John D MacDonald Planet Of The Dreamers 1954 First Edition


John D MacDonald’s fourth book and the first published in hardcover, the US edition from 1951 preceding this UK first edition. The UK edition tends to be much scarcer, as Hale printed very few, most of which went to libraries.

Planet Of The Dreamers
John D MacDonald
1954, Robert Hale, London, Hardcover with Dust Jacket, First UK Edition

You can see our copy for sale here (sold)

1968 Molly Lefebure Scratch & Co First Edition

Scratch-Co-Molly-LeFebureScratch & Co – The Great Cat Expedition

Molly Lefebure, Illustrated by A Wainwright
1968, Victor Gollancz, London, Hard Cover with Dust Jacket, First Edition

Scarce first edition. In the Lake District, an expedition of feline adventurers with dogs as Sherpas and rabbits as porters, sponsored by The Royal Feline Geographical Society sets out to climb the Highest Known Peak, various adventures ensue, encounters with journalists, and later, more dangerously, with foxes. Both a wonderful adventure book, and a witty send up of a mountaineering book, with ‘Alpine Club’ type characters, hairs-breadth rescues and all the tensions of an Himalayan expedition.

Copy for sale here. (or maybe not for long I want to keep this one for myself)

The Third Plantagenet – George Duke of Clarence by John Ashdown-Hill

third plantagenet 99499.indd

Ενα παιδάκι είχε πέσει, λέει [το παραμύθι], σ’ένα πηγάδι κι είχε βρήκε μιάν πεντάμορφη πολιτεία – βαθιά περιβóλια, θυμούμαι, μέλι, ρυζóγαλο, παιχνιδάκια …

[The story] says that a little boy fell into a well, and there he found a wonderland – a city with great surrounding walls and, as I recall, honey, rice pudding, toys …

(N. Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek (trans. J. Ashdown-Hill) 7th ed. (Athens: 1973, pp.212–13)


There is something very poignant about the image of a little boy falling into a well and finding his heart’s desires, something that reminded John Ashdown-Hill of a young boy’s ambitions, but also his eventual tragic demise.

George Plantagenet, the Duke of Clarence may have come from one of the most powerful families of the middle ages, but somewhere along the way we have lost him. We know him as false fleeting perjur’d Clarence, always as a traitor, sometimes as a drunk and a madman. Edward IV may have been a notorious womaniser, taken the throne of England over the corpses of thousands and murdered his predecessor, the virtually helpless King Henry VI. But we remember him for his glistening court, a romantic hero who married for love and a brilliant military general. King Richard III may have been maligned by history but he has the benefit of his own historical society. Conveniently some of Edward IV’s crimes have been attributed to Richard, but his devoted band of Ricardians and many historians have brought the real Richard III to light. But what of George? He is lost in time. Even his remains have vanished.

The opening chapters of The Third Plantagenet introduce the new reader to some of Dr. John Ashdown-Hill’s more controversial theories about the houses of Lancaster, York and Tudor, but also acquaint them with the political climate of the fourteenth and fifteenth century and the constant twists and turns of fortune George and his family members were subject to. We watch George, a member of a close-knit large family go from a privileged and comfortable childhood to very suddenly losing his father and older brother, his family torn asunder and his father branded a traitor. Instead of receiving comfort from the remaining members of his family, George was forced to flee to a foreign country with his younger brother Richard.

It was only a matter of weeks before his older brother Edward defeated the House of Lancaster and took the throne. “George now found himself transformed from a virtually unknown child into a person of national importance“. Ashdown-Hill explores the lasting effect these events may have had on an eleven-year old boy, going on to speculate on the relationship between Edward IV and George, virtual strangers at this point. Is it not natural for a young boy to resent the sudden presence of an authority figure he hardly knows? When we consider that George was deprived of his father’s influence and mentoring at this crucial point in his life, when titles and power were thrust upon him, it is easy to see how a fifteen year-old boy would begrudge his brother’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, whom many considered a social upstart. And how the Earl of Warwick, perhaps the father-figure George had sorely lacked, could fan the flames of rebellion in the heart of a young and ambitious man.

The examination of contemporary accounts of George’s appearance raise several interesting questions. The study of George’s fall from grace, his subsequent trial and execution, at his own brother’s hand, is particularly valuable. A transcript of the Act of Attainder against George is studied at length, along with some revealing research on George’s servant Thomas Burdet. The reason behind his attainder is not the only matter surrounding George’s death historians have wrestled with over time, the manner of his execution has long been considered a folk-tale because of the shocking nature of it. Ashdown-Hill presents some enlightening contemporary accounts of George’s execution.

The final chapters explore the remains in the Clarence Vault in Tewkesbury. An exhaustive account of how the remains of George and his wife Isabel  disappeared over the centuries also emphasises just how George’s brothers have eclipsed his memory. While Richard III’s remains have been in the media spotlight for more than a year, the remains in Tewkesbury lie forgotten. A new examination of the remains provides some interesting results.

The closing chapter, The Clarence Posterity, gives us some rather touching statements from the descendants of George Duke of Clarence. After taking a journey through the tumultuous and sometimes tragic life of the most neglected of the York brothers, it is almost comforting to see that George is not forgotten. The Third Plantagenet breathes new life into the shadowy figure of George Duke of Clarence, presenting a complex and believable portrait of a man who deserves his own place in history.

third plantagenet 99499.inddBuy The Third Plantagenet: George, Duke of Clarence, Richard III’s Brother by John Ashdown-Hill, published by The History Press 2014

Less well-known than his brothers, Edward IV and Richard III, little has been written about George, Duke of Clarence and we are faced with a series of questions. Where was he born? What was he really like? Was it his unpredictable behaviour that set him against his brother Edward IV? George played a central role in the Wars of the Roses played out by his brothers. But was he for York or Lancaster? Who was really responsible for his execution? Is the story of his drowning in a barrel of wine really true? And was ‘false, fleeting, perjur’d Clarence’ in some ways the role model behind the sixteenth-century defamation of Richard III? Finally, where was he buried and what became of his body? Can the DNA used recently to test the remains of his younger brother, Richard III, also reveal the truth about the supposed ‘Clarence bones’ in Tewkesbury? John Ashdown Hill exposes the myths surrounding this pivotal and central Plantagenet, with remarkable results.

Visit John Ashdown-Hill at

Visit the Looking for Richard website.

Boozy Advertising from the U.K.B.G Guide to Drinks


We found some real gems in this United Kingdom Bartenders Guild guide to drinks. Here’s some vintage advertising from the 1955 edition


Cointreau in your fruit salad and on your grapefruit. There’s a boozy breakfast…


Because if they are drinking it in Paris…


Gin and “It”? The “IT” apparently refers to the Italian vermouth.  Gin and Pep contains a peppermint creme de menthe. The guide also has recipes for Gin Toddy and Gin Cobblers.

DSCN6758 DSCN6759

A couple of King George VI’s favourites…


Approved by the Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene. Yes, seriously.


Just because it is cute…


It’s the Pink that makes the Drunk, apparently….



Elizabeth of York – The Book of Princes and Princesses


…it was a map of her destiny which he had cast from the stars, and that they had told him it was she who would one day wear the English crown.

“But my brother-but the Prince of Wales?” – asked Elizabeth who had much talk of the baby being heir to the throne.

“I know not,” he answered sadly; “But so it is written. No go back to the Queen, and mind, say nought of this, or it will give her sorely.

Today is the anniversary of the birth and the death of Elizabeth of York. She died at age 37, shortly after giving birth to Henry VII’s last child. I spent quite a lot of time with Elizabeth of York last year and just recently came across this story The White Rose in The Book of Princes and Princesses by children’s author Andrew Lang.

Lang has written a traditional tale, some based on the largely fictional Song of Lady Bessy. A Ricardian he was not. But there is much about Elizabeth of York that lends itself to romance and tragedy. Her childhood was fraught with uncertainty and her teenage years no less. She went from Princess, to Pauper, to Queen in the space of two years. And she became one of the most beloved Queen consorts in English history. Legend has it the Queen of Hearts playing card was based on Elizabeth of York. It would be a fitting tribute.

You can read the full text online at

Philippa Pearce Tom’s Midnight Garden First Edition


Gorgeous cover art. The first edition of this book is stunning, and scarce! I have yet to read this book (on my pile) but a friend of mine told me I am going to struggle through the first chapter, and to keep reading.

Tom’s Midnight Garden
A. Philippa Pearce, Illustrated by Susan Einzig
Oxford First Published 1958

You can see our copy for sale here

1933 The Diary Of A Ulysses Passenger Blue Funnel Line



The Diary Of A ‘Ulysses’ Passenger
by AH
No Date (C.1933), The Blue Funnel Line (Alfred Holt & Co), Liverpool, Textured Card Softcover with String Binding, 62p, First Edition

Promotional book in the form of a diary, describing the joys and wonders (and also some of the mundane events) of a voyage from Liverpool, through Marseilles, Egypt, Ceylon, Java, Australia, Africa and back to London on The Blue Funnel Line Steamship ‘Ulysses’, a four month cruise starting on August 26th 1932. With illustrations.

Copy for sale here

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins First Edition


I saw David Attenborough with his copy of this exact edition on a documentary. How cool is that? The cover art is stunning.

The Selfish Gene
Richard Dawkins
1976, Oxford University Press, London, Hard Cover with Dust Jacket, 224p, First Edition

Scarce true First Edition of one of the most important scientific books of modern times.

Purchase here (sold)

Enid Blyton and the Mary Pollock Subterfuge

The Children of Kidillin by Mary Pollock
The Children of Kidillin by Mary Pollock

I clearly remember finding this book and laughing when I opened it to the title page. I was just doing an annual tidy of the bookcase when I came across it and it made me smile again. As you can see the former owner has quite emphatically crossed out the author’s name “Mary Pollock” and carefully pencilled in “Enid Blyton”, complete with the two strokes under the “d” in Enid.

In 1940’s, George Newnes published two books by Mary Pollock, Three Boys and a Circus and The Children of Kidillin. The books became so popular that one reviewer was prompted to remark “Enid Blyton had better look to her laurels”.*


It was of course Enid Blyton, writing under the pseudonym, a combination of her married name, Pollock, and her middle name, Mary. War-time paper rations meant Enid was having to spread her books among several publishers, but the Mary Pollock titles were published with her main publisher Newnes, so it’s not very likely it was purely a paper-saving exercise. It is more likely Enid was curious to see how the books would sell without her name on the cover.

Sell they did, but the children were not deceived. They quickly realised it was their Enid Blyton and many children began to write letters of complaint to the publishers and Enid herself. There was such confusion over the whole affair that the books the publishers eventually decided to reissue them under Enid’s own name.

There were six books in all published under Mary Pollock between 1940 and 1943, you can view the titles at The Enid Blyton Society.

* Stoney, Barbara, Enid Blyton, Tempus 2006


50 Years of C.S Lewis and Growing up in the Land of Narnia


“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” – C.S. Lewis

On this day, 50 years ago, C.S. Lewis passed into the land of Narnia. He will be honoured with a plaque at Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner this year, a well-deserved tribute. I don’t know many people who grew up without having read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The C. S. Lewis: 50 Fans, 50 Years Later Pinterest board has a collection of quotes from authors and other celebrities on what C.S. Lewis has meant to them. The Chronicles of Narnia have been a huge part of my life. I have lost count of how many times I have read them and they are, without a doubt, one of the most beloved children’s book series of all time.

Over the years C.S. Lewis, of course, has not escaped criticism. Philip Pullman’s criticism of Lewis received much media attention and while I am a fan of Philip Pullman I confess I didn’t read much of it. I’m protective of the books I loved as a child, and love now. However he made an interesting comment on The Chronicles of Narnia on his website

Imagine a child reader whose mother happens to be very ill with cancer (and there must be some younger readers in that awful position). Now imagine letting that young reader think that in some mysterious way their mother’s life depends on their being good. Is there anything more wicked that a grown man could say to a child? If your mother dies, it’ll be your fault? But that’s exactly what The Magician’s Nephew says.

While this is a fair point but that it is not exactly how I saw it as a child. The heavy Christian symbolism did not elude me entirely, yet I can’t say it influenced me at all. I am sure C.S. Lewis would think that dreadful, but I also grew up with Enid Blyton threatening me with Mr. Pinkwhistle. I was not easily swayed from being naughty.

Over the last couple of years I have been re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia just before Christmas, before I start my yearly Tolkien re-read, and last year I finished the series on Christmas morning with The Last Battle. I don’t often feel like a child “again” when I am reading books, but when I reached the line that “Narnia is no more” I suddenly felt a couple of decades of pent-up rage. I was angry at C.S. Lewis for turning my Narnia to dust. I didn’t care that everyone had “gone to a better place.”

Of course as an adult I notice the Christian symbolism a great deal more. The Last Battle is heavy with it, judgement day and dinosaur bones and paradise. As a child I found it traumatising, without fully understanding the theological aspect, as an adult I find it dreary. I understand why C.S. Lewis felt the need to go there, but I still wish he had not.fledge

But all the Christian symbolism in the world could not have dampened my enthusiasm for The Magician’s Nephew. This was partly to do with my childhood obsession with flying horses and an ardent desire to find my own Fledge, but, symbolism aside, the creation of Narnia always fascinated me and I loved Digory and Polly. The reference to Eve in The Magician’s Nephew is especially obvious, to someone of my generation at least, but I wasn’t concerned that Digory would give in to temptation. I fully expected him to do the right thing and return the apple to Aslan. And Digory and Polly would live happily ever after, because Aslan would fix everything. Not as a creator, not as a God, but as a magical talking lion.

Sometimes seeing only what you want to see is not a bad thing. That is the beauty of books. So here’s to Fledge, and to Bree, and to Reepicheep. And here’s to C.S. Lewis, may you never grow old in Narnia.

The Boleyn Deceit by Laura Andersen


Note: Will contain spoilers for The Boleyn King.

The regency period is over and William Tudor, now King Henry IX, sits alone on the throne. But England must still contend with those who doubt his legitimacy, both in faraway lands and within his own family. To diffuse tensions and appease the Catholics, William is betrothed to a young princess from France, but still he has eyes for only his childhood friend Minuette, and court tongues are wagging.

Even more scandalous—and dangerous, if discovered—is that Minuette’s heart and soul belong to Dominic, William’s best friend and trusted advisor. Minuette must walk a delicate balance between her two suitors, unable to confide in anyone, not even her friend Elizabeth, William’s sister, who must contend with her own cleaved heart. In this irresistible tale, the secrets that everyone keeps are enough to change the course of an empire.

The Boleyn Trilogy presents us with an alternative history, what if Queen Anne Boleyn had given Henry VIII the son he so desperately wanted? It is a question that’s probably been debated for centuries and a popular one among history buffs today. This isn’t, however, Anne Boleyn’s story, but the story of her children. It was nice to see a glimpse of Anne in her old age but the trilogy in centred on three fictional characters, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s son William, his best friend Dominic and royal ward Minuette, along with Elizabeth I, or Princess Elizabeth at this stage.

Andersen has made it clear that she isn’t going to knock Elizabeth off her throne is this alternative history, so it seems we are heading towards the inevitable at some point in this trilogy. The pace doesn’t slacken off in this volume, there is much mystery, plotting and intrigue to keep fans of the first book satisfied. Andersen writes well and the characters are engaging, but while she has a reasonably good grasp of Tudor history and does a good job of rearranging historical events but there is still something slightly lacking in its authenticity. Perhaps it’s all a little too clean and shiny for the sixteenth century.

While the dynamic between the main characters is great along with the chemistry between Minuette and Dominic, I am finding young King William a more and more unpleasant character, with very little of Anne in him and far more of Henry. This may be the point of course, apparent in this conversation with Lord Rochford

“Tell me uncle, what exactly is it you think the King of England owes you?”
“To remember who you are and who you have always meant to be. Your Majesty”
“My father’s son” William answered, biting off each word.
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

The “noble” notion of Dominic and Minuette hiding their love for each other from William is a little grating, I think its hard to understand her motive of not hurting William’s feelings while actually carrying on a relationship with two men, when at the end of the day she is making as ass of him. The constant observations of of Minuette’s beauty don’t add much depth to a character who at times is coming off as a little shallow and slightly tiresome. But essentially this is a young adult novel, and teenagers are teenagers.

Andersen has stuck with some fairly traditional views, especially in the case of the “martyr” Mary Tudor and the villainous Jane Boleyn. Neither character is well-realised either and I have a sneaking suspicion Jane is going to be more important to the plot in the next book. Andersen has yet to flesh her out, however.

These books have been an enjoyable read so far, but very safe. If  you are writing an alternative history there is much more room for risk-taking, and I am hoping Andersen takes a lot more risks in the final volume.


Thanks to Ballantine Books.

Where Great Adventures Begin