Wonderful Balloon Ascents

ITEM 2014/022

Wonderful Balloon Ascents: OR, The Conquest of the Skies.

A history of balloons and balloon voyages. From the French of F. Marion.

Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.; London, Paris & New York. n.d. [c.1888]

[Originally published as Les Ballons et les Voyages aériens … Ouvrage illustré … par P. Sellier. Paris, 1867.]

Cover size 130 x 190mm. [iiix] 224p. + 4p. of advertisements.

Book plate in this copy: Ex libris C. J. Peacock
who folds a leafe downe ye divel toaste browne
who makes marke or blotte ye divel roaste hot
who stealeth thisse boke ye divel shall cooke

Fulgence Marion was a pseudonym of the French astronomer and psychical researcher Camille Flammarion (1842-1925) who held unconventional ideas about life, the universe, and everything. Best known for the best-selling work Popular Astronomy (Astronomie populaire) published under his real name, his output included La planète Mars et ses conditions d’habitabilité, 1892, and La Fin du Monde (The End of the World), 1893, a science fiction novel about a comet colliding with the Earth, which was adapted into a film in 1931 by Abel Gance. L’inconnu et les problèmes psychiques (L’inconnu: The Unknown), was a collection of psychic experiences. I’m more familiar with his Wonders of Optics (published in English in 1868, originally L’Optique, 1867), and only recently read this aviation work for the first time.

Fulfilling the promise of its title, the book covers the history of ballooning to c.1870, with 30 delightful illustrations. A few non-balloon aerial attempts or suggestions are also included. The final chapter, The Necrology of Aeronautics, documents the high price paid by many pioneers with graphic accounts of many ‘aerial shipwrecks’. The first English edition appeared in 1870; this one is from c.1888. I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable about ballooning to comment on the book’s accuracy, but a contemporary reviewer had some reservations: ‘If a Frenchman first rose into the air, it was an Englishman who accomplished the longest journey hitherto known. Mr. Green started from London at midday on November 7th, 1836, and landed not far from Wiberg, in the Duchy of Nassau, at 7 a.m. on the following day. M. Marion says the distance was “1,200 miles,” but from London to Nassau is nothing like that ; the rate of 63 miles per hour is a manifest impossibility.’ (The Spectator, 13 October 1888.)

This beautifully decorated copy of Fulgence Marion’s very collectable work on ballooning is physically contradictory. On the one hand it shows a lavish treatment; the case has been covered using the art book technique of two pieces of book cloth of different colours cut together at an angle to give a striking colour change. No doubt there’s a technical term for the result. The front cover is attractively set off by the gilt image of a balloon, and gilt edges. However, the original binding technique is pants. The folded sheets were stapled into sections, and then glued onto a strip of material which was in turn glued straight onto the inside of the spine area of the cover. Online research reveals that this is a simplified version of a machine-binding technique using steel wire that was developed in Germany in the latter part of the 19th century.

Unsurprisingly, the sections of this volume eventually fell out and the book became unusable. I have removed the staples and sewn the sections onto tapes, glued mull onto the back, and then glued the block into the covers. The remains of the old free end papers have been used to paste down onto the cover, the front one being just a tab so that the book plate is preserved.

I failed to match the paper colour for the new free endpapers – my new cream stock turns to blazing lemon when placed next to the original mellowed pages – so I took the radical decision to use black paper for these. This rebinding should give the book a new lease of life, and I hope my intrusions don’t upset the spirits who were protecting it for Mr. Peacock.

Although earlier editions are quite common, this edition does seem hard to find (none on Bookfinder, ABE or Amazon as I write). Perhaps the dodgy binding technique is part of the reason for its scarcity. Minor wear to the back cover and spine, pages in good condition, with minor rust stains where the old staples were, and occasional light foxing. Note: page 134 (unnumbered) is followed by page 137. There is nothing missing – this is an original pagination error. See online version: https://archive.org/stream/39002011210631.med.yale.edu#page/138/mode/2up

Price: £95.00 plus postage. Contact: s-herbert@easynet.co.uk



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. 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: s-herbert@easynet.co.uk. 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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Olympic Walking Champ, 1908

identifier: 2014051 LARNER

Larner’s Text Book on Walking. Exercise-pleasure-sport by C. E. Larner.
London: “Health & Strength”, [1909]. 185 x 125mm. Hardback, line illustrated cover, no jacket (as issued). 76 pages plus several pages of adverts. Seven pages of photos.

Rare book by 1908 Olympic walking champion George Larner. Note that Larner’s initials on cover and title page are given as “C.E.” but in fact he was “G.E.”

“… I was leading by a mile. Then I suddenly felt horribly cold and queer (it was a cold March day … one is particularly liable to cold fits on long road walks.) I got another sweater from an attendant and pulled it on, had a banana or so and an apple, drank a little champagne, and gradually began to come round. I had kept on walking all the time, but naturally at a very poor pace….”

See if you can spot Larner in the winners’ line-up at the Olympics Games in London 1908; last few seconds of the British Pathe coverage here:


This from Wikipedia:

George Edward Larner (7 February 1875 – 4 March 1949) was an English athlete who competed mainly in the 10 mile walk. He was a multi-time Amateur Athletic Association of England champion, and won two gold medals at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London.
Larner was a Brighton policeman, and took up athletics at the age of 28 in 1903. In 1904 he won the Amateur Athletic Association of England (AAA) titles for the two and seven mile track walk. He went on to retain these titles in the following year. He found training conflicted with his job, but was granted an extended leave period by the Police Force. In 1906, he took a two-year break from athletics to train for the upcoming 1908 Summer Olympics held in London. After returning, he was disqualified in his first race in April 1908, at the AAA event in walking over seven miles, but the following July he won the two mile title.

He competed for Great Britain in the 1908 Summer Games in the 3500 metre walk on 14 July 1908, winning the race ahead of fellow Briton Ernest Webb, who took silver, and New Zealander Harry Kerr. Webb had initially taken the lead, but Larner caught up during the second lap and went on to win the race by over twelve seconds. Afterwards he matched this with another gold medal in the 10 mile walk, this time in a British clean sweep, with Webb again winning silver and Edward Spencer winning bronze. Both he and Webb were inside the world record time, with Larner setting world records for both the 9 mile and the 10 mile distances. His final time was 1 hour, 15 minutes and 57.4 seconds. He was one of ten competitors to win more than a single gold medal at the 1908 Games.
In 1909 he wrote [this] book entitled Larner’s Text Book on Walking: Exercise, Pleasure, Sport. His final AAA success came in 1911, when he won the 7 mile race once more.
Larner broke the world record in walking in all distances between two miles and ten miles, and the longest distance in one hour, which he set at 13,275 metres (8.249 mi). The record he set for the 2 mile on 14 July 1904 stood for the following 39 years.
The 1908 Summer Games was the only time that either the men’s 10 mile walk or the 3500 metre walk took place. This technically means that Larner remains the reigning Olympic champion in both events, and the Olympic record holder. He is one of only a handful of British athletes to have won more than a single gold medal at any one Olympic Games, with only Charlotte Cooper having achieved it at an earlier Olympics, and Henry Taylor winning three medals at the 1908 Games.
Larner’s name has been carried on the front of a Scania Omnidekka bus in the fleet of Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company since October 2007.

Some browning of page edges, covers very slightly bowed, otherwise very good.

No copy on ABE, Amazon, etc. at time of writing. Only 6 copies in WorldCat.

Price: £65.00 plus postage. Contact: s-herbert@easynet.co.uk


Edison’s Kinetoscope

item identifier: 2014055 KINETO

Edison’s Kinetoscope and Its Films: A History to 1896, by Ray Phillips

Hardback with illustrated dust jacket, Flicks Books 1997. Size: 162mm x 240mm. [i-vii] + 210 pages, illustrated.

Ray Phillips is known for two areas of interest in the field of visual communications. Experimenting with the daguerreotype process since 1936, he had his dag portrait taken in 1941 by the master practitioner Charles Tremear, and was soon making his own daguerreotype images. Later, he became intensely interested in a device representing the first ‘galloping tintypes’ – Edison’s kinetoscope peepshow film viewer. This led to him making replicas for museums and collectors, and eventually to writing this book.

I met Ray in the early 90s, when he came to the Museum of the Moving Image in London. (That’s me with Mr. Phillips, on page 102.) As technical manager I’d inherited two of his replica kinetoscopes, and was responsible for keeping them working on a daily basis. Although very accurate copies, the drive system wasn’t beefy enough for heavy use and we had replaced it with a less authentic but more robust design. Ray was interested in this adaptation, and photographed our more powerful motor and direct drive arrangement.

Ray came to London for an auction and I asked him, “Will you be bidding on the kinetoscope?” It was a very early example – perhaps the first used in England. He replied that he probably would, as he’d wanted an original for decades, but had found it difficult to make the decision. “I’m 73 now – how much fun can I get out of a kinetoscope; will I get my money’s worth?” I was at the auction, as I had an institutional interest in the result. Ray bid and won. His wife wiped away a tear (of joy, I’m sure, rather than “Well there goes our next holiday…”). The first thing Ray did was to come over to me. I congratulated him, and he replied, “Any time you want the machine for an exhibition, just let me know.” I never did, but I was involved with the same kinetoscope a decade later when Ray decided to sell it.

Ray Phillips was elderly and frail when I last contacted him a few years ago. I remember him – it’s difficult to avoid the cliché – as a gentle man, and a gentleman.

You can read more about his work with kinetoscope in the Los Angeles Times: http://articles.latimes.com/1993-12-10/local/me-466_1_motion-picture

For his daguerreotype involvement, see:

Publisher’s blurb: Motion pictures were first seen in 1894, when Thomas Edison introduced the Kinetoscope, a device for individually looking at film through a viewer. Over the next three years, Edison manufactured almost 1,000 Kinetoscopes and produced some 250 films to show in them. A million people worldwide first saw motion pictures through these devices. This book describes in detail how Kinetoscopes worked and how they were sold, and describes the parlors to which the public flocked, fascinated by the novelty of moving images. It examines how the machines were copied by others and later eclipsed by the advent of projection. It also indicates where surviving machines can be found in the United States and Europe. The book concludes with an index to Edison’s films between 1892 and 1896, and presents titles, filming dates, subject descriptions, and information on the location of surviving copies. Copiously illustrated, the book is a vital research tool for all students of motion picture history.

To quote Classic Images: “This is not strictly an academic text. It is somewhat more entertaining in that the author will, from time to time, offer a personal aside. Recommended.’

I think Ray was pleased with the book, but not too happy with the experience of working with a publisher. His papers relating to the kinetoscope are now in the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Used copies online range from $117.50 (£69.40) up (to $777.94). This example is in very good condition – minor wear to dust jacket.
Price: £48 plus postage. Contact: s-herbert@easynet.co.uk