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!