as far away as New York City covered the story, sometimes in a sensational manner and with graphic detail about the injuries of the victims. [adapted from Wikipedia]

The disaster was commemorated on its 100th anniversary, 11 January 2008, with a civic ceremony. A plaque was unveiled inside the building, now called the Civic, which listed the names of the sixteen victims of the tragedy, all of whom were under the age of 10 at the time of their deaths. Among the attenders was a younger sister of two of the victims.

Barnsley0003[click to read]

There are two poems about the accident in this pamphlet: The Barnsley Disaster by Bingley Wilson, and The Children’s Disaster at Barnsley by George Gresswell. The poems here are perhaps typical of the period. To us, they might seem irredeemably trite – predictable rhyming doggerel, unsuited for such a tragedy. But no doubt they came from the heart. Wilson contributed to A Book of Poems for the Blue Cross Fund (to help horses in war time) 1917.

George Gresswell

George Gresswell

Some quick research on George ‘The Engine-Driver Poet’ Gresswell reveals that he was no stranger to the fragility of young lives. In 1892 the York Herald reported on ‘…the body of a child which was picked up the day previously in the Barmston Drain at Hull, enveloped in some old clothing. George Gresswell, an engine driver, deposed to finding the bundle, which on examination was found to contain the body of a male infant…’ (York Herald, 26 May 1892). Gresswell would also have been familiar with survivors’ trauma – he was driving the Hornsea Express when it ran down a pedestrian in 1903. (‘Killed by Hornsea Express’, Hull Daily Mail, 14 October 1903). His other verses of mourning included one about the Loss of the Golden Sunrise – a steam trawler sunk in a fishing accident, with one crewman drowned – in 1908. I’ve found a reference to an anthology of his rhymes, published in 2006, but this has proved elusive.

Barnsley0005[click to read]

A contributor to the local paper wrote in 1912, ‘I always read with interest the verses of George Gresswell, the engine-driver poet. Mr Gresswell does not profess to be a grammarian, but he certainly can claim to be a mouthpiece of what people are thinking.’ (Humber-Side Echoes, Hull Daily Mail, 23 July 1912.) Other numbers in this series of leaflets are listed on the back cover. I’d like to find a copy of No.4, which includes the poem A Railway Message from Mars.

Condition: Generally good. Staining from rusty staples (they have now been removed) caused deterioration of the paper in the central gutter area, and those areas have been repaired with acid-free Japanese tissue. Now in acid-free paper wallet.

Price: SOLD




Identifier: 2014026 VALHALLA

In Norse mythology, Valhalla (from Old Norse Valhöll “hall of the slain”) is a majestic, enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin. Chosen by Odin, half of those who die in combat travel to Valhalla upon death, led by valkyries, while the other half go to the goddess Freyja’s field Fólkvangr. In Valhalla, the dead join the masses of those who have died in combat known as Einherjar, as well as various legendary Germanic heroes and kings, as they prepare to aid Odin during the events of Ragnarök. Before the hall stands the golden tree Glasir, and the hall’s ceiling is thatched with golden shields. [Wikipedia]

For what seemed like every day of his life, my maternal grandfather Harry sang, whistled, or hummed ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’, with an occasional ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ by way of a change. For seventeen of his retirement years I lived in the same house, and he sometimes told stories of his time in the trenches during the First World War, rolling up his trouser leg to show the bullet scar that got him sent back to Blighty. His brother Eddie wasn’t so lucky, and never came home. Harry had to tell Eddie’s fiancée Lil the bad news. Eventually he married her – but of course, could never be as fine a husband as Eddie would have been. Such are the effects of war, effects that echo down through generations.

Having watched the BBC’s The Great War: The People’s Story this weekend, I picked up the next book on my pile of items to write about for this website, and it was an original copy of:

The Road to Valhalla, by Walter Ibbotson Hulme

Privately published. Manchester: Jesse Broad & Company, 1918. Size: 135mm x 215mm. 64 pages.

Original edition, this example offered for sale

A new edition was published in 2012, with the title Valhalla : ‘D’ Company 2/6th Manchesters, 1914-1918, Edited by Robert A Bonner of the Museum of the Manchester Regiment.

The publisher’s blurb tells us:

“In retirement Walter Hulme lived in Groby Road, Altrincham and published this poignant little book describing his life in the 2/6th – for private circulation amongst friends and comrades from the war. He wrote it during his five months on active service from August 1917 until his evacuation to England on 1 January 1918. It covers the period of battle from his arrival in the Fricourt/Montauban area and reflects a soldier’s view of the battles around Trones Wood and Mametz. He was wounded at Beaumont Hamel in October 1917.”

‘It is useless to describe the feelings as one lies gazing through the open curtain of a motor ambulance and watches the country slipping past. The mist that has hung about since early morning is growing still more dense, the wheels tear their way through the everlasting mud, and the dismal zone of battle falls gradually behind. The booming of guns and the bursting of shells grow less and less violent, the din of traffic, the many pictures of war, become somewhat subdued, and, presently, coming to a standstill, we are carried, tired yet thankful, to a peace that we have not known for many, many months.’

There is only one copy of the original in WorldCat, which is in the British Library. At the time of writing, there is one copy on Abe Books.

The example offered here is in generally good condition. The card covers are stained and discoloured with edgewear and small tears. Internally, the uncut pages are yellowed and sporadically foxed, and the edges toned. Stains to two or three pages.

[click to read]

Includes 2 unsigned, duplicated typewritten letters (and a second copy of one of the letters) on tracing paper. These comprise explanatory notes regarding the publication, and help in further distribution, as shown.

The book and letters are now protected in a pouch in a hardback cover, in black bookcloth.

Price: £65.00 plus postage. Contact:

One day soon I’ll research Harry and Eddie and find out more about their stories, and pass on what I find to my own grandson, before the long commemoration of what must have seemed like an endless War is over.


Where will they all go?

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. 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: 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, and Edwardian Fiction: an Oxford Companion (1997).

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