Back Through the Rooke-ing Glass No. 34

Through the Rooke-ing Glass No. 34

As ever, we're grateful to have spent another wet and windy weeks surrounded by literary treasures, and this week have particularly enjoyed adding a glorious antique collection of paperback Agatha Christies to our collection, as well as a beautiful collection of Andrew Lang's renowned fairy books. As for our other treasures, without further ado...

Two Works regarding Bath

With Rooke HQ based in the wonderful and rich literary city of Bath, Somerset, we were as ever elated to list two antique works regarding our hometown. The first, a scarce third edition poem on the city, dates to 1736. Titled 'The Description of Bath, a Poem', this was the most popular work by Mary Chandler, and is an early example of a sustained urban topographical poem written by a woman. The second portrays our city in a somewhat less favourable light: titled 'Bath Characters, or Sketches from Life', it is a very scarce series of satires mocking the city and those that holiday there.  Written by Peter Pallet, our copy contains the bookplate and inscriptions of Thomas Fuller, a Bath-based architect who has identified many of the characters ridiculed within the work. It brought us great joy to explore these two rather different works regarding our beloved city.

The Manuscript in a Red Box

A fascinating piece of historical fiction, the manuscript of this first edition was delivered to the publishing house The Bodley Head anonymously. The publishers attempted to track down the author with their good news - that they'd love to publish it - by posting in the papers; however, no one came forward and so the novel was published anonymously as 'The Ms. in a Red Box'. An exciting real-life mystery only enhanced by the marvellous seventeenth century tale contained within, ours is an excellent first edition, first impression.

Penicillin; its Practical Application

An excellent first edition of Alexander Fleming's work on his discovery of penicillin, which came to become the world's first broadly effective antibiotic. This discovery led to his shared Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945, and has been described as 'the single greatest victory ever achieved over disease'. In this work, Fleming traces his discovering of penicillin and how it functions effectively as a medicine. Richly illustrated and published a year after Fleming was awarded the Nobel Prize, this is a smart first edition and an important piece in medical history.

Seasons with the Sea-Horses

An exciting tale describing the adventures of James Lamont in the Northern Seas, our copy of 'Seasons with the Sea-Horses' is a scarce first edition, which was published in 1861. And it is even more exciting than it sounds: it comes from the library of Philip Brocklehurst, himself a member of the Nimrod Expedition to Antarctica in 1907, which was led by Ernest Shackleton. A tale of intrepid Arctic exploration, Lamont's story details his fishing for salmon and sharks and hunts for walruses and bears. Our copy is bound in smart contemporary leather and has exciting associations to a later Arctic explorer.

They Hanged my Saintly Billy

The first U.S. edition of Robert Grave's novel on the life of murderer William Palmer, this was acquired in the sale of the library of Paul Gallico, an author best known for 'The Snow Goose'. The notorious Palmer, also known as the Rugeley Poisoner, was a doctor found guilty of the murder of his friend John Cook in a sensational trial. It was alleged that he had been poisoned with stychnine, and it was widely thought that he had also poisoned his mother-in-law, brother, and four children, since he had benefitted from life insurance after their deaths. Some thirty thousand people watched Palmer's execution. In his last historical novel, Graves promotes Palmer's innocence within, with his title taken from the words said to have been uttered by Palmer's mother after his hanging. Ours is an excellent first U.S. edition from the library of Paul Gallico.


Finally, our header this week comes from a beautiful three volume collection of the Works of Shakespeare, edited by Howard Staunton.