Tales from the Sea Garden

Tales from The Sea Garden

Email me: theseagarden@btinternet.com

Sunday, 30 January 2011

A love of books

In the last couple of years I have built up a little collection of beautiful, interesting old books. Some are battered with pages falling out, which only goes to prove how much they have been loved and appreciated in their lifetime.

It all started with the purchase of this book, 'The Garden That I Love', from Niki's stand at the Shepton Mallet Antiques Fair.

Since then I have found several more in the same series, published by A&C Black during the early years of the 1900's.

The main appeal of these books to me are the illustrations - the finest, most exquisitely delicate watercolours and oils

picturing a bygone England of flowering orchards, cottage garden idylls

and the pastural landscape of quiet country life.

The embossed leather covers and gold leaf lettering are beautiful in themselves, tempting the reader to delve within.

A personal dedication to a loved one in the top right hand corner and a date just adds to the sense that you are only a part-time guardian in this book's history. How many different hands have leafed through these same pages that inform and delight?

Helen Allingham was the artist we most associate now with depicting the romantic, nostalgic 'chocolate box' image of idyllic country life that we all aspire to, when of course in reality the hard lives of the rural poor and the run-down cottages they lived in were far from cosy.

She also illustrated this book on Tennyson's Homes; they truly are exquisite watercolours, and it is nice to know that she was a very well- loved and successful artist in her lifetime. Please tell me that meadows of wildflowers like this can still be found somewhere in our ravaged, over-populated countryside?

Every time I visit a new village or town I always seek out any second-hand bookshops. There is a certain delight in entering that often dusty, old-fashioned environment and scouring the shelves hoping to find unexpected treasure. Poetry books are high on the list of favourites, especially if they combine a well-loved poet and wonderful engravings as in the case below.

Poems by Frances Cornford and engravings by Gwen Ravarat.

Little illustrated guides to English counties and towns are very nostalgic.

I was lucky enough to acquire three volumes of Shakespeare's plays dating from around 1735. How wonderful to have the name inscribed on the first page of one of the early owners - 1763!

I am fascinated by all the little printed engravings which embellish many of the pages, and the varying typefaces which change the emphasis of the text, and the quality of the paper itself.

Books on Natural History and Botany are other favourites, such as this lovely one on The Sea Shore.....

and British Butterflies....

'Four Hedges', written and illustrated with strong engravings by Clare Leighton, tells of a year in the life of her own garden. Below is the opening page...

This amazing depiction of an adder comes from 'Fresh Woods' by Ian Niall, with wood engravings by Barbara Greg.

Two lovely illustrations from 'Country Craftsmen'. How many of these traditional rural skills have already died out? (And made us the poorer for it, I think.)

Such wonderful pencil drawings...

I don't know the exact age of this delightful child's cloth book, but it is evidently Victorian. I love the claim, 'Indestructible Calico' on the front!

The rather simplified animal illustrations have the definite appearance of being made of wood; in fact my grandparents had in their possession a Victorian Noah's Ark which had very similar wooden figures.

Throughout my life I have created little handmade books of my own, and the last few days I've spent making some notebooks to sell at the Country Living Fair.

The pages are made up of all different offcuts of paper, envelopes, an old calendar, even pieces of drawing and designs saved from my days at art college (18 years ago! Yikes, I thought it was about time I cleared out my cupboards a bit!)

Each section of between 5-7 pages is stitched together up the middle...

and then the sections themselves are sewn together up the spine and glued into position.

Here is one I made earlier (!) with a hardback cover....

I have seen the first daffodils of the year at the roadside, such a cheery sight, and so in celebration I have started making cards with some of my photographs of Spring flowers (it's not far off now, hurrah!) I think primroses are so pretty, one of my favourites. The hedgerows of Cornwall in Springtime really are a beautiful sight.

I've realised that it's a whole year since I bought this laptop and started my blog - what a journey and so rewarding - I feel part of a wonderful extended family of like-minded women who are passionate about the things that I love too!


  1. i love old books, too.
    my favorites are the children's
    school books with the dick and jane
    illustrations. but i love the turn
    of the century ones with the gardens
    and cottages, too.


  2. What a delightful nostalgic collection. I always hoped that one day I'd have a Helen Allingham picture but somehow never got one ... now I'll look again. Love the woodcuts in Four Hedges. That's one I'll be looking out for to put on my bookshelves.
    All the best for the Counrty Living Fair.
    Lesley X

  3. Happy bloggerversary, I love old books, new books, any sort of books, perhaps much more so than this modern contraption (the computer)I hope the computer never puts paid to books as we know them!

  4. I am so glad you began your blog too as I love the same things. I collect old childrens books and wildflower books and cannot pass any bookshop without going inside. Years ago I went to a marvellous exhibition of Helen Allingham's paintings at a gallery in Guildford and they were so beautiful. Karen X

  5. Christine,

    This is an extroidinary post. I felt as if I were in the most wonderful bookshop ever as all these glorious images rolled by , one after the other, each more touching than the last. You have a very special collection.
    And your handmade books are beauties too.
    I know you will be a huge sucess at the fair

  6. Those are beautiful. There is something very special about picking up an old book and either looking through or reading it, theres something i feel romantic about them, with times gone by. Enjoy your collection, dee x

  7. beautiful illustration/ paintings in those splendidly special vintage books ;0)
    no wonder you have started to collect them.
    And your sweet collage page books are really lovely too and the photography- your blog is really a joy- glad your in bloggy land x

  8. Oooh, wouldn't I love to have a browse through your bookshelves. You have certainly amassed a collection of wonderful books.
    Just the sort I love...............
    My collection started with a 50cent find at a jumble sale, it was a book by Marion Cran. I have since bought several of her books and love them all.
    There is something about old books, harking back to a simpler way of life. The paper used, the print, pictures, everything.
    I love the books you have made too, must be fun choosing the papers and pictures to use.
    A wonderful post,

    Claire :}

  9. Such an enjoyable post.
    The sun is shining here and , yes , the primroses have started to come out.It lifts the soul.
    I love your little books, I'm working on collages and mixed media books at the moment.
    Diane. xx

  10. What a wonderful post I echo all that you have said.
    Jo x

  11. Hello, I am a friend of Janes, we have met, I came to your lovely shop when we traveled to Cornwall in a bright orange camper van. I have oohed and ahhhed over your lovely book collection, but more so the illustrations which take me to my childhood...thank you for sharing...Helen

  12. What an interesting post - I like you love old books, I love the book on Happy England and Homes of Tennyson. You are such a talented lady your notebooks look very special.
    I have only seen snowdrops!

  13. What a great collection. I love the different cover designs

  14. Gorgeous collection of inspiring books, I love the faded hues, all gentle and whispering of long lost tales, the silent fall of the delicate paper the holding of a long ago loved treasure nestled in your palm...........
    I was kind of horrified at what you went through with your kitchen, especially as you had to fund it all...our insurers will only do so much, they have blamed so much of it on bad workmanship for the tanking... what can you do!!So like you we are doing our best to look on the bright side and your story really helped Christine .. thank you xxx
    Hugs Lynn xxxx

  15. Dear Christine
    Your book collection is fascinating. The illustrations are so detailed and evocative. I love colour, but the wood engravings are truly amazing. I'm fascinated by the book of Tennyson's homes - he's one of my most favourite poets :-)
    Then the delight continues when you show and explain your own handmade books - they're totally beautiful works of art, Christine, you are so talented!
    Thank you for sharing,
    Denise x
    And thank you for the crumble suggestion over at mine :-)

  16. Hi Christine,
    What a beautiful post...put together with such care and artistry...it is clear to see that your love of books has influenced your creativity.
    I too love the old countryside and gardening books (I do believe that there is a 'Dog Daisy' meadow on the way to Bournemouth from here...so stunning, it even captured my 18 year old's heart when she first left home to go to uni there!)

    If you are on the lookout for more books to add to your collection, if ever you are passing, you could try 'The Book Barn' at Farington Gurney...Its a bit hit and miss, but there is the chance of a gem, and with all books at just £1 its worth a look!

    I ADORE your handmade books...I so wish I could get to London for the fair...

    At a time when the government are looking to close local libraries, your gorgeous post has come along at the right time.
    I loved it - Thank you Christine,
    Have a great week,
    Niki x

  17. the picture of your book collection made my heart sing - simply wonderful x
    how cute is that noahs ark book - what a fab find
    t x

  18. LOL I raced down to the bookshop and yes! English C L was in at long last ! yay! drove the 30 mins home, made a cup of tea settled down to read the article about the lovely mermaid and her friends....and its the Jan issue!!! just another month to wait!
    love all your beautiful old books...I love Helen Allingham too, and we have an original watercolour of hers in our local art gallery in Southland NZ! its beautiful! x

  19. Loving your Noah's ark, so beautiful, Have a little one called Noah,
    so have collected loads of noah's ark books.
    Loving your books too and all your collections, What fun!

  20. What a fabulous collection of old books with such pretty drawings and illustrations - I am very envious!

    Your blog and posts are beautiful.